John D. Gorham, 90, died peacefully on May 19 at Connecticut Hospice in Branford. “Rocky”, as many of his old friends called him, loved people, his family, boats, traveling and tall tales. Whether he was telling the tale or listening, John had a twinkle in his eye and a curious mind. In the Virgin Islands he was also nicknamed “Corncob” for the years he smoked his trademark corncob pipe.

John was a very kind man who gave generously to his family, friends and employees. And he was an eternal optimist- always seeing the good in every day and everyone. Like Will Rogers, John “never met a man he didn’t like.”

He was born in Tippecanoe City, Ohio to Mary Lynch Gorham and Joseph Gorham. When John was in grammar school, the family returned to Westfield, Mass. where they had roots. As a Boy Scout he earned the rank of Eagle Scout. He graduated from Westfield High School in 1942. Shortly after high school graduation, at age 18, at the start of World War II he enlisted in the US Navy. John served aboard Liberty Ships, sailing in the North Atlantic, part of the historic Battle of the Atlantic to the legendary Murmansk, Russia run to provisions to the Russian people. He was also part of the Normandy invasion in France and later was re-assigned to the Pacific theatre.

After the war, John graduated from Michigan State University Forestry School and then worked in the lumber industry for several years. In 1955 John married Adele Ryan and they started Gorham Fence Co. in Westfield, Mass. While living in Westfield, John was a founder and participant in the Westfield River Canoe Race, which has grown tremendously since its inception in the early spring of 1956. Over the years John treasured and maintained his friendships with his old Westfield buddies.

In the early 1960s John and Adele and family moved to Northford, Ct. and purchased Frankson Fence Co. in North Haven where he stood at the helm for 50 years. The company grew to be the Connecticut Fencemen, Inc. which included Frankson Fence, Perfection Fence in Waterbury and Westport Fence. If you asked John what he did for a living, his answer was always the same. “I protect children and beautify property.”

An inveterate traveler, he visited all the continents except Africa and Antarctica.  Many of his adventures were aboard boats of all sorts.  In the 1960s he visited St Croix, in the US Virgin Islands, where he made many life-long friends and returned every winter for five decades. It was from the Virgin Islands that he sailed on dugout canoes and other small craft throughout the Caribbean.  Sailing was in his blood and he owned and sailed many sailboats in Conn. and St. Croix including the “Rockadele” “Mariposa”, “Badger” and “Lively Lass.”  He was a member of the St. Croix Yacht Club.

Just 10 years ago, at the age of 80, John rafted the River of No Return in Idaho with a family group. Some of his final trips were to Ireland with his wife, a solo adventure to Australia and a visit to Cambodia and Laos with his good friend Dr. Gidon Goldenberg.

His family includes his wife Adele Gorham, to whom he was married for 60 years and their children: Marita Wiser and husband Bob of Bridgton, Maine; Dan Gorham of Ketchum, Idaho; Jack Gorham of North Haven, Ct and Sam Gorham and wife Maria of Guilford, Ct. He leaves six grandchildren: Ryan Gorham of Portland, Oregon, Lydia Gorham of Chicago, Ill, Rosemary and Marguerite Wiser of Bridgton, Maine and Courtney and Samantha Gorham of Guilford, Ct.  He is survived by an older sister, Ruth Hogan of Ohio and many nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his brother Charles Gorham.

His funeral procession will leave the North Haven Funeral Home, 36 Washington Avenue, Saturday morning at 9:30. A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated in St. Monica Church at 10:00 am. Interment with full military honors will follow in the Northford Cemetery. The visiting hours will be Friday from 5 to 8 pm. In lieu of flowers, donations to The Connecticut Hospice, where John received the kindest care, would be appreciated. Their address is 100 Double Beach Road, Branford, Ct. 06405.