Shipmate Column
June 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.

        Although only a month has passed since our latest column appeared I have quite a few items to share with you. We begin with news of the loss of three classmates.

Terry R. Sloan passed away on 1 March in Circleville, OH. We do not have contact information for his next of kin.

        Walter Stephen Roberts died on 25 March. We do not have contact information for Steve's next of kin.

        Russell E. Berry passed away on 26 March.

His widow Judy can be contacted at 1307 Washington Street, Beaufort, SC 29902

        The Zoom utility continues to be an invaluable means of communications among members of our USNA companies. Although several have held multiple sessions, the Eighth Company is the clear winner in Zoom activity. Here is John Boley's account of their experience.
     Like all things, Zoom comes with up and downsides but for those of us in the Eighth Company it has been another way to maintain the brotherhood that was formed as plebes in the Terrible Tenth Company. For several decades we have had well attended annual reunions, but last year with the onset of the Coronavirus we had to cancel our planned event. The serendipity from this was starting a bi-weekly Zoom call last June. Since then, every two weeks from ten to fifteen of us participate with some as regulars and others who drop in from time to time.
     In addition to keeping in touch, we are sharing information about VA benefits, medical procedures, improving support to some with health issues, sea stories, careers after graduation, and planning our hoped-for October gathering in Annapolis. But the biggest benefit has been enriching the brotherhood and the best indicator is the continued participation by so many of us. If anyone would like some more information you can email me at
     Here is a screen shot as we were wrapping up the latest session. Left to right, top to bottom: Bill Hahn, John Boley, Bill Ellison, Dick Augur, Bernie Patterson, Mike Spear, Dick Kell, Charlie Helsper and Dave Bingemann.
Eighth Company Zoom session in March 2021

The Naval Academy Columbarium on Hospital Point

        In his 2 March "Irish Pennants" email to the Class of 1963, class president Spencer Johnson provided useful information about the Naval Academy Columbarium. I'm repeating it here in case you missed seeing it then.
     The Columbarium is increasingly popular as the final resting place for many of our classmates and wives. We now have more than 30 classmates in the Columbarium. You cannot make a reservation for a niche. They are assigned at the time of need. If you are thinking of being inurned in the columbarium, or, if a flag officer, being buried in the cemetery proper, you can place a copy of your DD214 on file so that is in the binder and spread sheet at the Memorial Affairs Office, ready when needed. Your DD214 unlocks access and military honors rendered. Just send your DD214 to Mr. Anthony C. Whalen, CFSP, Memorial Affairs Coordinator, 101 Cooper Road, Annapolis, Maryland, 21402-5027; tel 410-293-5027; e-mail: and ask to be put on file.

Constellation-Class FFG

        Also in Spencer's email was the good news that Barbara Strasser, the widow of our classmate RADM Joe Strasser, has been named by the outgoing Secretary of the Navy, Kenneth J. Braithwaite, as the sponsor for the yet to be built USS Chesapeake (FFG 64). The ship is second in the new Constellation class frigates authorized for construction this year. Even though the keel has yet to be laid, it is not too early to raise a glass of champagne to Barbara in anticipation of the christening event. Congratulations, Barbara!

VA-83 reunion

        Austin Chapman's wife, Caroline, sent this news about a reunion at their home in Tryon, NC
     Four guys from VA-83 came to see Austin on March 9 and brought him a Rampager helmet replica and challenge coin. They were in the squadron and on cruise together in the early 80's. It was a wonderful reunion! They all had a great time and I enjoyed meeting them and wives Sally Moore and Kathy Lehman. In this photo are Mark "Mork" Moore '76, John "Cobb" Webb '76, Austin "Red Fox" Chapman '63, Brian "Snake" Lehman (Ohio University), and Scott "Cowboy" Anderson '75.

        I was invited to sit in on the Zoom session Jack McDonald organized for the 17th Company on 7 March. It was well attended and quite lively. Visible in this screen shot, L-R and T-B, are Mike McDermott, Mike Shelley, Travis Beard, Jack McDonald, Jerry Jordan, Ron Schowalter, Mike Dunn, Jamie McClure, Harlan Ullman, Phil Gubbins, Bill Penn, Bob Harper, Bruce Webb, Ralph Kimberlin, Jerry Mulholland, J.J. Richard, and Bill Coulter.
17th Company Zoom session in March

        Jim Oakes has been taking advantage of the good weather in the Southwest. Here's his latest report of time with classmates.
     Here are two photos taken in Arizona in early March. The first shows me, Lew Blackwell, Suzanne Fuqua, and Lynn Blackwell having brunch at the Biltmore Hotel Golf Club in Phoenix. The Blackwells came to town for a few days to play golf and visit us and Lori and Ralph Stowell, who hosted us at a scrumptious dinner at their home in Scottsdale. The second picture of Lew, me, and Ralph was taken at a Cactus League baseball game between the Diamondbacks and the Cubs at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale.
Brunch in Phoenix

Backwell, Oakes, and Stowell at a Cactus League game

        Pete Deutermann has told me that his next novel, Trial by Fire, will be published this July. He described it this way:
     It's the story of what happened to the USS Franklin CV-13 (Big Ben) 60 miles off the coast of Kyushu, Japan, in the spring of 1945. The ship had just begun a full strike launch when a single Judy bomber dropped out of the overcast and planted a 500-lb bomb on her flight deck aft, right in the middle of the assembled strike group, all of whom were fully armed and gassed. Because so many planes were going, they'd broken safety protocol by pre-positioning even more fully loaded/armed aircraft on the hangar deck, which resulted in an explosion that compressed the gallery deck flat up under the flight deck. Somehow, they saved her, and that's what this one's about.
        Trial by Fire is Pete's 23rd novel and the eighth in his series of books about the Pacific theater in World War II.

        Do you know about the Naval Academy Virtual Memorial Hall web site? It is an important tribute to Academy alumni who perished in the service of our country, including 29 of our classmates. This is some background text from the site:
     The USNA Virtual Memorial Hall exists to perpetuate the memory of alumni of the United States Naval Academy who have died in service to their country. This site demands input from friends, family, classmates, and shipmates of the fallen. No team of historians could possibly provide the nuanced understanding of who these men and women were. Stories and anecdotes, no matter how trivial, will help us learn. Please contribute your memories! Create an account or email Patrick McConnell '02. Dozens of classmates, family, and friends have emailed to make additions and corrections, large and small. The Virtual Memorial Hall project was created and is maintained by Run To Honor, an organization of Naval Academy alumni founded in 2007 and a Shared Interest Group (SIG) with the Naval Academy Alumni Association. The mission of Run To Honor is to perpetuate the memory of Naval Academy alumni killed in action or in military operations in service to our nation, and to support Naval Academy Gold Star families. This site is not affiliated with or endorsed by the Department of Defense, the United States Navy, or the United States Naval Academy.
        The site includes not only the names of those memorialized but extensive information about most of those from classes in the modern era. Included are photographs, biographical information, award citations, remembrances by families and friends, and other information. Twenty-eight of our graduate classmates and one non-graduate are included. I encourage you to visit the site [by clicking HERE. ] and the Run To Honor site [by clicking HERE.] Perhaps you will want to add a comment about a classmate or other alumnus.
Memorial Hall plaque for Class of 1963 Line of Duty deaths

        Our column last month included a few old photos of groups of our classmates. One picture showed this large group at a picnic but the where and when were unknown. Since then, several people have confirmed that the place was NPGS Monterey. The date remains uncertain but was likely 1967-69.
'63 picnic in Monterey

Another photo came from an unidentified event in San Diego. Mal Wright sent this analysis, which seems conclusive.
     It looks like a Submarine Group 5 Change of command. Both Karl Kaup and Dave Oliver held that command in the late 80's/early 90's. Those two are the only ones in large medals which, as you know, are de rigueur for a COC. It looks like Karl was relieving Dave since Dave has a loosely appended Legion of Merit near his medal rack. Also, I believe that Joe had a CRUDES command at that time so, although he was probably not part of the ceremony, he was probably a VIP attendee.
Phillip Marsden, Joe Strasser, Dave Oliver, Art Walther, Karl Kaup, Chuck Stone

        Thanks to all who contributed to this month's report. Have a terrific summer!

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