Curtiss E. Houghton, a devoted husband, father and retired teacher who as a teenager fought in Pacific battles in World War II, died March 24 in Hingham, surrounded by his family. He was 93.

Known as Papa to his grandchildren, he was known for being caring, supportive, and a mentor. Family was always at the center of his life. But events between March 1943 and February 1946 helped define him. At age 17, he enlisted with the U.S. Navy and served as a fireman first class aboard the USS Melvin, a destroyer, which conveyed him to the front lines of several Pacific battles of historical significance.

On Oct. 24 and 25, 1944, the Melvin fought in the Battle of Surigao Strait — a portion of the largest naval battle in history, and the Battle of Leyte Gulf — during which it torpedoed the Japanese battleship Fuso. At age 19, he watched the Fuso burn, capsize and sink.

On Dec. 17, 1944, a naval fleet that included the Melvin sailed into the path of a typhoon which sank three similar destroyers, killing nearly 900 men; the Melvin narrowly escaped the same fate. On Feb. 25, 1945, the Melvin provided air cover for the landing of U.S. Marines at Iwo Jima.

Toward the end of the war, the Melvin was attacked by Kamikaze suicide pilots. Curtiss often recalled his terror at witnessing one such plane, seconds before it would have hit the deck, blown apart in the air by a shell fired from the Melvin. He lost most of his hearing from the concussion of the Melvin’s guns. He told stories of his wartime service and the horrors he witnessed for the rest of his life.

He was born May 10, 1925 in New Haven, Ct., the only child of Agnes (Blondeck) and Curtiss Houghton. Following his discharge from the Navy he graduated from Saint John’s High School in Shrewsbury in 1949 and the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester in 1953.

He met Mary Biggins in 1958 at Clara Barton School in Oxford, where both were working as teachers. They married on June 27, 1959. They bought land in Worcester and oversaw the construction of the house where they would raise their family. In Worcester Curiss was a parishioner of Our Lady of the Angels Church.

He taught fifth and sixth grade at schools in Oxford and Northborough from 1959 until retirement in 1987. Teaching was important to him and he encouraged any young person he met to pursue that career. He had previously worked as a manager at a General Motors factory in Framingham.

In 1975 he and his wife bought a cottage in Oak Bluffs, and spent every summer there for more than 35 years, gardening, spending afternoons on the beach, and entertaining extended family members and friends.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by four children: Mary Beth Shertick, Michael Houghton, Julie Talbot and Curt Houghton; and seven grandchildren.

A funeral mass was held on March 30 in Hingham.

Donations can be made to Alzheimer’s Association ( or to Disabled American Veterans (