HAVERHILL — John P. Gartland, 95, formerly of Bradford, passed peacefully away Tuesday, June 2, 2009 at his son's home in Casco, Maine.
He was born at home in East Boston on Sept. 3, 1913, son of the late William P. and Mary E. (Grady) Gartland.
John was educated in Boston, attending East Boston High School. John married his beloved Mary Fife, also of East Boston on June 18, 1938. They remained devoted to each other for just under 70 years, until Mary's death in May, 2008.
John entered the U.S. Navy during World War II and served from June, 1943 through October, 1945 with the SEABEES in New Guinea and the Philippines, receiving the Philippine Liberation Medal with 2 bronze stars: Asiatic-Pacific Medal and the World War II Victory Medal. He remained in the Naval Reserve until October, 1946. He re-enlisted for the Korean conflict in October of 1950, but was deferred from active duty as the father of three children. John was affectionately nicknamed The Forest Gump of World War II by his son Peter because of the following. While waiting to be shipped to the Philippines, John's unit was selected to participate as extras in the movie The Fighting Seabees starring John Wayne. John's roles in the film consisted of pretending to play the trombone in the Seabee Band, and as a fighter equipped with a sub machine gun. Then, while stationed in the Philippines in 1944, John spent some off-duty time sitting in the shade on the beach on the Island of Leyte. While there, he watched the newsreel people orchestrate and film General MacArthur's famous 'return' to the Philippines. John liked to tell how the newsreel people filmed it once with MacArthur landing on shore; then not satisfied with that approach, had him re-board the landing craft, back out into the water and had the General and his entourage disembark in knee deep water and wade ashore. This is the version of the General's 'return' that made it to the newsreels.
Upon returning from the war, John resided in So. Boston, Jamaica Plain, and Holbrook prior to moving to Bradford in 1983. He was employed as a machinist at the Boston Naval Shipyard for 38 years, retiring in 1968. John enjoyed a long and activity-filled retirement, often commenting how he enjoyed being a bum. He and Mary traveled extensively. He also found it very satisfying that he was retired for more years than he worked; and that his "uncle" (uncle Sam) was very good to him by sending him a monthly pension check. His favorite part of retirement were the winters he and Mary spent in Florida.
Favorite John "issims" included: If a man is sick, he's not well — everything he eats goes to his stomach; East Boston - the jewel of New England; I'm in the pink of condition — physically, mentally and morally — and I'm lying like hell.
John was the husband of the late Mary F. (Fife) Gartland, and father of the late Mary E. "Meg" Roofe. He is survived by son David M. Gartland and his wife Nancy of Washington and son Peter J. Gartland and his wife Carol of Casco, Maine., and daughter-in-law Susan Whalen of Portland, Maine; grandchildren Douglas, Lynn, Christopher, David II and Raymond of Washington; Patrick, Amanda and Christopher of Massachusetts, Jonathan, Jeremy and Joshua of Maine, great-grandchildren, Shauna, Lauren, Heather, Alexandra, Raymond, Jacob, Nathan, Joey, Emily Mary, John, Malcolm, Mary Stella, and Lachlan, great-great-grandchildren Heather, Autumn and Summer.
ARRANGEMENTS: Relatives and friends are respectfully invited to attend the Funeral on Saturday, June 6 at 9:30 a.m. from the H.L. Farmer & Sons Bradford Funeral Home, 210 So. Main St. Bradford, followed by a funeral Mass at 10:30 a.m. in Sacred Hearts Church, Bradford. Interment will be at the convenience of the family in Linwood Cemetery, Haverhill. Calling hours at the Bradford funeral home will be Friday evening from 4 to 7 p.m. Contributions in his memory may be made to the American Cancer Society, or a Hospice organization of the donor's choice. Arrangements are by H.L. Farmer & Sons Funeral Homes and Cremation Service, Haverhill & Bradford. Condolences to his family may be made at www.farmerfuneralhomes.com.