Shipmate Column
March-April 2016

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.

        Around the end of the year, I received numerous communications from our classmates bringing news to share with you. I hope you'll enjoy what follows here, and will be inspired to follow their example by sending something for our next Shipmate column.

        We have lost two of our classmates since my last report to you. I encourage you to visit the Last Call section of our web site to see their obituaries, both too long to include here.

        Cancer has claimed our classmate Clyde Van Arsdall III, who passed away on 30 December 2015. He was predeceased by his wife, Sybil. Cards may be sent to his home at 431 Country Club Lane, Coronado, CA 92118. His sons, Michael and Clyde, can contacted by email at and .

        Clinton Ward Bond died from congestive heart failure on 29 November 2015. I have no contact information for Ward's family.

        I reported last month that Bernie Grabowski had passed away on 20 November. Several of our classmates attended the funeral mass and reception in Brevard, NC. A second service was held near his long-time home outside Philadelphia a few days later. I understand that Erwin Storz, Chris Munger, Harry Hirsch, Jim Lloyd, Steve Leisge, Keith Reynolds, and Mike Krause attended. The photo below was made in Brevard. Left to right are Dave Maples, Mike Shelley, Jim Spencer '64, Bob Maier, Bill Hollenack, and Vince Putiri '67. Joe Kotowski and Ben Cole were also at the service but had to leave before we assembled for the photo.

        Scanning Facebook, I saw a photo from an Arlington, VA, USNA '63 luncheon in November. Jim Ring provided this description.
     As Class Vice President, I try to host a lunch for DC area classmates every other month at the Army Navy Country Club. From left to right in this picture are Chuck Maclin, Harlan Ullman, Dan Koczur, Bob Forster, Bill Earner, Denny Conley, Ed Hutcheson, Kent Maxfield, Keith Reynolds, Joel Gardner, Bruce Webb, Mario Fiori, Will Settle, Spencer Johnson, Ed Brady, and John Aucella.
Army Navy Country Club luncheon

        Pete Carrothers submitted this news about the Class of 1963 being cited as an example of comradeship and service.
     On December 19, Nancy and I attended the North Texas Blue Chip Dinner -- where the local alumni invite the top 50 Class of 2020 candidates (and their parents) that the Blue and Gold Officers in the area have selected. The chapter raises over $20,000 to pick up the tab for the 300 plus attendees at a local country club. The Supe and the Commandant take turns attending. This year we had the Commandant along with the Dean of Admissions, Roger Staubach, and Ross Perot in attendance. The President of the North Texas Chapter, Matthew Elias '78, explained the close bond each of the candidates will have over the years with their classmates. He used the Class of 1963 as an example. He told about the Class of 63 Foundation that was set up to help fund the education our deceased classmates' children. He said this wasn't later in life when any of us could afford it; it was started when we were junior officers struggling on an Ensign or First Lt salary -- and helped support more than 90 kids in their post-high school studies. He then said we left the corpus of the fund to the Link in the Chain Class of 2013 so they could do the same thing. It was very inspiring and made me feel real proud to be a member of the Class of 1963. I thought you should know that it's still inspiring and setting the example.

        You may recall that, as planned, the Class of 1963 Foundation ceased operations at the end of 2015. In a recent conversation with our Class President Spencer Johnson, I learned that some $655,000 of the Foundation's residual funds were transferred to the Naval Academy Foundation for support of the Class of 1963 Center for Academic Excellence; these monies were part of our 50th Reunion pledge for the 63CAE. An additional $20,000 was given to the Class of 2013, our Link in the Chain class, as seed money for a program they may establish. The remaining amount -- $4,300 -- was transferred to the Class of 1963 operating account.
        Spencer shared with me this grateful response from LTJG James Brown '13.
     Merry Christmas to you, sir, and to all the members of the great class of 1963! I cannot begin to express to you the pride that I feel in being linked to such an incredible group of people who have done so much for the Naval Academy and the Navy. This morning our class president informed us of the overwhelming gift that was passed on to us by you and your classmates and I was floored. I cannot begin to tell you how grateful we are, not only for your gift, but to be links in the chain with such a generous and selfless class. Thank you for your legacy, and for maintaining the honor of this profession that has become our way of life

        The Director of the 63CAE, Dr. Bruce Bukowski, reported to us about the center's service to the Brigade during Academic Year 2014-2015. Here is an excerpt from his report, which can be seen in full on the Foundation/CAE page of our web site.
     Over the past four years, the number of midshipmen who utilize our services has steadily increased. In fact, in AY2011-2012, only 44% of the Brigade utilized CAE; in AY2014-2015, that number increased to 62%. Significantly, an increase is evident among all classes: First Class, from 11% to 27%; Second Class, from 32% to 57%; Third Class, from 52% to 74%; and Fourth Class, from 80% to 91%. This data indicates a yard-wide change in perception of the Center for Academic Excellence. Not only is our center a valuable resource for athletes, plebes, and struggling students, it has now become an integral component for the academic success of upperclassmen and high performing students alike. As we offer academic help to an increasing number of midshipmen, we successfully fulfill our mission to provide the highest quality academic support programs for all midshipmen seeking to improve their academic performance.

        Continuing a long-standing tradition, a large group of our Southern California classmates came together to watch this year's Army-Navy game on 12 December. Ace reporter Phillip Marsden filed this report:
     Over 40 classmates, spouses, and significant others gathered at the Murietta home of Karen and Steve Hoy to cheer Navy on to a hard-fought victory over Army. Besides the duty photographer, the attendees included: Mike and Sheila Bonsignore; Wayne and Chris Clark; Dick and Shiela Ortwein; Donna Kaup; Bob and Sue Easton; Jim and Pat Fontana; Alan and Terry McAnally; Vern and Gail Von Sydow; Karl and Marirose Kozak; Grant Telfer; Win and Sally Orgera; Dave and Patti Meyers; Bill and Dottie Hughes; Janet Gushue; Ted and Kay Krohne; Tim and Valerie Cook; Mike and Jan Ruble; Rich and Betty Ray Wilson; Jerry and Rowena Harken; John and Terri Ryan; Chuck and June Stone; Dick and Helen Anderson; John and Betty Middleton; Lee Tillotson. A good time was had by all as we celebrated our mutual good fortune to witness another season of wonderful Navy football. Our post-game rendering of Navy Blue and Gold seems to get more spirited each year! Here's the group photo -- can you spot everyone?
Beating Army in Southern California

        I am sure that several of our classmates were at the Military Bowl game in Annapolis on 28 December. Among them was Jack Hood, who sent this note about being there to see Navy defeat Pitt 44-28 on the way to a number 18 final ranking in the AP national poll. Here's his trip report:
     Ginger, my bride of 52 years, and I flew from Iowa to Northern Virginia to spend Christmas with my oldest son, John, and his family. Being only 60 miles away, I got us game and tailgate tickets for the Military bowl. It was a sellout. I am sure other '63 classmates were there but seeing someone you knew in the crowd was blind luck. The last bowl game I went to was the Navy vs. Texas Cotton Bowl on January 1, 1964. The last time Navy played Pitt was at Homecoming during our 50th reunion.
     This picture shows John, me, and my oldest granddaughter enjoying food and suds along with about 4,000 others at the tailgate. John will retire as a Captain next year, 30 years to the day after I retired.
At the Military Bowl tailgate

        It was good to hear from Tony DeSantis this month. He brings us up to date about his career and current activities.
     After serving for six years I resigned my commission and went to work for Shell Oil in NJ. I worked for them for 30 years and had a very successful career retiring as VP, Logistics for one of their subsidiaries. Upon retirement in Texas I started my own consulting company ( chemical logistics ) and within three years I had a another full time job as Executive Director of United States Shippers Association. I had that position for seven years and then resigned to move into a full time position as President of De Santis Selection Imports - a wine importing company specializing in importing fine Italian wines. That is where I am now, working for myself importing great wines. The pay is lousy but the benefits are great. Hilda and I go every year to Italy and spend usually two weeks visiting wineries and tasting their wines. It is a tough job but somebody must do it. Often I drag along company mates or friends and it makes for a great vacation. Lots of good food and great wines - a combination that does not do any good for your waistline.
     I married on the 6th of June at the Academy and my bride, Hilda, is still trying hard to take care of me. She does a very good job and we exercise four to five days a week. We have three children. Maria (our oldest) lives in Long Beach, CA; Tony Jr. lives in Houston ( near us ) and has a girl ( 13 years old ); Michele ( our youngest ) lives in Florida and is not married.
     We have lived in Houston now for 38 years and in the same community where we have lots of good friends who help me drink our wines. For the longest time I coached kids in soccer and even took two teams to Europe to play in tournaments. After doing that for many years, I moved on to golf and tennis. With tennis, I have had teams compete in the Houston leagues and in the summertime, we compete in the USTA league for an opportunity to go to Nationals. Here is a photo of my 2015 team ( over 55, 7.0 level ) that recently won the championship at the state level and went to Nationals at the end of October for the opportunity to play teams from all over the country. It was my second trip to Nationals ( the last was in 2009 ) and it is quite an experience. Needless to say, I love the game and play three to four times a week in order to compete at a high level.
Tony DeSantis (center) and championship teammates

        CAPT Bill Balint '52, thoughtfully sent me a clipping from the 29 November Indiana, PA, Gazette. "Chuck Spadafora honored at event" highlights Chuck's many good works in the community. The event was an appreciation night recognizing his role in the establishment of the specially designed Miracle Field where the disabled and challenged play baseball. The newspaper noted some of Chuck's other contributions to the Indiana community. He was a key player in the establishment of a successful drug addiction detoxification center, led the establishment of a mentor/tutor program helping elementary students, and is heavily involved in a trust fund supporting programs for teenagers. He received the Distinguished Citizen Award from the Boy Scouts of America in 2014. Chuck provides a fine example of the service that members of the Class of 1963 continue to perform in our local communities and on a larger stage. Well done, sir!

        In late October, June and Chuck Stone traveled from their home in Escondido, CA, to a family reunion in Georgia. He sent this illustrated note.
     While on a trip back to northwest Georgia for a family reunion, we stopped in to visit Classmate and Best Man, Felix deGolian, and Mallory in Atlanta for a delightful couple of days. On one of those days, they took us to brunch at the historic Piedmont Driving Club where we were joined by Mike Shelley and his wife Lou. Hardly any sea stories were told, even by the ladies...(not)!
Shelleys, deGolians, and Stones

Felix, Mike, and Chuck

        I received this note from Felix just before preparing this column for publication.
     In early January, Mallory and I travelled to Baton Rouge to attend a celebration of Ward Bond's life. All you have to do is read his obituary to realize he was a very unique guy. The fact that he made an impact on his home town is obvious. He's another example of the quality of guys who make up our class.

I recently became aware that a plaque dedicated to Navy crews that ever won the eastern sprints will be dedicated in the USNA boat house on March 5. Included will be the year of a particular event followed by a listing of the crew members and the coach. '63 will be well represented. In the spring of '60 our heavyweight plebes walked away with it. Included were Wanneka, Pero, Anderson, Thrasher, Schall, Fontana, Krohne, Konold and Omohundro. In '61 all of those guys less Mike Wanneka (who left school) plus Larry Graham rowed in either the 1st or 2nd varsity boats that won the event. In addition, our lightweight crew won the 2nd varsity (then called JV) event. From our class that boat included Hansen, Bond, Kozak, and yours truly. Karl won again the next year, '62, while in the 1st varsity boat. It's nice to be reminded of how well our guys represented USNA over those years.

        Nineteen members of the 23rd Company attended their ninth annual reunion, held at the Soaring Eagle Lodge in San Juan, NM, from 22-26 October 2015. Fly fishing was the official focus but certainly not the only pastime. Zimm Zimmerman sent me a copy of the very full and entertaining event report prepared by Harry Hirsh and Mike Krause , from which I have extracted a few images. Zimm highlighted the first of these, showing the guys' reactions when asked, "How big was that fish you caught?" Pictured kneeling are Mike Bonsignore, Bill Bradford, Vern Von Sydow, Bill Palafox, and Lee Tillotson. Standing are Harry Hirsch, Art Weidner, Steve Hoy, Len Eaton, Jim Thornton, Keith Reynolds, Mike Rubel, Steve Leisge, Mike Krause, Dick Ortwein, and Bob Nelson. In the top row are Wayne Clark, Zimm, and Bob Maier.
23rd Company fishermen

Bill Bradford

Len Eaton

Bill Palafox

Keith Reynolds

Lee Tillotson

Bill Bradford and Steve Hoy

        Maureen and Pat Wright made a motor trip through the Southeast in October, visiting friends including Fourth Companymate Vic Dean and his wife, Calvie, in Daytona Beach, FL. Traveling through western North Carolina as they headed north to their part-year home in Rhode Island, they made overnight visits to the Shelleys and to Judy and Bill Hollenack. Lou and I enjoyed showing Maureen and Pat the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, while the Hollenacks took them to several other high spots in our area.
Pat Wright, Calvie and Vic Dean

Wrights and Hollenacks

        Arriving here soon afterward, Zoe and Bob LaGassa were also touring the Southeast. During a three-week circuit from their home in New Hampshire they visited several members of the Second Company, as well as some other classmates. Included were Carolyn and John Newsom and Dave Honhart in Bucks County, PA; Maureen and Mike Schery in Norfolk, VA; Anne and Bob Little in New Bern, NC; Ann and Tom O'Brien in Orange Park, FL; Lynne and Paul Tobin in Pensacola, FL; Craig and Al Key in Point Clear, AL; Judy and Ben Harris and Carol Ann and Jim Shull in Chattanooga, TN; Dana and Derek Simmons in Asheville, NC; Lou and Mike Shelley in Pisgah Forest, NC; Caroline and Austin Chapman in Tryon, NC.
        Bob prepared a thorough, illustrated description of their travels, including background information about historic and cultural sites they visited, in a blog which can be seen by clicking HERE . I was able to extract a few photos from the blog for you to see.
Bob LaGassa, Dave Honhart, Zoe LaGassa

Maureen and Mike Schery with Zoe

Tom O'Brien and Bob

Lynne and Paul Tobin, Zoe

Key, LaGassa, Tobin

LaGassas, Harris's, Shulls

Zoe, Dana and Derek Simmons

Shelley, Chapman, LaGassa

        Jim Koehn tells us about his recent contact with FITZGERALD's Command Master Chief.
     A very interesting story I thought that our classmates might like to learn about. For several years I have been watching the Facebook page for the USS FITZGERALD since I had known Bill back in our USNA days, and was interested in the events on the ship. During one of my viewings I saw a ball cap being worn that was far more attractive than the mass-produced version that I have occasionally worn. Last June I sent a brief email to the Command Master Chief and asked about how to obtain one directly from the ship's store.
     I didn't hear anything back and expected that my note had either been misrouted or forgotten about during one of their deployments. Was I surprised yesterday when I received a box with the return address of the FITZGERALD; it included a hat, several ship's coins and a very nice note from the Command Master Chief.
Mr. Koehn, I'm happy to honor the request for a ball cap. The one provided is from Cdr. Chris England, the USS FITZGERALD 's Commanding Officer. I've also included three coins -- one from the Commanding Officer, one is the Ship's coin, and the other is a coin from the Chief's Mess.
     I can honestly speak for the crew when I say it is a distinct privilege to be a part of the crew that is charged with keeping Bill's legacy alive and well; to continue to make a difference to our friends, family, shipmates, and country." Very Respectively,
Brice Baldwin
Command Master Chief

     I am surprised at the ship's gift but totally impressed, thankful, and proud that we both knew Bill and the way that his namesake treats us. I was also able to personally make a tour of FITZGERALD many years ago (I think it was in San Francisco). Both Judy and I were very impressed at the time..... and still are today.

        And that's all for now. It's time for you to pull your oar by sending me some news of your own. Thanks!

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