Jack Pressey

Former career submarine sailor Jack Pressey, one of Sonoma County's busiest military veterans, died in his sleep Saturday at age 88.

"He was pretty much Mr. American Legion here in town," said Vietnam veteran Joseph Embry, who served with Pressey as a fellow officer in the legion's Santa Rosa-based Theodore Roosevelt Post 21.

Good-humored and affable, Pressey was a key player in the well-attended Avenue of the Flags tribute to fallen warriors that occurs each Memorial Day in Santa Rosa.

"He was the master of ceremonies for as long as he could handle it," said Tim Maloney, a fellow veteran and a staffer at Santa Rosa Memorial Park, which hosts the annual observance.

Maloney recalled that Pressey "referred often to being a three-war veteran. He took it very seriously."

Jackson Gilbert Pressey was born in Roseville and grew up there and in Oakland. He was 18 when he joined the Navy in 1942, shortly after Imperial Japan's attack on U.S. forces in Hawaii pulled America into the war.

Pressey applied for and was accepted into the submarine service. "It's quite a physical test you have to take for that," said friend and fellow Navy vet Bill Stiles of Healdsburg.

Observed Embry, "In those days you were pretty much in a little metal cigar tube, compared to what submarines are today."

Pressey was assigned to the USS Thresher as an electronics technician and served in the Pacific through most of the war. He met the woman who'd be his wife for 67 years at a USO dance in San Francisco.

"We married on Navy Day (Oct. 27) in 1945, that was something," Edith Pressey said at her home in Santa Rosa.

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