2007-09-18 06:24:45 UTC
Tom Goff, a longtime Canal Fulton resident who was the oldest survivor
from the sinking of the USS Indianapolis in 1945, died early Monday at
age 100, his family said.
His daughter, Bobbie Swinehart, said he died at 1:20 a.m. at Rose Lane
Health Center in Jackson Township due to complications from a stroke
he suffered last week.
"At this point, we're still in shock," she said. "We haven't totally
Giles McCoy, the chairman of the USS Indianapolis Survivors
Organization, said when he visits the memorial in Indianapolis that
honors those who were on the ship when it sank, "I'll go down there
and say a little prayer for him. ... He was special to our group. He
was the oldest guy. He was just a nice, perfect gentleman."
Goff was born on Nov. 15, 1906, in Glenville, W.Va., the fourth of 10
children in a farming family. After growing up in Harrisville, W.Va.,
he and his family moved to West Salem, and he later worked at B.F.
Goodrich in Akron.
In 1943, at the age of 36 - too old to be drafted - Goff enlisted in
SOMETHING HE HAD TO DO
"To him, it was just something he had to do, and he did it," said his
daughter Janet Stefan. He "wanted to go see what it was all about."
Assigned to the Navy cruiser the USS Indianapolis, many of Goff's
crewmates called him Pappy because was nearly twice their age. McCoy,
82, of Palm Coast, Fla., was one of the Marines on the ship who didn't
know Goff very well then. But he recalled that Goff oversaw where the
Marines' provisions were kept.
On July 30, 1945, a Japanese submarine torpedoed the Indianapolis in
the Philippine Sea, according to the Survivors Organization Web site.
The ship sank in 12 minutes. Of the 1,196 men serving on the cruiser,
about 300 went down with the Indianapolis and about 600 died in a
shark-infested sea with no lifeboats and little, if any, food or
water, the site says.
McCoy said of the 39 Marines on the Indianapolis, only he and four
others survived; they were among the 316 rescued about five days after
the sinking. Goff was one of those who overcame the exhaustion,
thirst, hunger and sharks.
After the rescue, Goff was discharged. He returned to Ohio and married
for a third time, about two months after the sinking. His wife Peggy
Bowyer, had worked with his sister in a blimp hanger, and his sister
had arranged for her to be his pen pal during the war. Already the
father of a daughter, Sally Hogan, from a prior marriage, he had two
more daughters, Swinehart and Stefan.
RETIRED IN 1970
Swinehart said after living in Norton and Cuyahoga Falls, her father
retired from B.F. Goodrich in 1970. He lived in Tampa for about 10
years, she said, before moving to Canal Fulton in the mid-1980s. Peggy
died in 2004.
Goff attended every USS Indianapolis survivor reunion but two, she
McCoy said Goff, a quiet man who stood at 5-feet-4, was very modest.
"Everytime we had a reunion, we would introduce Tom as our oldest
survivor, and he would stand up there and not know what to say. ... He
was a good man. The kind of man you and I would like to sit and talk
Swinehart, 61, of Lawrence Township, said besides his three daughters,
Goff leaves behind one sister, 15 grandchildren and several great-
grandchildren. Swinehart said several Rose Lane employees visited Goff
on their day off Sunday, afraid they wouldn't see him again.
Calling hours will be 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at Silva Hostetler in
Barberton and two hours before the 1 p.m. Thursday service at Matteson
Funeral Home in West Salem.
"Everybody felt he was definitely a hero with what he'd been through,"
Swinehart said. "He felt he did his job; that was what he was supposed
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
BY Robert Wang