Commander Thomas James “Jim” Spisak, US Navy (retired), 90, of Mobile AL, died of complications from COVID 19 on March 5, 2021. A native of Coraopolis, PA, he was the son of the late Thomas Joseph and Mary Rose Stasko, Spisak.
Jim is survived by his sons, Thomas (Janis) and Mark of Massachusetts, Dana (Carrie) and Derek Spisak of Mobile, AL; daughters, Jeri (Frank) Frazer of Buzzards Bay, MA and Valerie (Bob) Ogle of Chickasaw, AL; his beloved niece, Marilyn Spisak of Pennsylvania; grandchildren, Mishelle (Steve) Joy, Eric and Keith Frazer, Emma and Ada Spisak; several great grandchildren; and one great-great grandson.
He is predeceased by his wife, Sally Diane Bratton Spisak; sons, Laurie Michael and Matthew Maurice Spisak, his grandson Benjamin Thomas Reed; brother, William Spisak, sister, Helen Spisak, and precious mother-in-law, Carmen Angel.
Jim Spisak, a child of immigrants, graduated from Coraopolis High School in 1948 and enlisted in the US Navy at age 17 as a radarman. After graduating Officer Candidates School in Newport, R.I. in 1954, he was commissioned an Ensign and was considered a “Mustang.”
During his naval career, he had a front row seat for many seminal mid-century events, including the Occupation of Europe, Korean War, the Lebanon and Congo Crises, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Vietnam War. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, the Naval Unit Commendation, and a Presidential Unit Commendation for his leadership of the Military Sea Transportation Service Office’s shallow draft shipping division in Vietnam. After directing the Supporting Arms Department of the Navy’s Amphibious Warfare School at Little Creek, VA, he retired as a Commander.
He and Diane retired to Attica, IN where he raised his newborn twins while he finished a degree through Krannert School of Management at Purdue in West Lafayette, IN. He worked for General Foods in Lafayette, IN. In 1979, they moved to Ocean Springs, MS, where he was employed by Ingall’s Ship Building and retired after 20 years. They moved to Mobile after hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Jim enjoyed genealogy, volunteered to help others with their family trees, and had traced his family back to the 1400s. He was a talented writer. He loved history and focused family trips to locations of interest including lighthouses, shipwrecks, surfing, pirate hideouts, military bases, battlegrounds, camping in hurricanes, amusement parks, David Letterman with the original Larry Bud Melman, and museums from Montreal, Canada to Oaxaca, Mexico, craters, and the Grand Canyon.
In Moon Township, PA, he had a reputation as an athlete where he played ball for different organizations. Jim played semi pro football while in the Navy, hit many home runs, and was known to crack and break bats. His golf drive was astonishing.
Stories of his military service were carefully told with an occasional surprise of unique duties. Jim Spisak was an enigma. To set the record straight, while Jim served in Scotland and beyond, he saw the Beatles several times. When he came home, HE taught Diane how to do The Twist. His smile was legendary.
He will be interred at The National Cemetery, Biloxi, Mississippi at a later date.
Expressions of condolence for the family may be made at www.hughesfh.com. Hughes Funeral Home, 26209 Pollard Road, Daphne, AL, is assisting the family