Shipmate Column
July-August 2012

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.

        As I prepare this month's column, in the background the Naval Academy graduation ceremonies are streaming live on the internet. I hear the names of graduates being called and think about the excitement, toil, and accomplishments that are in their future. Would you do it all over again? I think many of us would say "Yes!" to that question. Let's wish Fair Winds and Following Seas to the Class of 2012 and note that the members of our linked Class of 2013 are now Firsties leading the Brigade. How fast the time goes by...

        I regret to bring you the news that our classmate George Fister passed away on 15 May. He will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery on a date to be determined. His widow, Judy, can be contacted at 3323 Mantua Drive, Fairfax, VA 22031. In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting that donations be made to the Ashley Fister Cole Foundation

        The Class of 1963 was well represented at the Class of 2013's Ring Dance on Saturday, 19 May. One of the major events in the 1963-2013 Another Link in the Chain program, the dance was an unforgettable event and a reminder of the Bonds of Gold connection between our classes. It was not so long ago - April 2011 - that eleven 1963 class rings and miniatures were donated by classmates and families to be melted down and mixed into other gold to make the rings for members of the Class of 2013. You can review the report of that event in the July-August 2011 column on our web site.
        The weekend weather was perfect and The Yard looked quite beautiful as preparations for Commissioning Week were nearly complete. The Saturday events for '63 began when more than 50 classmates and their ladies attended an informal luncheon in the Bo Coppedge Room of Alumni Hall. A highlight was a lively presentation by Dr. Bruce Bukowski, the Director of the Class of 1963 Center for Academic Excellence. I should have taken notes of the impressive statistics showing the ever-increasing successes of the 63CAE. One fact stuck in my mind, though: the four-year academic attrition rate of midshipmen now stands at less than five percent; in our day it was about 20 percent. A significant part of that reduction is due to the assistance provided by the 63CAE. We can surely be proud of our sponsorship.
        Here are several photos from the luncheon.
Ron Klemick with 2013 class president John Rex Spivey and his date Kristin Glover (Miss Arkansas 2012)

Doug Davidson, Jim DeFrancia, and Andrea Johnson

Marla and Jeff Miles

David and Rebecca Robinson

Teb and Linn Bowman

Lee and Pat Pekary

Pete Carrothers, Arlene and Forrest Siburt

Mike and Leslie Pero

Jane and Stuart Settle

Joanne and Jack Thorn

Kathy and Sam Garde

Sue and Ben Cole

Carol Hamblin and Steve Leisge

Eileen and Eli Dabich

Jan and Pete Quinton

Watt and Anne Miles

Nick and Kathy Nerangis

Walt and Betty Breede

Grayson and Kitty Redford

Katherine and Al Breen, Bill Earner, Dave Bingemann

        We were honored to be guests of the Class of 2013 at the Ring Dance, held in Dahlgren Hall. What a wonderful sight it was to see our ladies in their gowns, our classmates in Mess Dress whites or dinner jackets, and the midshipmen and their dates ("drag" having disappeared long ago) . Our couples had their photographs taken in front of the large class ring and again christened their rings and miniatures in the waters of the seven seas and the Severn River. Many of us took to the dance floor with our OAO's and mingled among the young couples. I heard many comments about the warm reception we received from the midshipmen and their dates.
        Several '63 couples were attending their second Ring Dance and enjoyed reminiscing about their first, in June 1962. Katherine and Al Breen brought two photos taken that evening. Dave DeHoll wore a copy of his Ring Dance photo on his lapel.
Katherine and Al Breen

Dave DeHoll

        Bernie Grabowski was busy with his camera and took many fine pictures during the dance. Here are some of them.
Lisa and Jim Metcalfe, Kathy and Sam Garde, Colette and Roger Mehle

Sandy Klemick, Kate and Dave Maples, Ron Klemick

Lew Blackwell, Kate and Jim Ring

Barb and Larry Marsh

Bob and Cindy Maier

Kent Maxfield and Bob Harper

Lois and Bernie Grabowski

Line dancing

Mids, dates, and a lone Cadet

Could this have been us, 50 years ago?

        During a short program early in the evening, our class president, Spencer Johnson, made brief remarks about our Ring Dance, the connection between the classes of 1963 and 2013, and the origin of the Naval Academy ring. I encourage you to read his text on our web site by clicking HERE.

        Ken Metviner, fundraising chairman for our Class Foundation, sent this additional reminder about Planned Giving to the Naval Academy.
     Many of us have included the Naval Academy Class of 1963 Center for Academic Excellence, or the Naval Academy itself, in our estate plans. Not all have notified the Naval Academy Foundation about this, and thus miss out on the many benefits of recognition. If you are in this category, please call our Classmate, Dick Jones, today at 410-643-0987 (H), 410-353-4060 (C), or 202-626-5237 (W).
     Also call Dick if you are considering a bequest to the Naval Academy. He can help you with the important first step, the Simple Irrevocable Bequest. Don't forget to mention the 63CAE in your specified bequest.

        Mike Blackledge filed this news from his home in the Land of Enchantment:
     Bonnie and Dan Hitzelberger left their home in Annapolis the first week of March to attend a wedding in Tucson, AZ. On the way home, they stopped off at Trains West here in Albuquerque so Dan could pick up some more garden gauge train supplies to repair winter damage to his home train layout. While they were in town, Bonnie and I captured them and took them to the Shark Reef Cafe, featuring a full aquarium view of Caribbean sharks, turtles, and rays to watch while munching away on a Tilapia sandwich. That same BioPark in Albuquerque features a very extensive outdoor garden gauge railroad layout, and on that beautiful Spring day, several volunteers were working on their track. Dan was able to talk trains to the local gurus, and a great time was had by all. Now we're all looking forward to the 50th reunion next year.
Dan and Bonnie Hitzelberger with Mike Blackledge

        John Fitzgerald shares this good news about his son and gives a synopsis of his own career since USNA.
     March 16 was one of the proudest days of my life. I witnessed a Change of Command as my son Major (LTC select) Michael Fitzgerald, USMC, took command of the 1st Supply Battalion at Camp Pendleton. This picture shows Mike, at the left, having received the Battalion Colors from his predecessor.
John Fitzgerald's son takes command

     Here is a brief history of my career: I went to surface ships on graduation. My sea duty was on two destroyers, a missile cruiser, a carrier, and a Vietnamese Patrol Boat. My shore assignments were the Operational Test and Evaluation Force, PG School, and the Atlantic INSURV Board. I retired in 1983 and went to work with Sperry as an Engineer until it folded in 1993. I then tried a few things and ended up working for the Suffolk County, NY, Health Department as an Engineer. I finally retired totally in 2008. My wife Mary and I have settled on Long Island and are spending our time enjoying our Grandchildren with one more on the way.

        Lee Cargill is the latest of our classmates to add to the growing collection of cruise box lore.
     I think that my cruise box represented a kind of dowry from me to my wife, Sue. Since graduation, it has gone wherever we have gone, and it now is in our garage. It currently serves as a paint locker on the interior and a convenient counter/ready service locker for cokes or whatever on the top. For many years, it held the booze that I got on my first Med cruise that Sue and I never drank or gave away. I do not recall when it received a coat of grey paint, but it did and now the paint has rubbed off in many places. On top is stenciled my name and original service number but not my USNA laundry number. It pretty much operates just as it did when it was first issued and is a remarkably solid storage box. A few years ago, I brought it up to current box standards by putting wheels on the bottom side. It works like a charm. Now that we are getting older, we need to give some thought to final arrangements. I'll bet the ol' cruise box could be put to good use.

        The Last Man, the latest book by our classmate Pete Deutermann, has just been published by St. Martin's Press. It's set in Israel and combines the history of the fortress of Masada with Israel's current Iranian dilemma. I just began reading it and am hooked already. Of special note: Pete's 2011 book, Pacific Glory, won the national American Library Association's Boyd Award for the best military fiction of the year.

        Don Freese has been nominated for election to the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) National Board of Directors. Balloting will begin in August and the 12 new Directors will be installed for six year terms at the MOAA Annual Meeting on 31 October.

SH-3A Sea King

        Jim Metcalfe alerted me to a magazine article about a combat SAR in which helicopter pilot Vern Von Sydow came under fire from North Vietnamese shore batteries. Showing real guts, as Jim put it, Vern and his SH-3A crew saved a Navy A-4 pilot under very trying circumstances. The article appeared in the Fall 2011 issue of the Association of Naval Aviation magazine Wings of Gold. You can see it in the Pride and Tradition section of our web site by clicking HERE.

        That's it for now. Have a terrific summer and send me some news to share with our classmates!.

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