John P. Malick Sr. knew first-hand what it meant to make a sacrifice for your country.

He fought against the Japanese on the Pacific Island of Guam during World War II and had to have his left arm amputated after a grenade exploded and wounded him — actions that earned him the Purple Heart.

Mr. Malick learned how to live with one arm for the rest of his life, no longer able to fulfill his dream of becoming a professional golfer. He died Friday, just two days before he would have celebrated his 89th birthday.

“He never talked very much about the war and what happened to him. He never thought of himself as a hero, but in my mind he was a hero,” said his wife, Beverly (Irish) Malick of Westbrook.

Mr. Malick was born in Weirton, W. Va., the son of Robert and Theresa (Verbanic) Malick. He attended school in West Virginia and served as a caddy for many years at the Williams Country Club. It was during those years that he decided he wanted to become a professional golfer.

But his dreams were interrupted by the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941.

“He went right up to Pittsburgh and enlisted in the Marines so that he could fight for his country,” his wife recalled. “He always told me how proud he was to be a Marine.”

After undergoing training at Parris Island in South Carolina, he was assigned to protect the oil tank farms in South Portland.

It was during this deployment that he met his wife at a dance. Though they were only teenagers at the time, their first encounter turned out to be a classic case of love at first sight.

They dated for a few months before he was assigned to the South Pacific. Malick said they kept in touch by writing dozens of letters.

“He’d write back saying he was in the thick of battle, and didn’t think he could make it out alive,” she said.

He almost didn’t return home after shrapnel from a grenade forced doctors to amputate his left arm during the U.S. invasion of the Marianas Island.

Mr. Malick was discharged to the Philadelphia Naval Hospital. His hospital stay caused him to miss out on receiving the Purple Heart medal, given to veterans who are killed or wounded in combat.

After recovering from his wounds, he returned to Portland, where he married Beverly on Dec. 29, 1945.

“It didn’t matter to me that he had lost his arm,” his wife said. “I just always deeply loved him.”

Mr. Malick later graduated from the Northeastern School of Accounting and began a 30-year career as an accountant for the Internal Revenue Service in Portland. The Malicks lived in Westbrook for more than 60 years.

Mr. Malick continued to play golf with his friends and co-workers. A daughter, Lisa M. Filippelli of South Portland, said her father could do just about anything a person with two arms could do. In addition to golf, he shoveled snow, did yard work, painted walls in his house, and tied his own shoes.

He also inspired Filippelli’s son to play golf and to pursue an education in golf management.

“He was a wonderful dad. He wanted the best for his family,” Filippelli said.

In 2000, Robert Guitard, president of the Manchester American Legion Post 62 in Westbrook, arranged for the government to issue Mr. Malick a Purple Heart.

Though it took 56 years, his wife said the medal was well-deserved. “I wanted him to have that Purple Heart,” she said. “He will always be my hero.”