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James Francis Tomlinson

July 17, 2018
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TOMLINSON, James F., longtime Associated Press executive, died in Brunswick, Maine on July 17th, aged 92. Jim was born in Long Beach, California in 1925. As a youth in Ventura, CA, he was bookish and curious, and during his summer job picking lemons and walnuts he dreamed about seeing the wider world.

World War II gave him that chance. During the war, Jim served in the Army of Occupation in Germany. He wrote frequent letters home describing both the drudgery of army life and his eager visits to centers of European culture. In 1946, he was honorably discharged and attended college under the GI Bill of Rights, starting at the University of Southern California and graduating in 1950 from the University of Virginia, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.

In his 41-year career with the AP, Jim rose from correspondent to bureau chief, and eventually became vice president, secretary, and treasurer. He relished the opportunities of a reporter’s life. His work led him to meet four U.S. presidents and also allowed him to travel to every continent – including a 1957 trip to Antarctica, where he developed a lifelong affinity for penguins.

Jim was an active, adoring father whose enthusiastic care for his daughters broke the stereotype of the serious New York executive. Every evening when he returned from work, he changed into his "play clothes” and jumped right into whatever game was being played. He read Snow White hundreds of times, made chocolate chip cookies every weekend, and played wiffle ball and football in Central Park, followed by trips to get frozen yogurt.

In retirement, Jim audited classes at Columbia and Barnard, completed the NY Times crosswords in ink, and swam a mile every day at the New York Athletic Club, twice with Michael Phelps in the next lane. Jim won age-group trophies year after year in the NYAC’s annual swimming marathon. A "regular” in his New York neighborhood, Jim was known for his quick smile, corny wit, prolific vocabulary, and genuine optimism. He delighted to greet friends with a quip or a line from a show tune. He lived each day with gratitude even as his memory and health declined.

Jim is survived by his wife of 50 years, Sally Ryan Tomlinson; two daughters, Elizabeth Tomlinson of Yarmouth, ME, and Victoria Tomlinson of Arlington, VA; two sons-in-law, Peter Sillin of Yarmouth, and John Herrmann of Arlington; two granddaughters, Julia and Katherine Herrmann, both of Arlington, and two step-grandchildren, Jack and Annie Sillin of Yarmouth. His family thanks the many people who helped take care of Jim over the past few years, especially Lisa Hamm, whose good humor and unending kindness have been a blessing.

Burial will be in Arlington National Cemetery. At Jim’s request, there will be no other service.

Donations in his memory may be made to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Arrangements are by Stetson’s Funeral Home, 12 Federal St., Brunswick where condolences may be expressed at