SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Francis C. Soares, Jr., 89, who served his country in three wars as a 30-year member of the U.S. Coast Guard, died Sept. 12, 2011, at Mount Desert Island Hospital.
He was born March 3, 1922, in Honolulu, son of Francis C. and Olga D. (Tranquada) Soares, Sr.
He grew up during the Great Depression when money was tight for the Soares family. At age 16, young Frank was urged by his father to join the Coast Guard and make his own way in the world with the lure of a $21-a-month paycheck.
Three years later, On Dec. 7, 1941, the young seaman was stationed in Honolulu aboard the cutter Roger B. Taney, about 8 miles from Pearl Harbor, when the Japanese attacked. In an interview with the Ellsworth American in 2007, Mr. Soares recalled that day.
“We knew it was it was Japan, because one of our subs had sunk a Japanese sub earlier that day,” he recalled. “Once the [attack] started we didn’t have any communication at all, just chaos, you know.”
The Taney was one of only eight vessels that survived the attack that day and it came close to being sunk itself when a squadron of enemy planes swooped over. The Taney’s inexperienced crew fired at them without doing much harm but apparently the Japanese felt they had done enough damage that day, and flew off. Today the Taney is at the Baltimore Maritime Museum and is the only commissioned ship that survived Pearl Harbor still in existence.
Mr. Soares continued his service throughout the war and helped replace navigational aids in some of the hottest spots in the South Pacific including Iwo Jima.
While celebrating VJ day in New York City, Mr. Soares met his wife Mary (Baum) who was working in an Army Post Office for the Women’s Army Corps. They were married in 1947, beginning a 64-year union that ended with Mary’s death in May.
Mr. Soares stayed in the service, and for several years following the war was stationed in lighthouses along the Atlantic Coast. He was called back into active duty during the Korean War serving overseas aboard the USS Ironwood.
In the early 1960s Mr. Soares was assigned to Southwest Harbor, where he took command of the small rescue station here, building it in size and scope to the vital search and rescue and navigational aids facility it is today.
In that same decade, Mr. Soares went to war yet again. This time it was in Vietnam where he joined his son Francis III who was serving in the U.S. Army. In Vietnam Francis Soares served aboard the USS Basswood marking the channels for ammunition ships in Thailand and from the Cambodian boarder to Da Nang.
In 1970 Mr. Soares retired from the service with the rank of chief warrant officer. He and Mary returned to Southwest Harbor, which they had fallen in love with while raising their three children when they were first stationed in Maine.
As a civilian Mr. Soares continued his public service as a harbormaster and as a member of several civic boards.
He enjoyed golfing and was an avid ham radio operator with the call sign WB1-BQJ.
When Mary died this spring, Mr. Soares, understood that he would not be far behind her. While he had survived three wars without major injuries, his years aboard asbestos laden ships likely led to his contracting mesothelioma. Breathing was becoming increasingly difficult for him.
He expended his final energies, this summer, organizing his wife’s burial at Arlington National cemetery where he will be joining her, after a memorial service here set for Friday, Sept. 23 at 11 a.m. at Jordan Fernald in Somesville.
He is survived by his sons, Francis III and his wife Leslie of South China and Thomas H. and his wife Janet of Pembroke Pines, Fla.; daughter Carolyn L. Soares of Bar Harbor; five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
Contributions in Frank’s memory may be made to American Legion Post No. 69, care of Thomas Newman, 32 Marshall Brook Rd., Southwest Harbor ME 04679.
Arrangements are by Jordan-Fernald, 1139 Main St., Mount Desert. Condolences may be expressed at www.jordanfernald.com.