Commander Joseph F. Huber, Jr. USNR, Retired, passed away July 24, 2021, at the age of 102 in Manhattan, Montana, where he had lived for the past two years. Before that, Joe had divided his time between Coronado, and Hingham, Massachusetts.
Joe was born Dec. 6, 1918, in Haverstraw, New York, to Joseph F. and Jean Gurnee Huber. He graduated from Northampton High School in Massachusetts, the president of his senior class. During his high school years, he also became an Eagle Scout, receiving the award from the former First Lady, Grace Coolidge. He went on to Dartmouth College, where his membership in their glee club began his lifelong enjoyment of singing in harmony with others. This was a valuable skill to have when he and his friends had to sing for their supper in the south of France during a European motorbike trip in the summer of 1938. While at Dartmouth, he learned to ski and became quite proficient, traveling with his classmates to Stowe, Vermont, where they would hike up to ski the Nose Dive, and to Mt. Washington for trips down Tuckerman’s Ravine.
After graduating in 1940, he began his career in Washington, DC, working closely with the federal government. The beginning of World War II saw him enter the U.S. Navy, where he became a Naval Aviator.
Joe served two combat tours in the Pacific, the first as pilot of a PBY ‘Catalina’ flying boat for VP/VPB-23. The activities of his squadron are featured in the book “On Hell’s Perimeters.” A second tour followed as pilot of the PB4Y-2 Privateer – the Navy version of the B-24 bomber. His orders took him to Tinian, Palawan, Iwo Jima, and other islands throughout the South Pacific. While he very much enjoyed reunions with his surviving squadron members in his later years, he remained somewhat reserved about his experiences. At one squadron reunion, he was presented with a piece of his plane that one of his crew had saved when Joe made a forced landing in the stricken aircraft after taking enemy fire on Iwo Jima. When asked about it he simply smiled and commented that the experience had been ‘pretty exciting.’
For his service during the war, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Joe had called Coronado home briefly during the war, being one of the fortunate naval officers housed at the Hotel del Coronado. After a brief return to civilian life, Joe was recalled to service in 1950. He was stationed in Coronado again from 1953-1958 as Intelligence Officer for the 7th Fleet. It was during that time that he could be seen driving around town in his yellow MG-T or scuba diving for abalone off the coast of Point Loma.
In 1957 he met his first wife, Genevieve Diehl Hermanson, and they were married in 1958 at NAS North Island. Genevieve was a Coronado widow with two daughters, and Joe embarked on his most challenging assignment to date: father to two young teenage girls. He continued his tours with the Navy, including serving as the U.S. Naval Attaché (Malaysia) stationed in Singapore and in various intelligence positions at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
Joe retired from active duty in 1966. Informed by Genevieve that he was much too young to retire, Joe began a second career with General Electric Armament Systems in Burlington, Vermont, in the aircraft division. Living in Williston, they and their son, Joseph ‘Seph’, enjoyed an idyllic life in the New England countryside. In his spare time, Joe became a gentleman farmer. He and Genevieve raised numerous goats, sheep, chickens, ducks, a herd of Holsteins, and Charlotte, the Charolais. Joe loved to spend summer days on his tractor mowing the hay in the meadow at his farm in Starksboro, and to spend the autumn laying in a healthy supply of firewood for the winter. Winter nights often saw him plowing the long drive or helping a neighbor out of a ditch. He also continued to enjoy skiing the resorts of Vermont on the wooden skis that had served so well decades before. Life was wonderful in Vermont, but after retirement from GE he and Genevieve returned to Coronado in 1986 and the house they had left 28 years before.
For years Joe was active in the Coronado Optimists and enjoyed being one of the announcers in the 4th of July parade. He was a member of the Round Table and would never miss Monday lunch at the Brigantine with the ‘Unconcerned Citizens of Coronado.’ He loved singing barbershop harmony with the Sun Harbor Chorus in San Diego, and tennis was always on his weekly schedule. He took great pride in the roses that bordered the wall around the house, hoping to receive a coveted blue ribbon during the annual Coronado Flower Show.
Several years after Genevieve’s death in 1991, Joe met Priscilla Wescott of Hingham, Massachusetts, on a trip to Malta. Their mutual love of music, travel, and New England made them an ideal match. They married at age 80 and enjoyed a bi-coastal life for many years before Priscilla’s passing in 2019, at the age of 100. Together they traveled the world, sailed along the eastern seaboard, and attended the opera.
Although gifted with remarkable health and longevity, Joe did exhibit signs of fragility in his later years, most notably severely pulling a hamstring while waterskiing at age 88. A very talented dancer, he had learned tap dancing when young and throughout his life loved to dance, whether a foxtrot in the kitchen or the twist with his daughter at a reception for the Prime Minister of Singapore.
Joe was known for his great kindness and unfailing good nature. He was not capable of malice and was never heard to complain, regardless of the circumstances. He lived in the moment, and the moment was usually pretty good as far as he was concerned. Though made weak by time and fate, the bright blue eyes full of cheer and decency never dimmed, and whatever the problems of the day, time spent with him invariably left the visitor with a more hopeful outlook on life.
It is said that “a gentleman is one who puts more into the world than he takes out.” Joe was a true gentleman.
Joe is survived by his three children, Joseph ‘Seph’ (Barbie) Huber of Bozeman, Montana, Susan (Tuck) Vosburg, formerly of Great Falls, Montana and currently living in Reno, Nevada, and Sally (Lowell) Bilsborough of Littleton, Colorado. He leaves six grandchildren, one great-grandchild, and numerous nieces and nephews.
A private memorial was held. Burial will be in Arlington National Cemetery at a later date.
Arrangements are in the care of Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service in Bozeman, Montana. www.dokkennelson.com