Notification was received this week by his family, of the death in the Gulf of Tonkin of United States Navy Lt. John Robert Painter Jr., son of Mr. and Mrs. John R. Painter of Hine’s Point. Lieutenant Painter was lost last Friday in an aircraft accident at sea, when he was flying from the carrier, Oriskany. Details of the incident are still not known.
Lieutenant Painter, who had accumulated more than 1,100 hours as a pilot of the Navy’s A-3 Skywarrior, had just returned to Southeast Asia a few weeks ago for a second tour of duty. Earlier, he had served in that area aboard the U.S.S. Saratoga. His proficiency in the jet attack Skywarrior was a record unsurpassed for the number of pilot hours by a naval air lieutenant.
Lieutenant Painter was born March 15, 1945, in Rahway, N.J., but was moved to the Vineyard with his family as a very small child. With other children of Hine’s Point, he sailed his Sailfish and swan, and swing on the vines when Hine’s Point was more vines than houses, one of his playmates of those years recalls. He once described Navy survival practice as “rather like playing hide-and-seek at Hine’s Point.”
Whatever endeavor he entered, he threw himself into wholeheartedly, with a love of adventure and excitement, and a determination to succeed.
Lieutenant Painter joined the Navy in 1966, soon after his graduation from Colgate University, where he was a University Scholar, a member of Beta Theta Pi, the student radio station, the Outing Club, the ski team, the Russian studies club, and the classical society. He had also played football and lacrosse and been a member of the swimming team. His major was geology and in his junior year he was one of eight students from the university selected to participate in a special study of marine ecology and sedimentation along the Gulf Coast. He had prepared for Colgate at  the Millbrook School in Millbrook, N.Y.
Although his original hopes when he entered the Navy had been to do work in underwater demolition or parachute jumping - he was delighted when he was accepted into the Navy’s flight training program and readily volunteered for jet training. He planned, on completion of his Navy service in the fall, to become a commercial airlines pilot. Looking toward the future, and settling eventually on the Island, he had recently bought land in Chilmark. Whenever he was on the Vineyard in swimming season, he was likely to be up early and off to Chilmark to surf. On his way out to Vietnam for this second tour of duty, he had stopped for a time for surfing in Hawaii.
He was also a parachutist who had made more than 520 jumps and had qualified as a jumpmaster.
In a letter to his family on June 12 from the Pjilippines, he had written excitedly of having just completed five jumps in one week from Marine Corps helicopters with an underwater demolition team. “Now qualified for gold Navy Marine jump wings as these were military jumps,” he wrote. “Last one was at night from 12,500.”
For all his enthusiasm for sports and adventure, however, he is also recalled by his friends as shy and gentle and extremely sensative to the wants and problems of others.
Lieutenant Painter is survived by his parents, a sister, Jenny, of New York city; and his grandfathers, Edmund Sanford of Libertyville, Ill., and John G. Painter of Lighthouse Point, Fla.
A memorial service is being held on the Oriskany and at Alemeda Naval Air Station in California.