When dinner was over, the entire family, especially the children, would linger at the table and beg Florencio Cruz to tell more stories.

There was the time some of his fellow sailors sneaked a koala on board a ship, and chaos ensued. There was the time he saw the aurora borealis, and his singular visit to Bora Bora in the South Pacific. Over dessert, he told tales about the movies and music of his childhood in 1930s New York City.

As his family got older and had stories of their own, Mr. Cruz turned the tables and quizzed them on the details. Just recently, he wondered to his college-age grandchildren what this remote learning business was all about.

Mr Cruz, 97, died on Saturday, May 2, at Spring House Estates in Lower Gwynedd from the coronavirus.

Born in Philadelphia in 1923, Mr. Cruz grew up in Queens, and attended City College of New York and the University of Pennsylvania. He served in the Navy during World War II as a steward second class and was awarded several medals. After the war, he joined the Merchant Marine and spent 44 years at the U.S. Department of Defense, his family said, for a time as director of technical operations for the Defense Logistics Agency.

Mr. Cruz was 18 in this U.S. Navy photo.
Courtesy of the Cruz Family
Mr. Cruz was 18 in this U.S. Navy photo.

After moving to Germantown to raise his seven children, Mr. Cruz unwound on family vacations at Long Beach Island, and his youngest daughter, Celia, remembers how he took her far into the ocean, where “they were thrilled by the drama of the waves.” Of course, Celia said, Flora, Mr. Cruz’s wife of 73 years, “was less thrilled as she watched from the beach.”

Mr. Cruz and wife, Flora, shown here at a family wedding, were married for 73 years.
Courtesy of the Cruz Family
Mr. Cruz and wife, Flora, shown here at a family wedding, were married for 73 years.

Mr. Cruz worked at the post office for a while, liked it when singer Nat King Cole came on the radio, sent personable postcards to his family while on business trips, and cooked Filipino cuisine like nobody’s business. Flora Cruz, upon seeing the spread Mr. Cruz would lay out, often exclaimed, “He cooks enough to feed a ship!"

In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Cruz is survived by daughters Pacita, Pilar, and Diosa; sons Florencio and Chris; 12 grandchildren, and a brother. He was predeceased by daughter Marina and granddaughter Hanne.

A service is planned for later. Interment is at Washington Crossing National Cemetery.

— Gary Miles, gmiles@inquirer.com