Thursday, January 21, 2010

An Amazing Life

Thomas Lanman Hine

Old Lyme - Thomas Lanman Hine died in his sleep at Bride Brook nursing home on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2010, following a long illness.

Tom was born Nov. 21, 1918, in Berkeley, Calif. He was the son of Dr. Thomas Buck Hine and Faith Lanman Hine.

Raised primarily in Cambridge, Mass., Tom graduated from Harvard in 1940, with a degree in engineering. He worked briefly for Bethlehem Steel, but knew World War II was coming and soon joined the Navy.

Tom had earned his pilot's license in 1939, and became a Naval aviator. Sent first to the Navy's aviation training center in Jacksonville, Fla., he was first in his class and was kept on as an instructor. In early 1943, he was sent to the South Pacific, where he flew PBY "Black Cat" Catalina seaplanes on night missions for the next two years. Awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses and the Air Medal, Tom was instead most proud of the two Presidential Unit Citations presented to his crew and Patrol Squadron 11.

This was typical of a man who thought first of others and who was innately egalitarian. Shot down at night one mile off shore from a Japanese held position he and his crew had been bombing for over a month, Tom took a vote as to whether they should paddle their rafts toward the island or away. It was unanimous to paddle away. Three days later they were rescued, 110 miles from where they went down. The Army Air Corp seaplane pilot who found them, purely by chance while on another mission, had never taken off in the open sea, so Tom took the controls and brought his entire crew home safely.

Returning from the war at Christmastime 1944, Tom served as a test pilot at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station. In 1946 he entered the Naval Academy's graduate program in electronics engineering. Tom's Academy roommate invited him along to meet the nurse he had been dating. Tom was introduced to Helen Tappan, and when his roommate transferred overseas, Tom gave her a call himself. They married on Dec. 20, 1947, in the Naval Academy chapel, in Annapolis, Md. The groom calmly took a final examination in advanced mathematics the morning of his wedding day. Tom and Helen celebrated their 62nd anniversary last December.

Tom spent 21 years in the Navy. As a test pilot in the 1950s, he was one of the very first men ever to fly a jet aircraft, he did multiple tours on aircraft carriers, and served in naval intelligence posts at the Pentagon, before retiring as a Commander in 1962. Tom then went to work for Grumman Corporation, the builders of some of his favorite planes. An aerospace engineer with expertise in optics, Tom invented the 'heads up' targeting display that helped to make the F-14 the Navy's primary fighter plane. The optics group he led also developed crucial components of the Lander used when men touched down on the moon. Meanwhile, in his spare time he and a partner bought a 1947 Bonanza light plane and he continued flying and working as a flight instructor.

Tom loved flying. Before he finally had to relinquish his pilot's license, in 2003, at the start of his final illness, Tom had flown, as pilot, more than 15,000 hours, nearly one and three-quarters years spent entirely in the air. He crashed four times and walked away after each, not the least put off about going up the next time. He began work on a homebuilt plane with his good friend and fellow pilot, Bob Taylor, who he hoped will one day fly it for both of them. A member of the AOPA, the Experimental Aircraft Association, and even the United Flying Octogenarians (the UFOs), Tom Hine was well known to local pilots and will be missed by many.

When not in the air, Tom was with his family. His endless patience and seeming immunity to anger, along with a witty sense of humor and love of puns, made him a great husband, father and friend. In addition to his beloved wife, Helen, Tom leaves three children, Peter Hine and his wife, Candis, of Amston, Conn., Pamela Hine of Old Lyme, and Nancy Juliano and her husband, Frank, of Milford. He will be greatly missed by his five grandchildren and their families as well, Thomas Hine of New York City, Katherine Hine Smith and her husband, Corey, of Middlebury, Conn., Theodore Hine and his wife, Gwyneth, of Amston, Alexander Hine of Old Lyme, and Peter Hine of Old Lyme. Tom was thrilled to be great-grandfather to Madeline and Ian Smith, and Luther Thomas Hine.

Tom retired from Grumman in 1979, and he and Helen built their home in Old Lyme, three miles from Tom's much-loved twin brother, Jonathan Hine. Though Jack predeceased him in 2007, Tom continued to enjoy the company and affection of Jack's widow, Janet Simpson Hine, and his nephews, Charles Hine, William Hine, and Jack Hine, and their families. Tom is also survived by his beloved sister, Margaret Gean, of Keller, Tex.

A memorial service celebrating Tom's amazing life will be held at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2010, at the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme. Interment of his ashes, next to his twin, will take place in the spring at Old Lyme's Duck River Cemetery.

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