Local World War II veteran will celebrate 100th birthday

Nov 17, 2022

MATTAPOISETT – As seventh-generation Mattapoisett resident Howard Tinkham nears his 100th birthday, he keeps his sense of humor about it.

“Yesterday, I went to the cardiologist to verify that I’m alive, and he said yes, I still am,” Tinkham said with a laugh.

Tinkham has lived an adventure-filled life, as an honorably discharged World War II veteran, a Professor Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, and a world traveler, who has visited places on every continent. However, he’s always come back home to the town where he was born and raised – Mattapoisett.

Tinkham was born a twin on Nov. 20, 1922. As Tinkham tells it, his mother did not know that she was going to have twins. He said his father, who was a farmer, desperately wanted a son.

“They told him the baby was a girl and sent him out to the sitting room. He had no idea I was on the way,” Tinkham said. “Then 20 minutes later, they rushed out and told him that he also had a son.”

Tinkham’s sister, Ethel, never let him forget that she was twenty minutes older, he said.

“You know how siblings can be,” he smiled.

Tinkham pointed out a picture on the bookshelf of his Mattapoisett home, where a 10-year-old version of himself stands in a field beside a cow.

“See, I named that cow after my sister. That’s Ethel,” he pointed to the cow. “My sister was furious.”

Tinkham said the farm he grew up on had cows, horses, chickens, and “everything a farm could have in those days” – with one exception. He was raised without electricity and running water, before those luxuries were commonplace in Mattapoisett.

“I grew up studying at night at the kitchen table with a kerosene lamp,” he said. His childhood home did not get electricity until 1950.

Tinkham grew up working on the farm, saying that the labor took up all of his free time. When he turned 20 in 1942, he asked his father if he could join the war effort. His dad, a veteran of World War I, was at first reluctant to let his best worker go. But he also did not want to hold his son back.

“He had to buy two milking machines, a tractor and a hired man to replace me,” Tinkham said. “I knew then that I was a really valuable employee.”

Tinkham joined the Army Air Corps (the predecessor to the Air Force) and was stationed in England for two years before he was honorably discharged in 1945. When he returned home, he attended Worcester Polytechnic Institute. He graduated in 1949.

“I went to UMass Dartmouth after that and they hired me to teach right on the spot,” he said.

Tinkham spent the next 40 years teaching mechanical engineering there, until he retired as a Professor Emeritus in 1989.

He calls his teaching career one of his proudest accomplishments.

He has fond memories of traveling the world with his wife, Nancy, and their daughter, Cheryl. He says their vast world travels were made possible by his family’s cranberry bog, which helped provide the money for them to take the trips they wanted to. In the wall of his home, there is a map covered in pins of all the places they have been.

Their first family vacation was to Athens, Greece, and after that, they traveled all over, to many places on every continent. Tinkham says his favorite place he’s traveled to is Hawaii.

“The people there were just so great,” he explained.

He says the same thing of the people in Mattapoisett. Tinkham says that it's the people in his life that make him happy to have reached 100 years of life.

“I have good friends,” he said.

To celebrate Tinkham’s 100th birthday, the town of Mattapoisett will gather on his special day, Sunday, Nov. 20, for a town-wide party and parade.

The party will kick off with a parade beginning at the American Legion Hall on Depot Street at 1 p.m. The parade route will go along the water down Main Street and Water Street, continue around Ned's Point, and finish back at the Legion Hall. The party will begin immediately following the parade.

For additional information about the celebration contact the Tri-Town Veterans Agent, Chris Gerrior at 508-758-4100 ext. 214 or vso@mattapoisett.net.