John “B.J.” Sumner, died peacefully at the age of 89 on Sunday, Sept. 3, 2017, in his Oak Harbor home with his loving daughter Joey, at his side.
John was born in Fruitland, N.C., on March 16, 1928. He enlisted in the US Navy in 1943 and retired as a Lt. Commander in 1973 in Oak Harbor. During his service, John received a Good Conduct Medal from the United Nations and a National Defense Medal for Korean Service. After retirement, John received an associate degree from Skagit Valley College in 1976 in mid-management and then a college transfer associate in 1980.
John was a man of many talents and passions. He was an architect, having designed and built his home in Oak Harbor. He was a gifted artist with a love of and talent for stippling and oils. John was a competitive volleyball player, beginning his love of the sport in 1950 and playing on numerous navy service teams. Quickly earning the nickname B.J., “Big John” also coached US Navy teams in San Diego and Hawaii, a Marine Corp team at El Toro and an Air Force team at Patrick AFB at Cape Canaveral. He instructed volleyball and conditioning at Skagit Valley College, Whidbey Campus, from 1983 to 1992. In addition to teaching his daughters and his wife to play the sport through Anacortes Parks and Recreation at Fidalgo Elementary, B.J. also played at the NAS Whidbey Island base gym and mentored many young service members there through the years.
Passing along his love of this sport was one of John’s favorite accomplishments. John was also very proud of inspiring one of those local service members, Zach Calles, to a career in coaching and starting a local competitive girls’ club volleyball academy. John was a longtime sports fan, avid Seattle Mariners and Seattle Seahawks fan, and delighted in the Seahawk’s Super Bowl win (and doggedly waited for greatness to return to the M’s). John’s great passion was riding his numerous motorcycles. He rode and traveled extensively throughout the Pacific Northwest with local enthusiasts and with his wife. However, John’s greatest love was for his family, especially his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. John was delighted to meet his newest great-granddaughters last month, Harper and Zelda Nienhuis, born this past January.
John is survived by his wife Leticia; brothers Tom (Pamela) of Hendersonville, N.C. and Earl (Janice) of Etowah, N.C.; daughters Joey and Eva of Oak Harbor, and son Eric of Puyallup; grandchildren Amelia Bryant (Shane) of Soldotna, Alaska; Bartholomew Nienhuis (Kenzey) of South Naknek, Alaska; Catherine Nienhuis of South Naknek, Alaska; Flint Nienhuis, Demi Ziegler and Jack Ziegler of Oak Harbor; Donnie Sumner and Sarah May (Jonathan) and their children.
A private memorial service will be held by the family at a later date.
Please call Joey at 360-632-6691 for instructions regarding flowers and how memorials may be made in John’s name.
Arrangements are entrusted to Wallin Funeral Home, Oak Harbor.