John D. Druce died of complications from pneumonia on Sept. 16, 2020 at his Boothbay Harbor home. He was 98.
John was born on May 15, 1922 to parents Henry and Katherine Druce. He graduated from West Philadelphia High School in 1940. He attended Springfield College in Massachusetts before enlisting in the U.S. Marines in 1942.
He spent two years in the South Pacific and China during the war. He finished his military service in 1947 after serving for 4.5 years. When John arrived at Guadalcanal, he described the Allies as being in the “mopping up” stages of the war. He told about the Allied forces capturing Fiji Island natives being held by the Japanese. “The Fijis were helping us attack the Japanese and they got stuck on a hill. When we rescued them, they thanked and hugged us because everyone knew how atrocious the Japanese treated their prisoners,” John said at a recent lecture.
In August 1945, John and three other lieutenants were sent to China. They were assigned three tasks in the days following Japan’s surrendering to Allied forces: Supervise the return of defeated Japanese soldiers home, prepare for the return of ally Chiang Kai-shek and his military forces to China, and ready Peking for the U.S. Marines First Division accepting the official transfer of power.
John witnessed the eventual treaty signing which surrendered Japan’s possessions in China seized during the eight-year conflict between the two Asian countries. John often told about his first visit to Peking, the Chinese capital city. He recalled Mao’s picture being everywhere and the communists not happy to see Americans in the city, but other Chinese happy to see them. “Once we got there, we were treated as heroes,” John said. He and three other Marines were shown “The Forbidden City” (the imperial palaces of the Ming and Qing dynasties).
On Sept. 9, 1945, the U.S. Marines First Division officially accepted Japan’s surrender of the Chinese territories claimed during the war. Fourteen Japanese officers surrendered their sabres during the ceremony. John not only had a front row seat to witness the surrender, he also participated in the ceremony. A Japanese officer he befriended requested he join military officers at the signing. “He had me sign my name to the surrender papers. I don’t know if it was a witness or what, but I signed it John Dix Druce, U.S. Marine Reserve,” he said. John later wrote about his experience in China. The book, “The John D. Druce Memoir,” is in the U.S. Marine Corps archives. Looking back at his service, John said he saw the South Pacific “from top to bottom“ and had a wonderful time.
Years later, he admitted some of his family members would not believe his war story of participating in the surrender event because the surrender papers were lost. “Somebody took them and one of the sabres,” he said. John finished his military service as a First Lieutenant.
Following his military service, he graduated with a bachelor of science degree from Springfield College. He continued his education at the University of Pennsylvania receiving a master of science in 1947. He studied real estate appraisal at Harvard College in 1949 and Syracuse University in 1950. He began his business career as president of County Enterprises Inc. in Worcester and Brockton Massachusetts. John built more than 200 residential homes, managed apartments, and represented three New England Savings and Loans as a mortgage broker.
On June 1, 1946 he married Charlotte I. Harold (the love of his life), she proposed to John after just three dates. The couple were married for 70 years. Charlotte predeceased him in 2016.
In 1957, John and Charlotte’s father, Raymond Harold, purchased the Spruce Point Inn in Boothbay Harbor. John and Charlotte managed the hotel and took full ownership of the property in 1972. The two of them had a partnership that worked. John was Mr. Outside, with a gregarious and happy personality, managing the 70+ employees and entertaining over 100 guests per day. Charlotte managed the back office, handled the finances, and participated in every major decision. They sold the hotel and retired in 1988. Up until his passing, hardly a day went by in the summer months when John wasn’t visited by former guests or employees who have made a special trip to be with him.
During his career in the hospitality field, he received numerous recognitions and appointments to several state, regional and national boards. In 1975, he became a member of the American Hotel Resort Committee where he served on the executive board, was twice elected president of the New England Innkeepers Association, as well as serving president of the Maine Innkeepers Association.
John loved Boothbay Harbor. He was committed to helping the community whether it was raising funds for St. Andrews Hospital or the Boothbay Region YMCA. He was a strong supporter and advocate of Camp Knickerbocker. He wanted access for all. John also established a Scholarship Fund for the Boothbay Region High School students.
He is survived by his son John Dix Druce Jr. and his wife Nancy S. Druce of Trevett and Portland; daughter Jennifer D. Fehlau and her husband John Fehlau of Cumberland; sister Ruth Harold Zollinger of Tucson, Arizona and Boothbay Harbor. He is also survived by his grandchildren Kate Fehlau, of Cumberland, Molly Druce of Sullivan Island, South Carolina, Jessica Shaver and husband Ben Shaver of Houston, Texas, Page Axley and husband John Axley of Birmingham, Alabama.
John will miss his family, his beloved ducks and birds which he fed every day, and the wonderful community of Boothbay Harbor, which joined with him recently to celebrate his 98th birthday in a drive-by parade.
A ceremony is planned for 2021 to celebrate John's well-lived life.
Special thanks to Beacon Hospice and the wonderful and devoted caregivers during that last portion of John’s life: Valerie, Amanda, Brenda, Marie, and Trish.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be given to the Boothbay Region YMCA, 261 Townsend Ave., Boothbay Harbor, ME 04538 or the American Legion Post 36, 25 Industrial Park Road, Boothbay, ME 04537.