Thomas R. Allocca, a longtime Long Islander who flew B-52 missions during the Cold War and served as navigator on secret intelligence-gathering flights to the Middle East, never boasted about his accomplishments, his family said.
Lt. Col. Allocca was a "typical Air Force guy," said a cousin, James Allocca of Valley Stream. "He was cool, he was always in control. He was a great guy."
A Brooklyn native, Thomas Allocca died May 10 in Tucson, Ariz., of complications related to Parkinson's disease. He was 73.
Allocca was born in 1939 to Patsy and Antoinette Allocca. He grew up in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, where he met Jeanne Loise, the girl who would become his wife.
"His wife was his childhood sweetheart," said James Allocca's wife, Anna Marie. "The two of them were never without each other."
Thomas Allocca grew up with a love of aviation. After graduating from Boys High School in Brooklyn, he earned a bachelor's degree at City College of New York. He earned a master's in engineering from the University of Southern California and one in systems management from Auburn University in Alabama.
In the 1960s, Allocca flew in B-52s carrying nuclear weapons as part of Operation Chrome Dome -- missions designed to provide a rapid response to a Russian attack. In 1971, he became a reconnaissance officer flying in Lockheed SR-71 Blackbirds, Anna Marie Allocca said.
Thomas Allocca was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and received the Air Medal from president Richard Nixon for his work in intelligence flyovers in the Middle East during the Yom Kippur War in 1974.
"It was really amazing when you think of all the things he did in his career," Anna Marie Allocca said.
Thomas Allocca and his wife moved to Arizona in 2004. This spring, she suddenly became ill and passed away April 7. Allocca died 33 days later.
"When she passed, he just stopped functioning," said Carmine Allocca, 48.
Thomas Allocca is also survived by his daughter, Antoinette Newman, 45, of Verona, N.J.; his brother, Carmine, 76, of Bethpage, and several cousins.