Philip ‘Fred’ Meschutt, WWII veteran dedicated to family and service, dies at 96
As a 12-year-old Boy Scout in 1938, Philip “Fred” Meschutt helped put the victims of Long Island’s worst hurricane in body bags, heralding a life of service from World War II to Meals on Wheels, his family said.
“I am the luckiest boy in Suffolk County,” he would tell his family, supermarket shoppers and all who listened, a belief so firm he repeated it even when dementia set in. installed.
“He never bragged,” recalled his daughter Linda Globuschutz of Smithtown. “He would rather give to someone than have something for himself.”
Meschutt, 96, of Dix Hills, died last Sunday, 37 years after retiring as a senior executive at New York Telephone Co., where he worked after leaving the Navy in 1946.
Over the decades, he had volunteered for about 12 councils and nonprofits, his family said.
As school board president for the Half Hollow Hills School District, he oversaw its expansion, his family said. He co-founded the Dix Hills United Methodist Church and was a member of the Dix Hills Fire Department for 64 years. After his retirement, he delivered food for Meals on Wheels every Friday with his wife, Evelyn, until his death in 2012.
In private acts of generosity, Meschutt would regularly clip a bunch of coupons, buy the items, then donate them to a food pantry, her daughter said. He was a lifeline, with academic advice, financial advice and money to get them out of dilemmas, his family said.
Born in Hampton Bays, Meschutt was the seventh of eight children. His father, Howard, owned an insurance company. His grandfather Stephen was overseer of Southhampton Town in the 1960s, and Meschutt Beach is named after him, his family said.
At a young age, Meschutt saw more than her share of deaths, said her younger sister Anne Mepham of Williamsburg, Va. He helped bring bodies back to the local fire station after the island’s worst modern storm tore through the Hamptons in 1938. When he was around 15, two of his triplet sisters were among four who died when a sudden storm capsized their boat on Peconic Bay.
These tragedies underscored in Meschutt the importance of family, Mepham said. Even though he was only eight years older than her, he took care of her, teaching her to drive and finding colleges for her, she said.
“He showed leadership all his life,” Mepham said. “He was the ultimate big brother.”
After Meschutt joined the Navy in World War II, officers recognized his skills, his family said, and paid for his education at the University of Virginia, where he earned a degree in naval science and met his woman.
He was an ensign aboard the Currituck, a warship used as a base for Pacific Theater seaplanes. His family said Meschutt was trusted enough to be the messenger between one of the fleet admirals and General Douglas MacArthur and saw Japan sign its surrender.
For the rest of his life, Meschutt started patriotic song at all times, tunes such as “Over There” and “God Bless America,” said son-in-law Frank Perlman, Globuschutz’s husband.
He retained his independence well into his 80s, Perlman said. His retirement routine started with picking up the newspaper on his lawn and then having coffee at the fire station, his family said. “He loved going to the fire station every day, snooping around and seeing what was going on,” Globuschutz recalled.
Meschutt cared for his wife while she suffered from dementia, Globuschutz said, and he took steps to be independent when he realized the disease had begun to eat away at his memory.
Every day he checked the date on the diary and crossed it off his calendar, which helped him keep track of all the appointments. He and Evelyn ate out every day, and he wrote down on note cards where they ate to avoid going to the same places the next day.
“He was able to hold on for a long time,” said Globuschutz, who, along with Mepham, survives him.
Visiting hours are Sunday from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 pm at the MA Connell Funeral Home in Huntington Station. A fireworks service will be held Sunday at 8 p.m. at the funeral home. A brief service is scheduled Monday at 10:30 a.m. at the Washington Memorial Park Chapel in Mount Sinai.
Donations in lieu of flowers can be made to the Alzheimer’s Association.