Shipmate Column
January-February 2024

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.

        Thanks to those who sent news and photos for our news exchange we have a nice variety of information for you this month. We begin, though, by mourning the deaths of eight of our classmates.

        David C. Reif died on 1 October. His widow, Sheila, can be contacted at 10727 Masters Circle, Jenks, OK 74037.

        David G. Stephan passed away on 2 October. His widow, Mary, can be contacted at 446 Dorado Drive, Winter Springs, FL 32708.

        Peter J. Chaney passed away on 4 October. His widow, Judy, can be contacted at 509 Waterlane Drive, Mansfield, TX 76063.

        Kenneth R. Ramsey died on 7 October. We have no contact information for his next of kin.

        Glenn P. Laury passed away on 12 October. His widow, Debbie, can be contacted at 55 North Waterview Drive, Palm Coast, FL 32137.

        Michael V. Willams died on 15 October. His widow, Doreen, can be contacted at 139 Via Aldea, Thousand Oaks, CA 91320.

        John E. "Jack" McDonald died on 5 November. His widow, Anne, can be contacted at Langdon Place of Dover, 60 Middle Road, Unit 304A, Dover, NH. 03820.

        William J. Opitz passed away on 21 November. His widow, Judy, can be contacted at 2 Wood Court, Helena, MT 59601.

Please remember and honor these men by reading their obituaries and other information in the Last Call section of our web site by clicking HERE.

        What a fine weekend we had together at the 60th reunion in Annapolis! We were a large crowd, with 222 members of '63 registered to attend: that's 40 percent of our surviving classmates. Wives, significant others, and family members brought the total number of attendees to 426.
       The reunion design and execution, largely managed by Bill and Jennifer Earner and ably assisted by a small group of classmates, were everything we could have wanted. Spencer Johnson assisted Bill with the headquarters hotel arrangements. Bob Forster coordinated the large tailgate at the stadium. Steve Duncan planned and conducted the Memorial Service. Jim Lloyd coordinated a golf event. The weather was perfect except for a rain shower during the Worden Field parade. It was a grand time together and we shared memories, told tales old and new, and felt the emotions of being back in The Yard and among our lifelong comrades.

       Our weekend began on Thursday afternoon with registration at the Doubletree Hotel, followed by gatherings of individual USNA companies at restaurants and other places in the Annapolis area. On Friday morning, shuttle buses brought us from the hotel to the Academy for the memorial service in the Chapel. A large crowd gathered there to remember our lost classmates and hear the fine memorial address delivered by Steve Duncan. The full text of his remarks appears in the 60th reunion section of our website and can be seen by clicking HERE. If you would like to receive a hard copy of the program from the service, contact me at and provide your mailing address.

Steve Duncan and Chaplain LT Vanessa Platek.

       Events later in the day included the Superintendent's address at Alumni Hall and the traditional parade on Worden Field. Friday evening, we enjoyed our class dinner at the hotel ballroom. Highlighting the program was the recognition of two new honorary classmates: Andrew Phillips, the recently retired Dean and Provost since 2009, was an early and steady supporter of the Class of 1963 Center for Academic Excellence. Bruce Bukowski, the Director of the Center since 2011, has been tireless and highly effective in carrying out the purposes of the CAE, our class legacy to the Academy. They join honorary members RADM Charles C. Kirkpatrick, VADM Charles S. Minter, and CAPT Wendell R. Alcorn.

       The football game against Air Force on Saturday began at noon so we began our class tailgate early and continued through the afternoon. Being a loss for Navy, the game itself was not a high point but we enjoyed sitting together in the stands, most in company groups, and soaking in the stadium's lively atmosphere.

       With no events scheduled for Saturday evening, many companies and other groups enjoyed dining out in Annapolis. When our weekend together concluded on Sunday we returned home with wonderful memories, midshipman store purchases, and a resolve to sustain contact with our classmates. Our classmate Tom Taylor summed up the reunion very well: "We reminisced, told sea stories, and most of all...remembered. If you were not there in person you most certainly were there in spirit. We are older for sure. Lots of white hair, a few walkers, at least one service dog, but still meeting the challenges."

       Many photos were taken during the weekend. Here is a selection for your enjoyment.

'63 couples Ryan, Tanis, Cargill

16th Company

16th Company

Charlie Minter at the garden honoring his mother, Mary Minter, at the new Alumni Association headquarters.

4th Company group

Phillip Marsden and Dick Anderson

23rd Company

Forrest Siburt and Tom Robertson

Degolian, Shelley, Duncan, Harper, Metcalfe

Pete Soverel and his daughters with Phillip Marsden

        Jim Metcalfe spent time with his 1st Companymate George Huber in Annapolis and sent this note and photo.
     George somehow avoided the cameras at our reunion, so I asked him for a recent photo that can be included in our Shipmate column. He obliged by sending this picture from his youngest son's wedding in Park City, UT, in the summer of 2023.

George Huber and family

        Phillip Marsden shared this account of reunion encounters with a friend.
     I was looking forward to seeing my old friend, George Tracy, at the reunion. One of my favorite memories of our time at the Academy was listening to George play the piano in Smoke Hall after the evening meal. George, who is self-taught, could play any tune he had heard and it was a welcome break from our hectic daily routine.
    On Friday, after the memorial service, I ran into George in Memorial Hall. It took only a little effort to convince him to play the piano again in Smoke Hall. The only problem was that Smoke Hall was off limits to visitors (regardless of age and pedigree!). I convinced George we could solve that problem if we could convince a mid to escort us into the Hall. As it so happened, there was a mid standing nearby who agreed to escort us downstairs, although it must be said that he did not recognize the name "Smoke Hall." Fortunately, the piano was still there, and George serenaded us for a wonderful half-hour.

George Tracy at the Smoke Hall piano

    A side note -- George mentioned that he didn't know how I had arranged to have a relative of mine be our escort. I said, "What are you talking about?" George said, "Look at his name tag." Somehow, out of all the mids, I had colored Brodie Marsden, a visiting Napster, who hails from Mississippi! I do not believe he is related to me. It was truly an unexpected reunion highlight.

Marsden '63 and Napster Marsden USNA '28(?)

    I saw George again at the Lacrosse Hall of Fame in the Navy-Marine Corps Stadium. I took this picture of him and Betsye Lhuillier, his significant other, in front of his picture there.
At the Navy Lacrosse Hall of Fame

        Will this be our last full-class reunion? That remains to be seen, but some '63 companies are already thinking about their own mini reunions in the years ahead. Make it happen!

        The day before the reunion began, the remains of our classmate Lee Pekary were inurned at the Naval Academy Columbarium. Lee's widow, Pat, sent this note and photos recording the event.
     There was a large turnout of family, civilian friends, and Naval Academy classmates. Among the latter were Spencer and Andrea Johnson, Mario Fiori, James Singler, Bob and Anne Harper, Landon and Patsy Cox, James Fontana, Tom Batzel, Dave Byrnes, Lynn Ebert (Dave's widow), and Joe and Claire Monroe '62. Lee would be very happy to know his grandchildren met some of his classmates, heard their stories, and understand why Lee loved USNA so much.

At the Columbarium

Mario Fiori, Pat Pekary, and Jim Fontana

        On Monday morning following the reunion, family members and classmates attended the inurnment ceremony for Bob Maier at the Columbarium. Some of the attendees are in this picture. Standing are Bruce Webb, Bob Harper, Bill Palafox, Spencer Johnson, Keith Reynolds, Cindy Maier, Steve Leisge, Jim Ring, Mario Fiori. Kneeling are Bill Bradford and Zimm Zimmerman.

At Bob Maier's inurnment

        Jim Oakes sent this exciting news from the USA Pickleball national championships in early November.
     I won the 3.5 80-84 Mixed Doubles title with Claudine McCaleb. There were 4,000 tournament entrants and a pro category. It was held at the Brookhaven Country Club in Dallas and had about 70 courts playing all day and into the evening. There were pro and celebrity tournaments. ESPN and the Tennis Channel televised the tournament. It was very competitive, lots of fun, great exercise, and a very enjoyable experience.

National 80-84 Champion Jim Oakes

That's all our news for now. I encourage you to make - and keep - a New Year's resolution to submit news to be shared with our classmates in 2024. Be a first timer!

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