Charles F. Ridewood Jr., 85, formerly of Swarthmore, a mechanical engineer and decorated World War II veteran who served in the Navy with John F. Kennedy, died of an esophagus-related illness May 30 at Avow Hospice in Naples, Fla. He had lived in Florida since 1985.

Mr. Ridewood graduated from Ridley Township High School, where he was valedictorian, and attended the Drexel Institute of Technology for a year before joining the Navy.

During World War II, he served as a motor machinist's mate aboard PT boats in the Solomon Islands. He and Kennedy, a Navy lieutenant, operated PT boats out of the same jungle clearing.

"He was skinny and so sickly looking I didn't think he'd ever survive the war years," Mr. Ridewood told the Naples Daily News in 2002.

At night, he said, "we shot the hell" out of Japanese barges. In the daytime, he and Kennedy were among the regulars at card games set up under a canopy of trees over the river.

"We tied our boats under the trees to hide them," Mr. Ridewood said. "Jack's crew teased him a lot about being the reason we never saw any women. The guys said the natives were hiding their women from him."

After a Japanese destroyer cut Kennedy's boat, PT-109, in two, the future president was thrown on the deck and aggravated an old back injury before his boat sank.

When he recovered, Kennedy was given a new boat, PT-59. In November 1943, PT-59 and Mr. Ridewood's boat, PT-236, rescued Marines stranded at sea. PT-59 ran out of gas and was being towed by PT-236 when a sudden swell pushed the bow of Kennedy's boat toward Mr. Ridewood's. If the boats had collided, both could have been disabled and would have been easy targets for Japanese seaplanes.

"I grabbed the bow to keep it from hitting and managed to soften the blow," Mr. Ridewood said in 2002, "but I didn't get my hand out in time. My hand was all bloody. I still have scars and a stiff thumb."

Mr. Ridewood contracted malaria in the Navy. He was awarded a Navy and Marine Commendation Medal with a Combat V for valor.

After his discharge, he studied mechanical engineering at Drexel and went to work for General Electric in Philadelphia. He had a 35-year career with GE before retiring in 1981.

Mr. Ridewood last saw Kennedy during the 1960 presidential campaign. Kennedy was in a motorcade in Philadelphia, and Mr. Ridewood held up a PT-236 sign in the crowd.

"I heard Kennedy yell out, 'Who is that guy? Stop the car.' He recognized me right away and called me Chas like everybody did when I was in the Navy and asked me how my thumb was," Mr. Ridewood told a reporter.

Mr. Ridewood attended high school and PT boaters' reunions and often spoke to students about his wartime experiences, said his son, Charles III.

He was an avid gardener and enjoyed working in stained glass.

In addition to his son, Mr. Ridewood is survived by daughters Susan Kling and Sandra Kendrick and nine grandchildren. His wife of 50 years, Larona Miller Ridewood, died in 1998, and daughter Sharon Stubbs died in 1990.

A Memorial Mass was said Tuesday at St. William Church in Naples.

Contact staff writer Sally A. Downey at 215-854-2913 or