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John Tomlin of West Islip: 'A southern gentleman,' WWII Navy veteran

John Tomlin, of West Islip, played golf until

John Tomlin, of West Islip, played golf until he was 93 and always walked the course. Credit: Joyce Scarpinito

In the summer of 1942, John Tomlin had some down time while his World War II ship, the USS Marblehead, was in the Brooklyn Navy Yard for repairs.

The ship had been bombed during the Battle of Makassar Strait in February, and after getting initial repairs in Borneo, and Capetown, South Africa, it sailed to Brooklyn for more repairs. The crew had a three-month shore leave while the Marblehead was in Brooklyn.

One of Tomlin’s shipmates brought him to a dance, where he introduced Tomlin to a friend of his wife’s, Ethel Azzato from Astoria, Queens. Two weeks later the couple was married on June 13, 1942, said their son, John Tomlin. The couple took the train to his home in Alabama for the ceremony, and remained married until 2005, when Ethel died.

John Tomlin, of West Islip, died April 28, at Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center of complications from the coronavirus, his family said. He was 98.

“He was a Southern gentleman living in New York,’’ said his son, John, who is retired and lives in Providence Forge, Virginia. “He was part of ‘The Greatest Generation.’ They lived through the Great Depression and the war.’’

John Leon Tomlin was born on Sept. 3, 1921, in Lovelady, Texas. He grew up in Warrior, Alabama, where his mother moved after his father left the family when John was young. In Alabama, Tomlin lived with his grandmother and worked on her farm. After high school, he enlisted in the Navy in 1940 and served in the Pacific theater.

By the time he was discharged in 1946, he and Ethel had their first child, John. They eventually would have two more children, Wayne and Joyce, and the family lived in Queens until they moved to a home in West Islip in 1951. They bought the home after Ethel’s brother loaned them $5 for a down payment, said their daughter, Joyce Scarpinito of Oakdale.

Tomlin worked for a long time with Republic Aviation, and he was a big Alabama Crimson Tide fan, his children said. After he retired he took up golf and played until he was 93. He always walked the course, and his son Wayne, of Babylon, said he was in good physical condition.

“He said, ‘Wayne, I’m going to see 100!,’ " said Wayne Tomlin. “And I honestly believe he would have. I’m sure he would have made it if he didn’t get this virus.’’

Other survivors include five grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

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