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James Symes

Published: April 23, 2018

The Newtown Bee

James H. “Jim” Symes, 97, of Sequim, Wash., and formerly Peekskill, N.Y., and Newtown, died peacefully February 21 at Sherwood Assisted Living in Sequim. He was born on November 7, 1920, in Butte, Mont., to Katherine (Prince) and James Sandham Symes.

His sons, Curtis L. Symes and wife Connie of Newtown, and Lloyd J. Stofko and wife Jayme of Lithia, Fla.; grandchildren, Catherine Symes and Christopher Symes and wife Heather, all of Newtown; and five great-grandchildren survive him.

In addition to his parents, his first wife, Dorothy Symes; second wife, Alicia Symes; and daughter-in-law, Jane Edwards Symes, predeceased him.

Mr Symes grew up in Bellingham, Wash., and graduated from Bellingham High School, Class of 1939. He enlisted in the US Army Corps of Engineers and sailed on the SS Pacific with his uncle out of Portland, Ore., as well as San Francisco and San Diego, Calif. When Pearl Harbor was bombed, he took an appointment to the US Merchant Marine Officer Training School at Alameda, Calif. He was a member of the first US Maritime Service Engineering Class and graduated in January 1943, one of the early war “90-Day Wonder Officers” as they were termed. His first assignments, as a 3rd assistant engineering officer, were to Alaska during the Japanese invasion of Attu and Kiska in the Aleutian Islands.

In mid-1943, he was assigned to the SS John Barry and had a trip to Hawaii that resulted in a five-month voyage.

In New York City, Mr Symes attended the US Maritime School at Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, N.Y., and upgraded his Maritime License to 2nd assistant engineer. While in NYC, he met and later married Dorothy Muller in December 1943. He then shipped out for England where his ship, the SS Robert Vann, took part in the D-Day Invasion on June 6, 1944. After being hospitalized at the Army Hospital in Cardiff, Wales, his ship went on to Murmansk, Russia, where it was sunk by a mine in the North Sea. He returned to NYC on a troop transport, where after R&R, he was assigned to the SS Howell Lykes and SS Flying Eagle. He then sailed through the Panama Canal to Hawaii and back across the Pacific, where his ship took part in the Okinawa Invasion and survived one of the infamous “Admiral Halsey Pacific Typhoons.” Months later he received word that he had become a father.

After the war ended, he continued to sail with the USMM, as a 1st assistant engineer and later chief engineer, ferrying United States troops home from Europe; and then reenlisting for the Korean War. He began working ashore for the State of New York Department of Labor Bureau of Safety, as a high pressure vessel engineer, retiring in 1983.

Over the years, he was a member and officer in the Peekskill Continental Village Volunteer Fire Department, Sportsmans Club, and Peekskill Yacht Club, owning many pleasure boats along the way. He returned to Seattle on the West Coast to care for his mother and they relocated to Sequim, Wash., in 1988, where he was a boat broker and member of the Port Angeles Yacht Club.

His loved ones say he was a wonderful and caring person who lived a long, fruitful, and rewarding life through some tough times and on his own terms; and he learned that there was only one way to do things — the right way.

Mr Symes was baptized on December 17, 2017, at the age of 97.

His cremains will be interred at Assumption Cemetery in Peekskill, N.Y.; Trinity Church in Newtown; and scattered in both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans in which he served.

Memorial donations may be made to Assured Hospice of Clallam County in Port Angeles, Wash., at

Condolences may be directed to the Symes Family at 36 Lake Road, Newtown CT 06470.

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