July 24, 1917 - April 8, 2016
John (Johnny) Tursi, 98, passed away on Friday, April 8, 2016 at Rosario Assisted Living in Anacortes, WA.
John was born on July 24, 1917 in Brooklyn, NY, the son of Vito and Rosina (Caraciano) Torcia, who immigrated from Italy in 1910.
Typical of the times on the streets of New York as a child, John worked in a shoe factory, butcher shops, a riding academy and was once discharged from a bicycle delivery service for violation of child labor laws. He attended school through the 8th grade and in 1933 the depression program, Civilian Conservation Corps, advertised for members to work on a project to build a park at Anacortes, Washington. John was then 16 and applied for membership at a local police station where his age was "adjusted" to 21 so he could qualify for membership. He boarded a military troop train at Fort Dix, NJ with other CCC recruits and, unsure of the intended destination, was told by the conductor while traveling through North Dakota that Anacortes was in "Northwest United States." John knew it was west of the Hudson River, but had no idea he would cross the entire nation to find his new work station. John indeed helped to build Deception Pass Park, bridge, and has been honored many times for his involvement and historical presentations to community organizations. A commemorative plaque in his honor was placed at the Park underpass in 2010. Later he worked in the salmon canneries, the Morrison Mill and in 1936 married Doris Anderson who later became owner of Kulshan Beauty Salon.
Johnny enlisted in the Army in 1944 and after brief training was posted to England and later to France where as an Army Engineer Tech Sergeant he cleared hedgerows with a dozer and helped to construct bridges. Much of his three-year tour was spent in combat conditions . . . specifically the Battle of the Bulge and he was always "miffed" that the Engineers were never awarded the Infantry Combat Badge or given combat pay.
Returning to Anacortes in 1945, John went to work in the salmon industry and later with Shell Oil where he retired as a supervisor in the Maintenance Dept. and was a recognized expert in hydraulic pumps.
After retirement, he and Doris decided to do what they could to support forestlands and parks, public needs, improve animal husbandry, and other projects that would "live on".
John was on boards of Anacortes and Skagit Valley Museums, active in VFW, Deception Pass Foundation, and a volunteer and supporter of Anacortes Soroptimist Club. In an effort to support organizations he believed in, John was generous with contributions to Anacortes Community Forestlands, Skagit Land Trust, Island Hospital Foundation, Skagit Valley Humane Society, Anacortes Family Shelter, and many others. In 1985, John was invited to visit the Rose garden where President Reagan honored him as "Outstanding Senior Volunteer." Other awards are too many to mention, but the John and Doris Tursi Park and Playground at W. 12th and Pennsylvania best represent community feelings resulting from his efforts.
John would number his "Family" at Anacortes Soroptimist Club as most important in his life. His Doris was a long-time member and John volunteered his many talents at every opening of the Thrift Shop. Friends of John have accounted for some $3,500,000 he has contributed to community projects over the years. Most recently, John at 98 years old, was honored by the Skagit County Commissioners for his participation in the Skagit Land Trust, Skagit County, Deception Pass State Park "Tursi Trail" on South Fidalgo Island.
John and Thelma Palmer captured his life with a book, "Long Journey to the Rose Garden" in 1989. It's great reading and the last paragraph reads, "It was with a great deal of gratitude and humility that Doris and I entered the Rose Garden that cloudless spring morning. My life which had begun in poverty on the edges of crime, moved to the forests and waters of the Pacific Northwest, taken me to Europe in World War II and back home, now culminated in this honor. Truly it had been a long journey to the "Rose Garden".
John is survived by his brothers, Antonio, Pasquali, Givazjano and Michael; a sister, Angelina, and by nephews and nieces, Carla Good of Edmonds, WA, Curt Anderson of Marysville, WA, Randy Lymangrover of Sumner, WA, Brad Lymangrover of Port Angeles, WA and Bruce Turci of Sneads Ferry, NC.
A Graveside Service with Military Honors for all of his friends will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Friday, April 22, 2016 at Grand View Cemetery in Anacortes. Fittingly, this is our National Earth Day. A Celebration of Life Service will be announced at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Skagit Land Trust, POB 1017, Mount Vernon, WA 98273 or Soroptimist International of Anacortes, POB 654, Anacortes, WA 98221.
Arrangements are in the care of Evans Funeral Chapel and Crematory, Inc., Anacortes, WA and the San Juan Islands.
To share memories of John, please sign the on-line guest register at www.evanschapel.com.