JOHN T. FRIIS, 88, of Lake Park, passed away Monday, April 6, 2009, at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, FL. He was born October 14, 1920, in Elsinore, Denmark, son of the late Hans G. and Klara G. Friis.
Eschewing an engineer's life, John went to sea in 1935, at the age of 15. Eventually he served on the famed tall ship, "Danmark", where he received officer training and rose to rank of first mate. During the war years, he served in the U.S. Merchant Marines, ferrying supplies to the Allies in Europe. After the war, he captained private boats along the eastern seaboard.
In 1945, he married Elizabeth Jane Craig of Hahira, a union that produced two children, Sonja Klare and Hans Craig. He became a U.S. citizen by an act of Congress, and after a brief try at farming, established the John T. Friis Co. in 1956, a successful industrial sandblasting and coating firm that continues operation today under his son's direction. After his marriage to Elizabeth ended in 1969, he married Nettie Holtzclaw Gaskins. It was a happy and productive marriage until her passing on June 20, 1998. Since then, his close companion and partner has been Joan B. Byrne, also of Lake Park.
John was a charter member and honorary lifetime member of the Valdosta Yacht Club, frequently joining Regattas. At one point he served with the Twin Lakes Vol. Fire. Dept., and was active in supporting Merchant Marine rights. As he got older, he enjoyed reading books about ships and the sea, and he touring in his motor home.
At the time of his death, he was a member of Twin Lakes Presbyterian Church. He was active and supportive of the Lake Park Church of God during his marriage to Nettie. His faith comforted him and his family during his final days.
John gave his family strong values and a sense of their Danish heritage, teaching them to work hard, of course, but also to enjoy life. He was compassionate, even-tempered, self-reflective, and forgiving. He will be remembered especially for a wonderful sense of humor.
He is survived by his beloved, Joan B. Byrne of Lake Park; daughter, Sonja F. Mahoney and husband John of Atoka, TN; son, Craig Friis and wife Judy R. of Lake Park; four grandchildren, Greg Mahoney and wife Yalin Song of Grand Rapids, MI, Adam Mahoney and wife Carol of Livermore, CA, Zachary Friis of Atlanta, and Amber Friis and husband Teo Gradinaru of Lake Park; six great-grandchildren, Li'le and Saor Mahoney, Caslyn and Jaeger Mahoney, and Sage and Yoanh Gradinaru; brother, Mogens T. Friis of Brazil; step-daughter, Lynn C. Rowland of Atlanta; three step-grandchildren, Shiloh Crane of Goose Creek, SC, Sarah and C.J. Carter of Echols County; and four step-great-grandchildren. He was very close to Joan's family, especially her children, David E. Byrne and wife Janet of Port St. Lucie, FL, Daniel J. Byrne of N. Palm Beach, FL, and Leslie B. Hersh of Valdosta. He was predeceased by his brother, Bjorn T. Friis, and two step-daughters, Patti Housman and Barbie Mercer.
Memorial Services will be held at 6:00 p.m. Thursday, April 9, 2009, in the chapel of the Carson McLane Funeral Home, Valdosta, with Rev. John Akers and Rev. Keith Sandlin officiating. The family will receive friends at the funeral home one hour prior to the services, from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Twin Lakes Presbyterian Church or Lake Park Church of God. Condolences to the family may be conveyed online at www.mclanefuneralservices.com. Carson McLane Funeral Home.