By Sallie James
OCEAN RIDGE — Faith, family and friends are the values that defined the life of Ocean Ridge resident Thomas M. Roland, a proud World War II veteran, husband and father who also served his country with stints in the U.S. Border Patrol and the Immigration and Naturalization Service. He died on Dec. 15 after a brief illness at age 92.
His grandchildren were pallbearers at his funeral.
The former New Yorker married Eleanor Hakkerup on May 2, 1954, in New Hyde Park, New York. The couple were together 65 years and had three daughters. A son preceded him in death.
“We had a lovely life together,” Eleanor Roland said.
The two lived most of their married life together in Baldwin, New York, traveling to Florida for nearly 30 years as snowbirds before moving here permanently about 12 years ago.
“His biggest thing was family. My dad grew up without a father and his most important thing was to be a good father,” said his daughter Jean Callaghan, of Yaphank, New York. “He never missed a good party and he was very, very funny. He could laugh at himself and he taught all of us to be able to laugh at ourselves.”
During his retirement, he became an avid card player, theater lover and reader. He and his wife were active members of St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic Church in Delray Beach and the Ocean Ridge Crown Colony condo community.
A wide-ranging career took Mr. Roland to faraway places such as Thailand, Africa, China, Haiti and Ireland, his daughter said.
“He’d be gone for two or three months at a time,” Callaghan recalled. “He couldn’t have done it without my mother.”
Mr. Roland assisted foreigners with the paperwork they needed to move to the United States, she said. His assignments included being a refugee officer in Indochina and Africa, and working with the Haitian Migration Interdiction Operation with the U.S. Coast Guard, and Northern Ireland’s Project Children Operation.
Most recently, the former U.S. Marine participated in the Southwest Florida Chapter of Honor Flight and traveled to Washington, D.C., in 2018. Relatives saw him off in Florida and more relatives greeted him when he landed in the nation’s capital, his daughter said.
His military service was a source of pride: Mr. Roland enlisted in the Marines shortly after the two-year anniversary of the invasion of Pearl Harbor, becoming a member of the Marine Corps 5th Marine Division “Spearhead” on Dec. 14, 1943. Two years later, he was shot three times during the invasion of Iwo Jima. He was evacuated to Guam, becoming one of 6,218 Spearhead Marines wounded in action.
Upon his return to the States, Mr. Roland attended Seton Hall College. He joined the Border Patrol in 1951 and served in Texas and New York. He eventually transferred to the Immigration and Naturalization Service in Montreal.
Mr. Roland was not one to sit still so when he retired, he took another job helping guide couriers with fine art cargo through JFK Airport in New York. He subsequently escorted the couriers to their New York City museum destinations, his daughter said.
“He knew his way all around JFK,” she recalled. Burial was Dec. 23 at the South Florida National Cemetery in Lake Worth Beach.
“He is going to be missed. He loved my mother very much. Everybody should be loved like that in their lifetime,” his daughter said.