Posted by Cathy Gowdy on Tuesday, April 25, 2006 at 13:40:18 :
San Francisco Chronicle
Tuesday, August 28, 2001
Phil Sinnott, 80 -- Liberty ship stalwart
by Carl Nolte, Chronicle Staff Writer
Phil Sinnott, who combined several careers in a long life -- sailor, soldier, newspaper reporter, college teacher and finally a volunteer seaman aboard the Liberty ship Jeremiah O'Brien -- died Sunday after a long illness. He was 80 and lived in Lafayette.
Mr. Sinnott was born in San Francisco, the son of the senior Phil Sinnott, who was managing editor of the old San Francisco News. He attended local schools and the University of Oregon, but left college to go to sea just before the outbreak of World War II.
He was drafted into the Army, attended officer candidate school at Fort Benning, Ga., and served as an officer during the Battle of the Bulge and the invasion of Germany. He received the Silver Star for bravery but seldom mentioned his war service.
"I ran into a few firefights moving across Germany," he said. Combat, he thought, "consisted mostly of terror, boredom and discomfort."
Mr. Sinnott stayed in the Army Reserve after the war and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel.
After his active military service, Mr. Sinnott worked for The Chronicle as a reporter and enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley. He earned a master's degree and most of a doctorate, then joined the faculty as superintendent of student teachers at the university's School of Education, where, his wife, Catherine, said, "He taught teachers how to be teachers."
He retired after 23 years' service and then joined the crew of the Jeremiah O'Brien in San Francisco as a deckhand and docent, explaining the workings of the World War II ship.
"He was one of our first volunteers," said retired Rear Adm. Thomas Patterson, now chairman of the O'Brien's board of directors, "He loved the ship and the crew and the people who came on board."
Mr. Sinnott sailed with the ship in 1994 when it went from San Francisco to Europe and back to commemorate the 50th anniversary of D-Day. He worked nearly every day as an able bodied seaman on a voyage that took five months and covered more than 17,000 miles.
On his return, he also volunteered as a docent at the Point Bonita lighthouse on the Marin County coast and was featured several times on television.
"He loved to explain things to people," Patterson said. "He was the docent for all time."
Mr. Sinnott is survived by his wife, Catherine; a son, Patrick Sinnott of Mill Valley; four daughters, Wendy Gadley of Berkeley, Jean Sinnott of Lafayette, Thea Sinnott of Geyserville and Carol Sinnott of Glendale, Ariz., and three grandchildren.
A funeral service will be held for Mr. Sinnott at St. Monica's Church, 1001 Camino Pablo, Moraga, at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 4. There will also be a party in his honor on board the O'Brien at a later date.
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