James Thomas Mealy - Coronado Eagle & Journal | Coronado News | Coronado Island News: Obituaries

James Thomas Mealy

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Posted: Thursday, June 13, 2019 2:25 pm

Longtime Coronado resident, James Thomas Mealy passed away peacefully in his sleep in Eugene, Oregon on May 5, 2019, surrounded by those who loved and care for him.

Jim was born June 25, 1923 in Coronado, California to Michael Edward Mealy and Helen Louise Summers.

Being born premature and underweight, Jim spent the first weeks of his life in an incubator at St. Joseph’s (Mercy) Hospital in San Diego. At the age of three months, his parents split up and he was placed in foster care in the home of Ward and Pearl Pike. When he was three years old, the Pikes moved from Coronado to Imperial Beach where they started a business raising chickens for fryers and eggs.

When Jim was five, the Pikes moved back to Coronado into a house Ward built at 930 E Avenue. Jim had the run of Coronado. He remembered playing around the boathouse at five years old. He and his friends would rent a boat for 25 cents an hour and play in Glorietta Bay even though none of them could swim.

In 1932, he moved to Mission Hills to live with Spearos and Mary Trit. He remembers riding the 13 – 9 to the ferry landing where he would take the ferry to Coronado and then the trolley to get to school. In 1933, he moved back to Coronado to live with John and Alice Alcaraz.

In high school, Jim earned money for himself by taking care of boats at the yacht club, selling clams and mushrooms he gathered himself to the local grocery store and exercising the polo horses stabled near Imperial Beach. His favorite hangouts were the Hotel Del and the Boat House where he would run errands for guests like actors John Wayne and Humphrey Bogart. Jim remembered Wayne as a “big tipper.” Jim graduated from Coronado High school in 1942 where he was a member of the football team and manager of the basketball team.

After high school, Jim joined the Naval Reserves and went to Sheepshead Bay, New York to attend Merchant Marine school. As a Merchant Marine he made several trips to Venezuela to pick up diesel fuel and also delivered supplies to England and North Africa; journeys in which he was fortunate enough to survive several U-boat encounters. In 1943, he returned home wanting to become a pilot in the Air Corp. When the Naval Reserves would not release him he enlisted in the Navy. He became a Seabee participating in the invasions of Tinian, Saipan and Okinawa, building air strips as soon as the beaches were secure.

After the war, he returned to Coronado and came to work at the Naval Air Rework Facility (NARF) at North Island Naval Air Station. In 1957, Jim took a leave from NARF to work for the Atomic Energy Commission, near Bikini Atoll, maintaining the monitoring equipment for the nuclear testing and conducting radiation tests on the dead fish that would wash ashore. It was during this time that Jim ‘met’ Beryl Doreen Brown by answering a letter she had written seeking a pen-pal. They began corresponding and were married in 1958, shortly after he returned home. Jim and Beryl raised four children in Coronado in the home they purchased in 1960.

Jim loved flying and building cars. He built a 1932 Ford roadster which, after he sold it, was rumored to be the fastest car in Imperial Beach. He spent much of his free time hanging out at the Yacht Club and with friends Terry Car and Andy Devercelly Jr. building and repairing cars. In addition to the roadster, Jim also built two dune buggies. He was a member of the Andy’s off-road race team and crewed for many Baja off-road races. During one race he loaned a pair of sunglasses to the actor James Garner, who had lost his pair, and was still waiting for them to be returned.

Jim retired from NARF in 1979 after 32 years in Civil Service. He spent his retirement years working with the Devercelly’s in their 1st Street garage, serving a term as Port Captain at the Coronado Yacht Club, building and flying model airplanes and constructing a model railroad in his garage.

Jim is survived by his daughters Theresa (Tom) Moore and Cheryl Gora of San Diego and his sons, Darren (Karri) of Springfield, Oregon and Bryan (Liz) of Los Osos, California. In addition to his four children, he is survived by 10 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

A celebration of life is planned to take place in Oregon in June and another celebration of life will be held in Coronado at a later date.