Shipmate Column
January-February 2021

Pres:  CAPT W. Spencer Johnson IV, USN (Ret.)
Sec'y: Michael H. Shelley
27 Cambridge DR, Brevard, NC 28712
h: 828-506-2201  e:
Web site:

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

        We have received the sad news of the deaths of five of our classmates during the autumn of 2020. They are noted briefly below. Please be sure to read their obituaries and other information about them in the Last Call section of our web site by clicking HERE .

James R. Turner, Sr. , passed away on 8 October. His widow, Terry, can be contacted at 5238 River Ridge Circle, Sylvania, OH 43560.

Colen R. Lindell passed away on 11 November. Cole's widow, Shelley, can be contacted at 121 Troon Way, Aiken, SC 28903.

Charles E. Fries died on 12 November. His daughter, Kelly Fries, can be contacted by email at

Willard J. Gentile passed away on 20 November. Bill's widow, Donna, can be contacted at 3311 Donna Drive, Carlsbad, CA 92109.

Howard F. "Sonny" Langley died on 26 November. His widow, Susan, can be contacted at 3087 Ciderhouse Road, Toano, VA 23168.

        Here is important news from Jim Fontana about Naval Academy rowing.

     The Naval Academy has advised me that it has approved a Craig Thrasher Service to Rowing Award that will be given annually to a member of Navy Crew Alumni in recognition for his/her outstanding service to the rowing community after graduation from USNA. The plan is to recognize the annual winner at the Navy Crew spring alumni banquet. A plaque, establishing the award, that describes Craig's contributions to both Navy Crew and the rowing community at large, will be on permanent display at Hubbard Hall. Though many of you were involved in helping bring the Navy Masters Rowing Club and more importantly, the Navy Crew Fund into existence, none of this would have been accomplished without Craig's inspirational leadership and dogged determination.
Hubbard Hall

The award will be formally announced at a time to be determined and a formal ceremony will be held at Hubbard Hall for Craig's family, members of the Class of 1963, and others who were touched by Craig's love of rowing. A special thanks goes to Peter Bos, Captain of the '60 Olympic Crew, for helping make this happen.

        We recently placed a video of the Class of 1963 memorial service held at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in 1995 on the YouTube web site. Thanks to Jim Ring for providing the video and this background information.
     In 1995, 25 years ago, we found out that the National Park Service allowed services at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC, as long as it didn't interfere with public access to the Memorial. The Class of 1963 Foundation decided that we should have a service at the Wall. We organized a committee and it became a group effort with many classmates volunteering to help. We decided to hold the Memorial Service on June 10, 30 years to the day that we lost our first classmate in Vietnam, Carl Doughtie.
     Only a few of our classmates were still on active duty at the time and one, Larry Marsh, who was Assistant Chief of Naval Personnel for Personal Readiness and Community Support, agreed to be the Master of Ceremonies. He provided some Navy personnel to sing and to play taps. We asked those who had a close personal relationship with each of the KIA/MIA to speak about him. Finally, we invited Carl's parents in North Carolina to come to the event. They came with his brother and nephew. His parents said how pleased they were with the service, because they had not heard from the Class and thought that we had forgotten about him. Family members of Bill Fitzgerald, Don MacLaughlin, Chuck Marik, and Ken Buell joined us also.
Our KIA/MIA display posted at The Wall

     This video of the ceremony has not been available for viewing until now. The first eight minutes show Classmates and spouses gathering. Several of them have passed away and all of us look different today. Classmates gave a eulogy for each of the 13 and Mike Cronin spoke eloquently about their loss. Eleven of the 13 KIA/MIA were aviators and something eerie happened at the end of our ceremony. When a few of us carried the pictures of our classmates and a wreath to the Wall and the bugler sounded taps, three Canada geese flew over the wall in what I interpreted to be a Missing Man Formation. The flight was captured on video. View it for yourself and see what you think.

     Since many of us are mostly homebound during this pandemic, we have time to remember our Classmates who gave all for their country and whose lives were cut short by the war.

        To view the memorial service video, click HERE .

        Also on YouTube are two videos produced by the USNA Alumni Association profiling Ron Terwilliger and Roger Tetrault at the time of their recognitions as Distinguished Graduates of the Naval Academy in 2009 and 2013, respectively. These are fine tributes; I am sure you will enjoy viewing them. To see Ron, click HERE . To see Roger, click HERE .

        Mario Fiori sent this news about the 12th Company's digital reunion a few weeks ago.
The 12th Company's digital reunion

     The 12th company had a great two-hour reunion on Zoom on 3 October. This picture shows the participants. You might note that I am missing from the Fiori panel and you see only Susan. I was constantly fooling around with the background photo and as I snapped the picture, I moved too fast and the background covered me. The last names (from l to r) are: top row -- Kaiser (Klara), Fiori (Susan), Stageman (Sandy), Rogers, Warren; second row -- Telfer, Milos, Bennet, Williams, Detweiler; third row -- Jones, McCarthy (Anita), Seay, Meyers, Orlowski (camera off); fourth row -- Meredith, Griggs, Musitano, Wills (Dee), Czerwonky; bottom row -- Maxfield (he eventually had a picture),Richter by phone, and an error panel. Also joining later were Witcraft, and Lori Kate Smith. I wish that I had warned everyone that I was taking a photo.
     The program started with our Alma Mater, and then each person had three to five minutes to tell us about what they were up to. At end we had discussion about our next possible reunion in the Fall of 2021. Everyone truly enjoyed seeing everyone else. It was a great time.

        In November, Austin Seay received public recognition for his naval service. Here's his account of how that happened:
     Our local daily newspaper, the Chattanooga Times Free Press (CTFP), asked for nominations from Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia for deserving veterans to be profiled for their "21 Veteran Salute" series. I was pleased that VADM Ron Eytchison, USN (Ret) put my name forward. After an interview with a CTFP reporter, I was profiled in their 11 November Veterans Day edition. Photos appeared there and on the newspaper's web site.
Austin Seay

Given that at least a dozen of our classmates died in the skies over North Vietnam, I feel privileged to be represented among all those who served in that long war. The newspaper's profile included my service aboard destroyers conducting Operation Market Time off the coast of Vietnam and my business travel to Vietnam in the 1990's. It was good that I and others were recognized for our service. Unlike today's vets, we did not come home to a welcoming public. If anything, we were ostracized and looked down upon.

        Watt Miles sent a note about a well-established, Norfolk-based society that continues to function well, even during the pandemic.
Statistical Society in session

     This picture shows a meeting (attendance reduced because of coronavirus) of the Studeley Avenue Statistical Society. Academy blankets initially issued in 1959 are still serving, now as table covers. The Society is too humble to call the crazy games we play (most have two winners and feature wild cards) poker, so we just say we 'play cards for money.' The finances are negligible, but the size of the pile of chips in front of each guy is very important. We have more fun than guys our age are supposed to have. In the picture I am at the left and Butch Meier '68, a submariner, is on the right. We are wearing our matching Studeley Avenue Statistical Society T shirts.
     I am not the Chief Statistician but rather the "Secretary of SASS." The game has been in existence since the late 60s/early 70s (I joined in the early 80s), with only one of the original members remaining. (We celebrated his 92nd birthday recently; he's the guy in the right rear in the picture.). It's like the ax whose owner claimed it had originally belonged to George Washington. Upon inquiry he did acknowledge that it had had four new handles and three new heads, but maintained it was still the same ax.
     The members are neighbors. Our neighborhood is like a small town; it is bounded on three sides by water with the fourth being Old Dominion University. Our kids were teammates and schoolmates. Our wives belong to the same book and bridge clubs, etc. When we were new here in the late 70s, at a gathering the other folks were talking about things that happened in the third grade or the second or fifth grade. I asked innocently enough, "you mean when your kids were in those grades, right?" Nope. They had mostly gone to the local elementary school together. All of my children went to that school and most of my grandchildren also.

        I just finished an excellent book, "The Golden 13; How Black Men Won the Right to Wear Navy Gold" by Dan C. Goldberg. The book tells the story of 13 men who were chosen to attend an intense, 90-day training course to become the Navy's first black commissioned officers in 1944. I learned a lot about the conditions endured by blacks in the World War II Navy and was surprised by the attitudes of the Navy's most senior officers and civilian leaders. If someone asks what you would like to receive as a Christmas gift, this book might be a good answer.

        That's it for this month. Enjoy every day and stay well.

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