Captain John S. Tucker, 91

NORWAY — Captain John Stephen Tucker, 91, passed away peacefully on March 16, 2018, at the Norway Center for Health and Rehabilitation after a brief illness.

He was born on May 31, 1926, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, to William Arthur and Alice Furneaux Tucker. With his sister Cynthia, the family relocated to Belmont, Mass. John attended Belmont schools, graduating from Belmont High School in 1944. During high school he worked for Ryerson Steel and the Belmont Volunteer Fire Department. He was drafted into the Navy in 1945 and spent two years serving after completing training at Camp Sampson in the Adirondacks.

He entered the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y., as a 4th Classman in 1947, and attended cadet school in Pass Christian, Miss. It was during this time that he met fellow 4th classman Paul L. Krinsky, who became his lifelong friend and comrade. John graduated from USMMA in December 1950 where he earned the rank of regimental commander and a rating of "outstanding" in academics and leadership.

John's career at United States Lines began in December of 1950 as junior third mate on the freighter American Traveler, transporting Christmas mail to England. In 1951 John sailed as 3rd officer on the SS America. Shortly thereafter, he received a call from the marine superintendent with an offer to join as 3rd officer for the trials, as well as the maiden voyage, for the new SS United States luxury liner. On her maiden voyage, on July 3, 1952, the SS United States shattered the transatlantic speed record previously held for 14 years by the RMS Queen Mary. John always remained proud and honored to be part of such a significant piece of maritime history. John moved up the ranks at United States Lines, serving as executive officer and ultimately the relieving captain of the SS United States. In 1967, at 41 years old, he first took the SS US out as captain.

Although John's parents, William and Alice Tucker, as well as his in-laws Phillip and Eleanor Noble traveled on the ship, officers’ wives were prohibited from traveling so as not to be a distraction. Of course, his wife Penny objected to this policy, but was appeased many years later with passages on the QE2 and QM2, both with John who was retired by then. Passengers on the SS US came from the worlds of art and music, politics and royalty. Salvador Dali traveled with his entourage, including flamenco dancers and his pet cheetah. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor were frequent passengers. The Duke always had an open invitation to the bridge and would visit often, afterwards drinking scotch and water and storytelling in John's quarters. The President and Mrs. Eisenhower were passengers, and on one occasion, after President Eisenhower had passed away, John personally escorted Mamie aboard for a press conference. John was always a gracious host, but at heart, he remained always, a true seaman. After the SS US was retired in 1969, John continued as Master on container ships for US Lines, traveling the world. He retired after 37 years at sea with US Lines in 1987.

While as a cadet at USMMA, he met the love of his life Penny Noble, originally from Norway, Maine, who was working as a dental hygienist in Great Neck, New York. They were married on June 12, 1951, at All Saints Church in Great Neck. While living in New York and New Jersey, he and Penny had two children, Jeffrey Noble and Kimberly Anne. They continued to raise their family in New Jersey until 1972 when they moved to Waterville, Maine. They spent their time between Waterville and their camp purchased in 1967 on McWain Pond in Waterford. After John's retirement in 1987, they sold the house in Waterville. During the summer/fall of 1987, they lived in the woodshed during the renovations of their camp in Waterford, which became their permanent home.

At first John found retirement difficult. He missed the sea, the ships, and the crew. Ultimately, he settled into a peaceful life with Penny. They traveled to Alaska and Germany and sailed the North Atlantic on the QE2 and the QM2. He was a member of the Kiwanis Club, serving many meals at the pancake breakfasts. John served as the Clerk of the Works for the new fire station construction in Waterford, completed in 1997, which recently marked its 20th anniversary. Like most jobs he had, he was thorough, meticulous, and remained committed until completed.

John was an outdoorsman, enjoying hunting and fishing. He was generally a man of few words, an avid reader, and a keen observer. He was also known to be, when so inclined, quite a storyteller. He could be seen around town on his daily hikes on the McWain Hill and Mill Hill Roads. He was a regular at Tut's for breakfast: one pancake, two sausage links. He was known simply, as “the Captain."

He is survived by his son Jeffrey of Waterford, and daughter Kimberly Sacco of Underhill, Vt.; several grandchildren, great-grandchildren and step-grandchildren, and nephews and nieces.

He was predeceased by his wife of 60 years, Penny; and his sister Cynthia F. Smith.

Family and friends are invited to attend visitation on Friday, March 23, from 5 to 7 p.m. at Oxford Hills Funeral Services, 1037 Main Street, Oxford. A celebration of John's life will be held on Saturday, March 24, at 11 a.m. at Christ Episcopal Church in Norway. A reception will follow downstairs in the church. Private interment will take place at a future date.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his memory to the Waterford Fire Department, 366 Valley Road, Waterford, Maine 04088, and Stoneham Rescue Services, P.O. Box 42, East Stoneham, ME, 04231-0042. Online condolences may be expressed to the family at www.oxfordhillsfuneralservices.com

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