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Mar 6, 2018 3:42 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Frank Tuma Remembered As Friend To Montauk Community

Mar 6, 2018 4:13 PM

Frank Tuma’s office door at 770 Main Street in Montauk was always open.

Fellow community members looking for advice, a friendly ear, or someone to share a piece of the hamlet’s history knew they could rely on him, and that will be his legacy, according to his son, Frank Tuma Jr. The elder Mr. Tuma died on March 2 at the age of 93.

“My father was a very generous man in Montauk, and I don’t mean with money,” the younger Mr. Tuma said. “He was a man full of wisdom, and loaded with local history.

“He was always available in his office,” Mr. Tuma continued, referring to the Tuma Real Estate Agency—next door to Shagwong Tavern—which his father started in the early 1990s. “People would come in to ask for advice, to have a cup of coffee or go have a drink. He was always there.”

The elder Mr. Tuma had a wealth of knowledge about Montauk across a broad range of topics, including real estate and of course, the hamlet’s rich and vibrant fishing industry, of which his family was an integral part. His father, also named Frank, and uncle, Charlie Tuma, founded the first charter fishing boat business in Montauk, and he continued in that tradition with his own boat, the Gannet, starting in 1947.

Frank Tuma attended the Montauk School before graduating from East Hampton High School in 1942. He went on to Colgate University to study industrial psychology, and took a break from school to enlist in the Navy in 1942, serving in World War II, stationed in Sicily. He went back to Colgate after the war, and worked briefly for IBM in New York City before returning to Montauk and immersing himself in the charter boat business, real estate, and other business affairs. In 1948, he married his high school sweetheart, Marion Walker, who predeceased him. They had two children, Frank, and later, Lexa.

Mr. Tuma also made his mark in real estate, working for several local agencies before establishing his own. Working in that field solidified his bond with the community.

“When he was starting in real estate, he helped a lot of young families in town get their first piece of land,” his son said. “He had a big heart when it came to that.”

Mr. Tuma provided stability and strength for his family and its legacy, helping run his father’s charter service, tackle shop and Tuma’s Dock after his father’s death in 1961. The dock was sold in 1990, and is now Swallow East restaurant.

In his down time, Mr. Tuma pursued what his son said were his two biggest passions in life—golf and swordfishing. The younger Mr. Tuma, who operates a private sportfishing charter in Palm Beach, and whose son, David, operates a longline commercial fishing boat, said his father was “excellent” at harpooning swordfish. He recalled a time in the early 1980s, when he was 30 years old and went out swordfishing with his father on his father’s new boat.

“He harpooned the first fish of the day, and finally gave me the opportunity to get the second one,” the younger Mr. Tuma said. “That was a big moment in my life.”

He explained that his father’s love of swordfishing made him reluctant to let others take a turn, saying his father spent hours in the ready position, in an area of the boat called the pulpit.

“He always wanted to be the stickman,” his son said. “It was tough to push him out of the pulpit.”

On dry land, Mr. Tuma traded the harpoon for golf clubs, and lived in a home adjacent to the 11th green at Montauk Downs. His cousins, Burt and Bob Tuma, also fishermen, lived nearby with homes adjacent to the course as well.

Mr. Tuma was a member of the Montauk Lions Club, the Montauk Chamber of Commerce, and the Montauk ambulance and fire departments, and was an East Hampton Town Trustee. He also served as grand marshal of the Friends of Erin St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 1987. Last summer, he was honored as the Fishing Legend of the Year at the 17th annual Montauk Mercury Grand Slam Fishing Tournament, which was presented by the East Hampton Kiwanis Club and Montauk Friends of Erin.

Henry Uihlein, owner of Uihlein’s Marina, was one of many Montauk residents familiar with Mr. Tuma and his importance to the community. When speaking about Mr. Tuma, he kept coming back to the word “respect.”

“He had a wealth of knowledge and was a gentleman’s gentleman,” Mr. Uihlein said. “He was respectful, and he was respected.

“Our town is small,” Mr. Uihlein continued. “If you’re a bum, everyone knows you, and if you’re a good person, they know that too. He was known as a respectful gentleman and did a lot of good for a lot of people. He will be missed by a lot of people.”

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RIP Frank, thanks for making Montauk GREAT!!!!! My sincere condolences to the Tuma family, this great man will be missed by all.
By mtkfishman (74), montauk on Mar 7, 18 8:56 AM
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