Captain John Gage Carlson

Captain John Gage Carlson of Marion, Massachusetts, passed away in comfort and peace, in his home, October 28, on his ninety second birthday, with family members in attendance.

Born in Winchester, Massachusetts, on October 28, 1921, he was the son of Francis O.P. Carlson and Lura Alice Elliott.

Captain Carlson was pre-deceased by his wife of 68 years, Dell Gates Carlson and their son, John William Carlson of the Republic of Panama. He is survived by his brother, Francis Elliott Carlson, of Leesburg VA; his sister-in-law, Sally Gates Earle, of Leicester, MA; his daughter, Johanna Elliott Carlson, of North Brookfield NY; and son, Christian Peter Carlson, of New Bedford MA. Other surviving family include daughter-in-law, Jacqueline Evans Carlson of the Republic of Panama, six grandsons, Douglas Frank Ewer of Manhattan Beach, CA; Ryan Gage Mastroccio and his wife Ellen Paradise of Syracuse NY; David Dower and his wife Ariel Rose Dower of North Plainfield, NJ; Captain Jon Elliott Carlson of the Republic of Panama; James Patrick Carlson and his wife Katherine Melissa Carlson, of Boynton Beach, FL; Jack Carlson Fanelli and his wife Jennifer Rotundo Fanelli of Utica, NY, and three great-grandsons, Gaige Putnam Barker, Evan Gerard Mastroccio and Aiden John Carlson.

Captain Carlson graduated from the Massachusetts Nautical School, now the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, with the class of 1941, having trained as cadet aboard the barque Nantucket. He was recently honored at the MMA with a reception and viewing of his photographs of the Nantucket, taken during his training years. Captain Carlson was the youngest Master Mariner in the history of the United States, receiving his Master Mariner papers at the age of 23, entitling him to command merchant vessels of any size on any ocean.

Captain Carlson served in the Merchant Marines from 1940-1947. He was Jr. Third Mate aboard the SS Arkansan when she was bombed and damaged by air attack in 1941. The ship was later torpedoed and sunk in 1942. He served as Second and Chief Mate on numerous liberty ships during WWII in the Mediterranean War Theatre. He was granted The Atlantic War Zone Bar, The Merchant Marine Defense Bar and the Mediterranean Middle East War Zone Bar by the War Shipping Administration. He was granted veteran status by the U.S. Defense Department in 1988.

Post WWII, Captain Carlson was Chief Mate and Master of numerous merchant vessels, traveling to ports all over the world; Master of the Towboat, John Duff, in New Bedford, MA, and Second Mate aboard the RV Atlantis, research sailing ship of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.

In 1953, Captain Carlson moved with his wife and three children to the Panama Canal Zone, where he served as Ferry Captain, Ship Pilot and Tugboat Master on the Panama Canal. He was awarded two commendations for meritorious service by the Canal Zone Governor, one for which he and his tugboat crew helped to extinguish a fire aboard a ship in the locks and on another occasion when “his quick thinking and expert command of his tugboat and crew” enabled him to rescue a ship that had lost power in the channel and was drifting dangerously close to the Thatcher Ferry Bridge (now the Bridge of the Americas) and also in danger of running aground, “averting a serious marine tragedy.”

Captain Carlson and his family enjoyed racing their sailboats, the Nordstar and Gemini and exploring the many tropical islands off the Pacific Coast of Panama, as well as exploring the pristine beaches and mountainous jungles of the mainland. Captain and Mrs. Carlson, along with their friends Russ Meisner and Lynn and Joan Stratford, were responsible for making the clubhouse of the Balboa Yacht Club in the 50’s, a favorite social gathering venue for many “Zonians”. Captain Carlson was commodore of the “BYC”, several times and was honored with a lifetime membership. In later years, he and his wife Dell and their beloved dogs, enjoyed many happy days on their Grand Banks, the Moonlight, until his retirement in 1976. Captain Carlson was honored with the gift of the brass bell from his tugboat, the “Arraijan”.

The Carlsons then returned to the states to live in Marion Massachusetts. Captain Carlson was a member of the Sippican Rod and Gun Club in Rochester, MA and the Beverly Yacht Club in Marion. “Captain Jack” was known to row his peapod, the “Bitter End” from Marion to Falmouth, well into his 70’s.

“And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over” Sea Fever by John Masefield

A celebration of the life of Captain Carlson will be held at the Seaman’s Bethel in New Bedford, MA. 11:00 a.m., December 14, 2013.

The Carlson family cordially invites you to a reception immediately following the services at the Inn on Shipyard Park, Mattapoisett, MA.

Arrangements are by Saunders-Dwyer Home for Funerals, 50 County Road, Mattapoisett, MA

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