Local legend Tom Mustin passes away at 81
Thomas Morton Mustin died peacefully of advanced cancer on July 5, in his favorite town in all the world, Coronado, with his beloved wife of 28 years, Jean Phillips Mustin, holding one hand and the stepson he adored, Andy Root, holding the other. He was 81.
Tom was born in Annapolis, MD on Feb. 11, 1941, into a distinguished Naval family spanning six generations, the third child of then-Lt. Lloyd Montague Mustin, USN, and his wife, the former Emily Proctor Morton of Annapolis.
As with most nomadic Navy families, he attended various schools on both coasts, finally landing at Coronado High School, class of 1958, where he played football, excelled academically, and forged friendships that would last his lifetime.
Upon graduation, Tom entered the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, graduating in 1962, then earning a Masters degree in Operations Analysis from Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey. From there, he made three deployments to the Tonkin Gulf in Guided Missile destroyers, after which he spent one year on the treacherous jungle rivers of Vietnam in the River Patrol Force (PBR’s). The 4-man crews of these small, vulnerable boats were cross-trained, so if a crew member became disabled, everyone was qualified to take over. After his CO was fatally shot, Tom assumed command, at age 26. For his performance, he received a personal letter from VADM F.J. Blouin, Commander Amphibious Force, US Pacific Fleet, and was awarded the Navy Bronze Star with Combat “V”, the Navy Commendation Medal with Combat “V”, and various other personal, campaign, and expeditionary awards. It was there that he was exposed to Agent Orange, the cause of the cancer that would eventually kill him.
After 11 years, Tom left the Navy to enter Harvard Law School, graduating in 1976. He practiced law successfully for twenty years with the firm of Latham and Watkins in Los Angeles, where he was a litigating partner. His friend and former law partner Peter Benzian of Coronado, says, “Tom was slicker than boiled okra and could charm a possum from a tree. That, coupled with his intelligence and razor- sharp wit, produced remarkable results.”
Tom Mustin was a man of varied interests and passions. He was a Hemingway kind of guy – a warrior, Marlin fisherman, gun enthusiast, and hunter of big game in Arizona, California, Alaska, and Africa. He was a storyteller extraordinaire who loved his family, his friends, his dogs, his vodka, Navy football, raging storms, roaring fires, good books, excellent food, and fine cigars. And, most of all, Jean. The USS MUSTIN (DDG-89), a Navy Guided Missile Destroyer, currently stationed in San Diego, is named in honor of Tom, his grandfather, his father and his brother.
His taste in music was eclectic to say the least: He was a Rolling Stones fan to the core, attending every Stones concert he possibly could, knowing the words to every song and singing along with Mick Jagger at parties in that booming voice of his. But he was also a lover of classical music, especially Beethoven and Mozart, often declaring that the most powerful piece of music ever written was Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Except sometimes it was ‘Honky Tonk Woman’ by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. A tossup.
He was part of a big, fun, extended, multi-generational family of adults, kids, grandkids, cousins, nieces, nephews, and in-laws on every side, who enjoyed being together, with “Uncle Tom” always at the center of it all, the absolute hero of the younger set. He remained single for many years, everyone just assuming he’d be a bachelor forever, until Jean Phillips Root came on the scene and he fell head over heels in love! They were married one month before his fifty-third birthday at a spectacular black tie wedding at the house of friends in L.A. on New Year’s Day, 1994, at 12:01 a.m. (reportedly an IRS-related decision). After Tom retired from the law firm, he and Jean came to Coronado, where they spent many happy years in the big house on J Avenue, welcoming assorted family, friends, cats and dogs to share in the good times.
Along with his marriage to Jean came four smart, wonderful children - three beautiful daughters and a son - all of whom are married now with children of their own. Andy’s son Hunter, age 8 months, made grandchild #8 for “Pappy.” Hunter wore his little Rolling Stones t-shirt when he visited Tom that final time.
“He was a lion of a man,” says Tom’s sister Doug St. Denis, “that’s the only way to describe him. He was big, strong, fast, brilliant, brave, hilariously funny, irreverent, and a star athlete, always. He stood at the top of every class, had a fiercely wicked wit, and a vocabulary that sent us all running to our dictionaries. He was a loyal friend and a true gentleman (except when he wasn’t), and, oh, how we adored him. He was supposed to live forever. ”
In addition to his wife Jean, his children, grandchildren and sister, Tom leaves sister-in-law Lucy Mustin, seven Mustin/Baldauf nieces and nephews, their spouses, their children, and a zillion friends. VADM “Hank” Mustin, Tom and Doug’s brother, died in 2016, as did Doug’s husband, architect Dale St. Denis. A service is planned at the Naval Academy Chapel in Annapolis, and his ashes will be interred in the USNA cemetery close to other family members.
In lieu of flowers, tax -deductible donations to the Warrior Foundation Freedom Station “In memory of Tom Mustin” would be welcome and appreciated. Checks may be mailed to 1223 ½ 28th St., Suite A, San Diego, CA 92102. Phone (619) 578- 2615.
VOL. 112, NO. 28 - July 13, 2022