Shipmate Column
May 2023

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.

        As I write this in late February our 60th reunion committee is stepping up the planning and preparations for our 19-22 October weekend together in Annapolis. The just completed poll of the class indicates that more than two hundred of our classmates plan to attend. The spirit of our Quality class remains strong after more than six decades since we entered the Academy. We are looking forward to seeing you there.

        The past month has seen the loss of four members of the Class of 1963 family, noted below.

        Edward F. McBride passed away on 17 January. His widow, Barbara, can be contacted at 12162 Deerhorn Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45240.

        Charles G. Fishburn died on 26 January. We do not have contact information for his next of kin.

        Joel M. Warshaw died on 15 February. Condolences may be sent to his cousin, Mikaela Clark, at 10634 Glass Tumbler Path, Columbia, MD 21044

        Jim Lasswell informed me that his first wife, Lynne Mary Lasswell, died on 29 January. Condolences can be sent to their daughter or son: Jennifer Lasswell Albers '92 at PO Box 9647, Rancho Santa Fe, CA 92067 or Jim Lasswell, Jr. at 7429 Silent Willow Court, Manassas VA 20112.

        Thanks to Steve Coester for connecting our web site to two noteworthy documents from our Midshipman years: The Naval Academy Catalogues of Information for 1959-60 and 1962-63. These provide extensive information about the Academy, entrance requirements, academic programs and courses, and other topics. They are fascinating for those of us who were there at the time. To jog your memories, view them at the Pride and Tradition: Memories section of by clicking HERE
The Plebe of 1959

I especially enjoyed reading this official description of Plebe Year in the 1962-63 catalogue:
     Fourth Class indoctrination, a part of the plebe year program, is a system that both tests and trains new midshipmen. Under the direction of the First Class, the plebe participates in the transition from civilian to military life through rigorous training aimed at developing more mature judgment, a sense of responsibility, a desire for personal competence, and an understanding of obedience to commands as fundamental to the proper issuing of commands. Through this discipline, emphasizing honor, courage, and loyalty, the plebe gains a knowledge of, and pride in, the naval profession.

       That may describe the content and impact of our plebe year, but we clearly remember the special added flavor provided by the Classes of 1960 and 1961.

As we approach our 60th reunion this October, we'll be remembering events and people from our four years together by the bay. The Pride and Tradition: Midshipman Memories section of our web site has many accounts about those times, one of which is this story written by Zimm Zimmermann about a high-visibility prank that highlighted '63 spirit in a unique way.
The laundry smokestack was a prominent feature in The Yard

     Seems the diggers and fillers had a slack day and decided to spruce up the laundry smokestack with a fresh coat of gleaming, silver paint at the start of the football season of our Youngster year. Man, did that beautiful, silver stack stand out on the Severn skyline! The Bancroft Administration issued a warning to all Classes not to ruin the new paint job with any Class signs.
     That's the kind of challenge we needed at the time. JJ Hogan, Steve Leisge, and I were coming back from intramural football at Hospital Point one evening and stopped into the Laundry boiler room. An ancient attendant was alone there, and we asked him, " If you were going to break into this building at night and gain access to the smokestack, how would you do it?" He says, "Now that would be a criminal offense - breaking and entering - so I would never advise anyone to do it, but if I were going to do it, here's what I'd do." With that, he takes us up the fire escape to the roof, shows us a set of windows with the hinges on the outside, then says, "See, if you back out the pins from the hinges, you can lift out the locked windows; thereby, gaining access to the ladder that takes you to the base of the smokestack."
     We thanked him and laid plans for the assault -- spray paint and black outfits and a hammer to back out the hinge pins. At 2:00 AM, our alarm went off, we dressed in black, snuck out of Bancroft, and started running for the laundry. I remember a Jimmylegs in a patrol car forcing us to roll into a ditch until he passed - we felt like the James Bond SWAT team! The hinges came off, just like the ancient one predicted, and we started up the smokestack ladder. But the ancient one hadn't warned us that the wind that night would cause the stack to sway about three feet in both directions, so holding the ladder with one hand and spray painting, "63' Sez BEAT ARMY!" with the other hand, was exciting in the dark!
September 1960: a job very well done!

     Well, we get back to bed without detection, but are so excited to see the brigade's reaction at formation, that we couldn't sleep. Especially since the Administration had warned the brigade not to touch their new paint job! We were feeling proud of ourselves for one day, until the next morning, when we saw that someone from 62' had gone up the following night, painted out the "3" and replaced it with a "2", so that the stack now read: "62' sez BEAT ARMY!" They stole our paint job! This could not stand! JJ Hogan had an idea. We went out in town and bought three, giant sized jars of pure petroleum jelly. The next night, we repeated the assault on the stack, painted out the "2," replaced it with the "3," but this time, as we came down the stack ladder, we coated each rung and rail with petroleum jelly! At the base of the stack, we painted a Warning Sign, to the effect that climbing the ladder would be dangerous to your health!
     We were amazed we never were caught, and the petroleum jelly worked, because "63' sez BEAT ARMY" remained as the stack sign for that football season!

        After you finish reading this column on our web site, take a few minutes to explore some of the hundreds of pages of varied content available to you. Make it a habit to check daily the Recently Changed Pages at the bottom of the home screen to see the latest news. Take some time to browse the site; you will probably find many things you haven't seen before. Start in The Wardroom section and enjoy the rich content there and elsewhere. Visit the Last Call section to remember our deceased classmates, now numbering more than 300. The Pride and Tradition section is loaded with memories from our time at the Academy, Vietnam, and post-Academy life. Class news, biographies, reunion information, and other sections are full of interesting and important information. Our thanks go to Steve Coester , our Webmaster, who does an outstanding job of maintaining and enhancing the site.

        Bob Harper sent this news about meeting with a companymate last month.
     Anne and I were graciously hosted by my 17th Companymate Mike Dunn at the Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, MD, on 31 January. It was my first time there; quite an impressive place. As usual, our memories were jogged awake with the opportunity for camaraderie. Mike regaled us with his stories and even feigned credulity at my own tales, while Anne thoroughly enjoyed the outing.
Bob Harper and Mike Dunn

        Zimm Zimmermann describes this photo of five guys together in Maine a few years ago.
     Here's a picture at Boys Camp at George Emery's home. This was taken 20 years ago, but I think we look the same today! Shown are Lew Lewis, Bill Hughes, Zimm Zimmerman, Tom Robertson, and George Emery .
Classmates in Maine, ca. 2003

        I have retained many photographs from past '63 columns and will include one or more each month leading up to our 60th reunion. To begin, here's a photo taken at the '63 tailgate before the Central Michigan game in Annapolis in November 2010.
Tailgaters in Annapolis

Left to right in the front row are Mario Fiori, Bob Forster, Jeff Miles, and Norm Shackleton . Standing are Dick Jones and his granddaughter Lauren Atcheson, Don Freese, Phil Rooney, Eli Dabich, Pete Quinton, Bill Earner, Spencer Johnson, Satch Baumgart, Ron Klemick, Charlie Stubbs, and Mike Nadolski

        That wraps it up for this month. Now it's your turn to submit news and photos to be shared with your classmates and other readers. We'd love to hear from you!

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