Roy James Anstead, 91, one of the last World War II submariners and a craftsman whose tool collection filled two sheds, a workroom and all the nooks and crannies of his house, died peacefully on Dec. 15, 2016, in hospice care and in the arms of his children. Anstead was born March 26, 1925, in Cresson, Pa., a small town driven by the lumber, railway and coal industries. He was the 11th of 12 children born to Harry Ellsworth Anstead, a railroad worker, and Mary Rezela Stock, a homemaker.
Anstead had an enduring stamina throughout his life and, into his 90s, he continued to use his craftsmanship to help neighbors, family, friends and the Catholic Church, to which he was deeply devoted. He was a hard worker.
He had learned the skills of a machinist working in the optical shop at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., after serving on the U.S.S. Hackleback in the Pacific theater of World War II, and although he transitioned to working as a contract specialist for the Navy, a career that lasted nearly four decades, the vocation he learned in the early years of his career was one he developed and enjoyed for the rest of his life.
Anstead left high school to join the military and settled afterward in Washington, D.C. There he met and wooed another Pennsylvanian, Mary Alice Millard, a nurse who had grown up in Scranton and moved south to pursue a career. The two married in 1949 in Mt. Carmel, Pa., and began their family life in a small row house on Capitol Hill.
As their family grew, the couple moved to Anacostia, Washington, D.C., where Anstead used telescopes from his towering workshop at the Navy Yard to watch his children playing in the streets near home. He was popular among his colleagues, one of whom dubbed him “Mister Charisma,” but at home he was a strict disciplinarian. He and Mary Alice formed lifelong friendships during these years through Cana Club, a social group for married Catholics. Eventually the family moved to the Hillcrest neighborhood of SE D.C., where they spent more than 30 years. The couple had seven children.
In retirement, the couple divided their time between the Washington area and Ocean View, Del. After Mary Alice’s death in 1998, Anstead moved permanently to Ocean View, where he became active in veteran affairs, parades and other events related to the military and his community. One of his favorite activities was participating in karaoke at the American Legion, where he enjoyed a beer and platefuls of boiled shrimp. His devotion to his military buddies, of which there were many, was indefatigable.
Anstead spent his later years on household projects, building structures, repairing broken items and doing yardwork. He enjoyed creating collages from pictures in magazines and listening to country-and-Western music. Chesapeake Bay blue crabs and oysters were among his favorite meals, and he was a master picker and shucker, cleaning out every edible morsel and wielding a pick and knife with determination and dexterity. He often whistled as he prepared a meal, over which he would offer prayers of thanks and remembrance for the “faithful departed.”
A child of the Great Depression, he was an early adopter of “green” practices, recycling trash, turning off extraneous lights (while calling out the saved wattage) and never wasting a drop of water. He was also an equal-opportunity husband who cooked, did the laundry, sewed clothes and ensured his children had well-stocked toolboxes. Football was his sport, and he was a passionate fan of the Washington Redskins and Notre Dame. With Mary Alice, he enjoyed preparing big family dinners, going to theater and traveling. They visited Rome and had a session with Pope Paul VI for their 25th wedding anniversary.
In his later years, Anstead was a daily communicant at St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Bethany Beach, Del. Even after he could no longer drive, he negotiated daily rides to Mass, often with his son, Timothy. A prayer book and rosary were never far from Anstead’s reach.
In September, Anstead moved to Gull Creek Senior Living Community in Berlin, Md., where his last months were spent making new friends and visiting with his children. He had a lot of fun there.
Anstead was preceded in death by his loving wife, Mary Alice; his infant son, Peter Gerard, whom he called “Saint Peter”; his beloved daughter, Pamela Marie; and all 11 of his siblings. He is survived by five of his children, Timothy Christopher, Philip Roy, Joseph Burt, Mildred Mary and Alicia Ann.; eight grandchildren, Jennifer, Melissa, Erin, Ashley, Kristen, Philip, Alyse and Allison; and eight great-grandchildren, Alex, Nick, Nathan, Koral, Cohen, Avan, R.J. and Zelda.
A Mass of Christian Burial was scheduled for Dec. 22, 2016, at St. Ann Catholic Church, Bethany Beach, Del. Interment with military honors was to follow at Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Millsboro, Del. The family asked that, in lieu of flowers or donations, those wishing to remember Roy Anstead say a few prayers and perform acts of kindness and tenderness in his name. Condolences may be sent online at www.melsonfuneralservices.com