Shipmate Column
April 2008

Pres:  CAPT W. Spencer Johnson IV, USN (Ret.)
Sec'y: Michael H. Shelley
164 Sweetwater Lane, Pisgah Forest, NC 28768
h: 828-862-4245  e:
Web site:

For any classmate you can go to the Classmates Page and enter his name to read his current biography if available.

        If you're reading this in the April issue of your Shipmate magazine, you may already have begun to pack your bags for the trip to Annapolis for our 45th Reunion. In true "Quality '63" fashion, our reunion committee has done a terrific job of planning and preparing the details of our weekend together. Below is a list of the major reunion events. For the latest gouge on additions, changes, and important announcements, check the 45th Reunion section of the Class of 1963 web site at

Thursday, 24 April
1000 Check-in commences
1200 Class of '63 Golf Tournament
1400-1700 Chesapeake Bay Cruise
Evening Free for Company Arranged Events

Friday, 25 April
1000 Class Memorial Service
1330 Class Meeting
1600 Parade
1900 Jewish Worship Services
1900-2300 Class Soiree in the N Star Rooms
at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium

Saturday, 26 April
1100-1600 Tailgate and Navy-Holy Cross Baseball Game
Evening Free for Company Planned Events

Sunday, 27 April
Chapel Services as desired
No-host brunch as desired
1200 Reunion ends

To help get you in the mood, here are some images from our 40th Reunion in 2003.

40th Reunion, 2003

        I learned recently that our classmate Jacob Edge II (CAPT, USNR (Ret.)) died of pulmonary fibrosis on 20 December 2007. He is survived by his wife, Drinda, five children, and eight grandchildren. The family can be contacted at 931 Bondsville Road, Downington, PA 19335-1932.

        Pat Waugh wrote with news of a two-person "warm-up" reunion in advance of our 45th.
     Bill Campbell, my Plebe summer roommate, found me again, a few years back, in the Parker, AZ, phone book. He has had a place that has been on the market in the posh Miraleste Shores community for some time, although Nevada is his tax home. Sales of million dollar river homes have not been strong, so he still buzzes down on one of his motorcycles, always dropping in near lunch time.

One day in late January, he and I were kicking back at the local VFW pondering our upcoming 45th and talking over the relative success of some of our company mates. I had my assistant document the meeting with this photo.

Pat Waugh and Bill Campbell

Don't let his gray bearded look fool you. He is still young of mind, always looking for a new way to make a buck. I still recall the days when he, my wife Cathy, and I got our hands on a Plebe mailing list and solicited parents to buy their sons personalized USNA stationery for Christmas. Our mailman never did figure out why we were getting so much mail!

        News reports this winter said that the Naval Academy was reviewing the traditional Herndon Monument climb and might scale back or even eliminate it. Later accounts said that it would be continued, but with some changes; as of mid-February no announcement has been made. In a recent article, Naval Academy Museum Senior Curator James Cheevers provided a comprehensive history of the Herndon Monument climb at the conclusion of Plebe Year. Here are two noteworthy, nonconsecutive paragraphs from the article:
     Although it was thought for years that the first recorded time for the Herndon Monument climb had been kept in 1962, it has been discovered that the Navy Times newspaper published in June 1960 the time for Midshipman John M. Truesdell's, NA '63, conquest at 12 minutes. The fastest times have been one minute, thirty seconds in 1969 by the class of 1972, and one minute, fifty seconds in 1973 by the class of 1976. The longest time was recorded in 1995, when the upper classmen played dirty pool and fastened the plebe "dixie cup" hat to the top with the strongest glues and tapes they could find. It took the class of 1998, four hours, five minutes, and seventeen seconds to accomplish their goal.

The Plebe Recognition Ceremony ... is a tradition which is practiced only at the U.S. Naval Academy. It has no equivalency at the other service academies. It draws thousands of spectators each year. It will no doubt continue to evolve in the years ahead as rituals do and continue to cap the arduous plebe year for as long as the Herndon Monument can bear it.

        I think you'll enjoy reading the entire article. It can be seen on our web site at
        The Trustees of the Class of 1963 Foundation held their winter meeting in Aspen, CO, again this year. Hosting the sessions was Jim DeFrancia, who sent this brief but colorful note.
     Here is a photo of a snow sculpture over the DeFrancia garage which was created for the January meeting of the Foundation officers and Trustees. It was arranged by me but actually done by our local maintenance man, Hal Burnett. The '63 group thus designated him Chief Snow Sculptor of the Navy with the rank of Chief Petty Officer and the obligation to be available to Navy ships operating in Arctic and Antarctic waters as well as any Army game requirements as weather dictated. We also gave him a couple of six packs! Hal's "orders" were signed by VADM David Robinson as Commander, Mountain Goat Division, and endorsed by Steve Duncan as Asst SecDef.
Navy spirit in Aspen

        Jim Ring submitted this news about a 1963 luncheon address by one of our retired flag officers.
     On September 9th, the DC contingent of the Class of 1963 held a luncheon at the Army Navy Country Club in Arlington, VA. RADM Larry Marsh, our classmate, good friend, and President/Chief Executive Officer of the Olmsted Foundation, spoke about his experiences in the Silent Service. Larry talked about the lessons he learned during his 14 years of sea duty between 1965 and 1981, during which he advanced from Weapons Officer, to DCA, then Navigator, then Executive Officer, and finally Commanding Officer.

On CUBERA (SS-347), he learned early on about the importance of personal example in leadership. On FLASHER (SSN 613), he gained respect for the highly technical engineering environment of a nuclear submarine and the dangers on a submarine and any warship, when the boat had to surface to locate a noise. While trying to fix it, he lost the tip of his finger in an accident. Next, on BILLFISH (SSN 676), he learned the importance of always being ready, as they loaded warshot torpedoes and deployed in less than 24 hours during the start of the October 1973 Yom Kippur War. As XO of CASIMIR PULASKI (SSBN 633), he learned the importance of keeping his crew busy and enthused during patrol, including game nights, casino nights, card and dart tournaments, half-way nights, talent shows, movie marathons, pizza nights, blue nose celebrations, etc. He mentioned the value of keeping the crew informed as to patrol areas, other submarine contacts, etc., within security limits. As CO of WILL ROGERS (SSBN 659), he learned the totality of command and the real meaning of responsibility. He also learned the importance of paying attention to even the smallest things, especially in ship maintenance and material matters. This keeps the ship fully operational and mission ready. Finally he learned to delegate and trust subordinates completely unless they prove they don't deserve it.

Larry said it was a distinct honor to talk openly to his Classmates. Guess what? The honor was ours. It was a great day to hear from a great American and classmate.

        That's all for now, folks. Before you know it, we'll be gathered in Annapolis to share a memorable weekend together. I'm confident that it will be a time when news will be shared, old tales will be re-told, and we'll again "pledge the Blue and Gold." I'll see you there!

This page is 
   April 2008 
posted on:
 12 February 2008
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