Correction: This obituary was corrected at 3:03 p.m., June 20, 2011, to state that Florencio Navarro Sr. served  in Vietnam on a Coast Guard riverine patrol craft.

SOUTH PORTLAND — Florencio Navarro Sr. rose from a humble beginning to achieve the life he always wanted – to be a husband and father, and to provide for his family.

Mr. Navarro, known by most people as Jimmy, died unexpectedly Monday. He was 75.

He grew up in the Philippines, where he worked with his family as a farmer and fisherman. As a young boy, he endured the hardships of World War II during the Japanese occupation and the battle to liberate the islands. He worked as an interpreter for U.S. liberation forces, according to his obituary.

Most of Mr. Navarro’s nine siblings were killed during the war. He later joined the U.S. Navy in the Philippines.

When he arrived in the United States, he transferred to the Coast Guard and served in Vietnam as a rivertine patrol craft crew member. He was awarded the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon and numerous other awards and decorations. He served for 23 years and retired as a chief ship serviceman.

His wife, Eileen Gallagher Navarro, said he joined the service because he wanted to be an American.

“It’s the land of opportunity,” she said. “He always sent money home to the Philippines for his nieces and nephews. If someone needs something there, you help. It’s not easy. You will be deprived of something, but you help. There’s no question about it. Family was very important to him.”

The Navarros were married for 39 years. They met at a luau near a pit where a pig was roasting.

“I’m a city girl. I never saw anything like that before,” his wife said, laughing. “It was so romantic . . . over a pig’s head. My cup runneth over.”

Mr. Navarro, a devoted father of five, was remembered by his children Tuesday as a loving and supportive man who taught them by example. He encouraged his children to go to college and inspired them to succeed in life, said his daughter, Teri Navarro Hakanson of Buxton.

“He was a wonderful man . . . he really was,” she said. “We were very close. He has always been there for me. He’s been my rock, my anchor. I never felt alone knowing he was here, and now I don’t even know who I am without him.”

Mr. Navarro was a food service supervisor at the Maine Correctional Facility in Windham. He worked there for about 10 years. He retired in 1998.

Scott Burnheimer, superintendent of the correctional center, said Tuesday that Mr. Navarro supervised the kitchen staff and the prisoner crews who worked in the kitchen.

“He was a very well-respected employee here for many years,” Burnheimer said. “He was someone that came with real good people skills. He did a great job for us. He had a great sense of humor. When he retired, he was a loss to the institution.”

Mr. Navarro enjoyed attending his grandchildren’s school and sports activities.

His health had declined in recent years. His wife said he suffered from asthma and he stopped breathing Monday while he was sleeping at home. He never regained consciousness.

“We have to think of the good times,” his wife said. “I had almost 40 years (with him). What more can I ask for?”


Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at: [email protected]