John T. Cantu (1949-1990)

A black and white headshot of a John T. Cantu smiling.

About John T. Cantu (1949-1990)


John Terry Cantu was born on June 13, 1949, in Sinton, Texas, and he spent most of his life in Texas and California as a dedicated member of the U.S. Marine Corps. Cantu also enjoyed bowling, fishing, and hunting. After his retirement in early September of 1989, Cantu moved to Adak, Alaska, to be with his wife, Linda Carlson-Cantu. Shortly after joining his wife, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) hired Cantu as a maintenance worker, and he served as a member of the Aleutian Islands Unit of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge until his death. 

Cause of Death

On January 29, 1990, four Service members on the USS Kittiwake were returning to the Adak Naval Air Facility after establishing a fox control camp on Kagalaska Island when they were caught in a sudden and severe snowstorm in the Bering Sea. The USS Kittiwake’s navigational equipment was damaged, and the snowstorm further reduced their ability to navigate. Strong waves broke the windows on the boat, and the Service vessel ultimately capsized. The following morning, a Coast Guard and Navy search and rescue team located two of the Service members in time to take them to the hospital for treatment: Biological Technician Jim Fuller and Student Conservation Association (SCA) Volunteer Heather Vose. However, Cantu and Karen L. Norton, another SCA volunteer, both died from a combination of hypothermia and drowning before they could be saved. Cantu received a memorial service at Adak Chapel and was buried in Sinton, Texas.


  • Allen, David B. “Summary of accidental deaths of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees in Alaska since 1958.” Received by Blake Sasse, 17 Feb. 1998. 
  • “Annual Narrative Report Calendar Year 1990.” Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, 1990.
  • “In Memoriam: John Cantu.” The Alaska Legislature, 16 Mar. 1990.
  • “John Terry Cantu.” Find A Grave,

Key Fields

Born 1949, Died 1990, Age 40, Male, Maintenance Worker, Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska, Boat, Drowning, Hypothermia, Marines