David Joseph Tolan

January 25, 1933July 6, 2021

David Joseph Tolan, age 88, of Searstone Retirement Community, Cary NC, passed away peacefully on Tuesday, July 6, 2021.

David was born on January 25, 1933, in New York, New York, to the late Thomas Joseph and Annie Griffin Tolan. An accomplished flutist in his youth, he was offered a music scholarship to The Juilliard School in New York. However, also having an interest in the sea and astronomy, he chose to attend SUNY Maritime College, earning a B.S. in Marine Transportation.

David spent 50 rewarding years in the maritime industry including six years of seagoing service with Alcoa Steamship Company as a deck officer, also serving ten years as a Naval Reserve officer and earning his U.S. Coast Guard Master’s License. In 1961 he joined Sea-Land Service, Inc., which grew to be the largest American flag shipping company when it pioneered container shipping. He embarked on a corporate career that spanned the next 38 years. David served eight years in Puerto Rico and rose to General Manager, Caribbean Operating Division. He then returned to corporate headquarters to serve in a number of executive positions and retired as Senior Vice President, Labor Relations. Upon retirement from Sea-Land, he provided consulting services to clients in the Intermodal Transportation business and at age 72 dissolved his firm.

During the span of his career in the maritime industry, David was a member of the Council of American Master Mariners and Navy League of the U.S. He served on the boards of Sea-Land Service, Inc.; New York Shipping Association; Pacific Maritime Association; Transportation Institute; Dominican/American Chamber of Commerce; and Maritime Association of the Port of New York/New Jersey. He also served as chairman of the United States Maritime Association; Carriers Container Council; and U.S. Maritime Alliance, Ltd., and as president of the American Maritime Association; National Insurance Mutual Assurance Society; Vermont Industry Mutual Assurance Society; as founder and president of Casa Mar de Puerto Rico, and as co-chairman of the MILA National Health Care Trust and the Industry Appellate Committee. During his retirement, his interest in the welfare of international seafarers led him to volunteer at the Seaman’s Center in the Port of Wilmington, NC, serving in various capacities from providing transportation to the seamen to serving as chairman of the board. He mentored and touched many lives and has often been referred to in the industry as a legend in his own time.

During his lifetime, he received many awards including the United Seamen’s Service 2000 Admiral of the Ocean Sea Award; the Good Scout Award and the James E. West Award from the Boy Scouts of America; the 1991 Director’s Award from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service; Person of the Year Award from the Seamen’s House YMCA; the 1996 Connie Award from the Containerization and Intermodal Institute; and the Excalibur Award from the American Cancer Society in 1999. David resided for 24 years in Colts Neck, NJ, then relocated with Sea-Land to the Charlotte, NC area in 1996. After retirement, he and second wife Jewel moved to the NC coast for seven years with a final move to Cary in 2013.

David was a devoted husband, caring father, grandfather, son, brother and uncle. He was faithful to the Lord and to his church. He is preceded in death by his first wife of 40 years, Teresa Ryan Tolan, his sister Anne and her husband George Fedorishin, niece Georgene Kennedy, and grandniece Elizabeth Ong. Respected and beloved, he is survived by his wife Jewel of 23 years; son Michael Tolan and his wife Renee and their two daughters Sydney and Addison; son Thomas Tolan; stepson Steve Rutledge and his wife Elizabeth and their daughter Lillian; and stepdaughter Bonnie Rutledge. He is also survived by his sister Thomasina and her husband Donald Ross, his brother-in-law Marvin Henderson and wife Patricia, sister-in-law Jean and her husband Bob Joiner, brother-in-law Dick Hopkins, many nieces and nephews and their families.

In addition to spending time with his family, David most enjoyed sports and gardening. After his move to the coast, he was often navigating his boat along the Intracoastal Waterway. He and Jewel shared many interests together including golf, travel, literature, and the arts.

The family will host a visitation and celebration of David’s life on Wednesday, July 28, 5:00-7:00 p.m., in the Searstone Ballroom, 17001 Searstone Dr., Cary NC 27513. A memorial mass will be held on Thursday, July 29, 11:00 a.m., in the Parish Center of St. Michael The Archangel Roman Catholic Church, 804 High House Road, Cary NC 27513.

To view the mass at 11 a.m., go to At the top, click on “LIVE MASS.” To view at a later time, follow the steps above, then scroll down to “Parish Channels.” Double click on “Funerals” and look for link.

Immediately following the mass, there will be a family internment of David’s ashes in the columbarium on the church grounds.

In lieu of flowers, memorials celebrating Mr. Tolan’s life may be sent to Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Raleigh, 7200 Stonehenge Dr., Raleigh, NC 27613 or Dorcas Ministries, 187 High House Rd, Cary NC 27511.

Brown-Wynne Funeral Home of Cary is serving the family and online condolences may be made at

“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” II Timothy 4.7


  • Memorial Service

    Thursday, July 29, 2021


David Joseph Tolan

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Stephanie Fedorishin

July 19, 2021

Dear Aunt Jewel, Mike, Tom, & Family,
I am so very sorry for your loss. Uncle David was one of a kind. Uncle David, You left this world, but not my heart. Love, Stephanie


July 13, 2021

My condolences to all his family. I left Sea Land many years ago having worked in Corporate Sales, Marine Operations and Domestic and International Sales. We met several times in Port Elizabeth, and I was always impressed by the gentility of this man.
The Lord has undoubtedly welcomed him home so he can enjoy each other's presence for eternity.

Lillian Borrone

July 13, 2021

Dear Mrs. Tolan and Family:
I had the privelege of meeting David and then engaging in many business meetings and conversations with him during my years as NY/NJ Port Director. he was always a professional, thoughtful, resourceful and considerate advocate for SeaLand and the maritime industry.

A the "Old Timers" gatherings and industry events after his retirement I recall our many conversations about how you both and my husband and I loved living in North Carolina. At the time we were in Landfall.

May Dave rest in God's peace.

Zeb McMillan

July 13, 2021

May God bless the soul of my Sea-Land colleague and comfort his family. Zeb McMillan

Alexia Sannuti

July 12, 2021

Uncle David was my godfather.I remember when I was eighteen years old, he took me ong with Mike and Tom on vacation and I got to ride a jetski. I enjoyed going to his home in Colts Neck, NJ and later to North Carolina. I will remember him fondly. May his soul rest in peace🙏🕊

John O Donovan

July 9, 2021

Mike & Tom
So long to a man who looked after ye growing up along with your mom Theresa.
Always great memories when ye came back to the ol sod for vacation.
Your Dad was always up todate with what was happening in the world & was a great conversationalist on any subject. I hope ye have some of his traits in your life as I know ye have plenty on your mums.
Take Care & May he rest in peace

John Nichola Daniel Eoin & Ava