Shipmate Column
November-December 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.

        With regret, I report to you that our classmate Francis Carl Gregory died on 20 August after a long battle against cancer. A committal ceremony was held at the Naval Academy columbarium. Frank's widow , ML, can be contacted at 38 Devon Drive, Pinehurst, NC 28374. You can see his obituary by Clicking HERE .

        The Navy-Notre Dame football game in Dublin, Ireland, on 1 September drew the attention of our classmates, several of whom crossed the Atlantic to support the Navy team on the spot. One of those was Lanny Cox, who filed this account:
     Although the score versus Notre Dame was a disappointment, I think the Navy fans upheld tradition by pretty well winning the before and after the game parties. The three of us (wife Patsy, daughter Emily, and I) were mixed in with a tour group of mostly Notre Dame fans out of Florida. We had an all-inclusive nine-day tour of Ireland starting the day after the game -- for less than the cost of the "official" travel agent package. Our game tickets, obtained through the Navy Ticket Office, were for seats in the lower (premium) level behind the Navy bench. The only classmates I saw were Bill Earner and Spencer Johnson, though Spencer said he had seen and heard of other classmates who made the trip. Here are two photos taken by my daughter Emily ('10). The first shows Bill Earner and me at the Alumni Association tailgate event before the game. The second pictures me, Norm Shackelton's son Cory ('98), and my wife Patsy taken after the game.
Lanny Cox and Bill Earner

Cory Shackelton with Patsy and Lanny Cox

        Meanwhile, back in CONUS, Navy fans gathered to watch broadcasts of the game. Here are two after-action reports, from Florida and South Carolina. The first comes from Don Freese.
     We had a great crowd of 40 USNA fans and six Notre Dame fans watching the game at the Bay Pines Sports Bar in Seminole, FL. The senior class represented was 1961 and the junior class was 2005. Notably, 1963 led the way with four classmates and three spouses. This picture shows the '63 group: Ollie Donelan, me, Connie Detrick, Vern Browne, Miller Detrick, and Elise Browne. My wife Sherry was with us but not in the picture. By the way, our daughter sells the beach bag if anybody is interested. It holds a lot and comes in handy.
Navy fans in Florida

        Rick Wakefield sent this item:
     Shown in this photo are Doug Tozour, me, Denny Tomlin, and Rich Weidman at a South Carolina Lowcountry Chapter gathering for the Navy-Notre Dame game. While Doug claims to be only semi-retired, the rest of us are fully engaged in our grandkids/golf/tennis/travel duties. You may notice that I'm the only one who is wearing a Naval Academy belt -- and it fits!
Lowcountry South Carolina classmates

        Last month I reported that some of our classmates had donated their swords to members of the USNA Class of 2013 --our paired class in the Another Link in the Chain program. Initiated by the Class of 1963, this new effort is expanding nicely, as reported here by Phillip Marsden.
     Classmates here in the Southern California area have been active in transferring their officer dress swords to members of the Class of 2013. It all started with Don Jacobs seeking help to find a possible recipient of his sword. The last Shipmate column described Chuck Stone's sword ceremony on the MIDWAY. It has grown to be a meaningful part of our Another-Link-In-The-Chain (ALITC) activities. We have had three sword transfer ceremonies this summer since Chuck's Fourth of July ceremony. Dave Meyers transferred his sword to Midshipman John Crow. Don Jacobs, assisted by Vern VonSydow and Dave Meyers, transferred his sword to Midshipman Evans. Phillip Marsden, assisted by Chuck Stone and Lee Cargill, transferred our classmate Jim McClure's sword to Midshipman Pedrotty. Two more sword transfers are scheduled for the Christmas holiday period. In every case, our classmates have been struck by how appreciative the midshipmen and their families have been.
Dave Meyers and Midshipman Crow

Don Jacobs, Midshipman Evans, Vern Von Sydow, and Dave Meyers

Chuck Stone, Phillip Marsden, Midshipman Pedrotty, and Lee Cargill

     Word has spread about this ALITC activity so now we have five more local 2013 mids who would like to have swords from the Class of 1963! If your Navy or USMC sword is just gathering dust in the closet with no future home, contact me if you would like to donate it to a 2013 mid.
        Don Jacobs sent this note about the transfer of his sword.
     The family of Midshipman Evans used the occasion for an early 21st birthday party for him, so the atmosphere was very relaxed and enjoyable. The Midshipman himself is impressive and is one that I am proud to have my trusty sword. The experience was very moving for me and highlighted how big a deal this simple handover is. Phillip Marsden is the one who turned this idea into a reality and for that he should be proud.

        Dick Kuntz has issued this call for singers to participate in an event during our 50th Reunion next year.
     Some time ago - I think it was the mid-term reunion in San Diego - I had a conversation with Bill Earner about the possibility of a small group from the Class of '63 singing the Navy Hymn or Navy Blue and Gold at our 50th Reunion. I said, "Surely there are four or eight or even sixteen of us who can carry a tune tolerably well, and could learn the parts for these pieces, and perhaps sing at the Memorial Service." Bill liked the idea and said "Run with it!"
     So, now it's about a year to our 50th Reunion, and I'm putting out a first call for any of you stalwarts who have ever held forth at a party or a wedding or a church service to answer the need. All parts -- tenor, baritone, and bass -- are needed. We would probably just meet once or twice on the first or second days of our gathering to rehearse. Nothing is definite about when and where we would sing. If you are at all interested, please shoot me an e-mail at - no obligation at this time.

        The dedication ceremony for the new facility of the Class of 1963 Center for Academic Excellence at the Naval Academy was held on 21 September. The 63CAE now occupies prime space at the Levy Center, between the seventh and eighth wings of Bancroft Hall. Many of our classmates were there and heard our class president, Spencer Johnson, speak about the Class of 1963's tradition of supporting academic accomplishment. Afterward, the '63 attendees were guests of the Superintendent at the first parade of the season and at a reception in his garden.
        In his remarks, Spencer noted that a large number of our classmates had left USNA because of academic deficiencies. Here is an excerpt from his text:
     We are determined that our experiences of academic attrition not be shared with the current Brigade of Midshipmen, each member of which is carefully selected, not only for academic and athletic abilities, but also for demonstrated leadership qualities that mark them as potential future leaders of our nation in uniform and in civilian endeavors too numerous to list. If they need timely tutoring in difficult subjects, help in developing time management skills, and in honing effective study habits, we want to help ensure that such assistance is available. The number of midshipmen walking through these doors on a weekly basis this year is now approaching 600, almost 40 percent more than last year. Already, through the efforts of a world class faculty and this Class of 1963 Center for Academic Excellence, attrition rates for academic failure have fallen to four percent or less. We could not be more pleased that the Class of 1963 Center for Academic Excellence has played a significant part in this achievement. We have indeed reaped a tremendous return on investment.
     Next year at our 50th reunion, our class hopes to report to the Superintendent a total gift of 6.3 million dollars to this most worthwhile endeavor. Pulling together, we hope to achieve this goal.

        Ken Metviner, the fundraising chairman for our Class Foundation, sent this note about our campaign.
     Thanks to everyone who has contributed to the 63CAE and shown their spirit of Quality '63 by participating in the Company Competition for the 50th Reunion Color Company. Remember, all gifts to the 63CAE count, no matter how small. Especially welcome are gifts that earn recognition on the Striper Recognition Plaque that will be on permanent display at the 63CAE. An irrevocable bequest of $2,500 or more gets your name indelibly etched on the wall. See the Class of 1963 Foundation section of our web site for more info, or call your Company Rep. Your bequest counts toward the 50th Reunion Company Competition as well. So, if you haven't done so, get on board! We are still way short of our goal of $6.3 million in total giving from the combined 40th and 50th fundraising campaigns. The 63CAE really needs this money for permanent funding of its vital work.

        Thanks to Mike Krause for this news from New York City.
     This photo of USNA '63 participants was taken on 20 August at the New York Naval Academy Alumni Association's Ninth Annual Inter Academy Golf Tournament at the Connecticut Golf Club. Unfortunately, Army won; the record now stands at Navy 6 - Army 3. The event raised almost $5,000 to Benefit Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, Inc., an organization dedicated to the emotional and physical rehabilitation of active military service personnel and veterans with disabilities through development of fly fishing skills including fly tying and trips to fly fishing locales throughout the country. Check out the Project Healing Waters web site at Shown in the photo are Bill Palafox, Erwin Storz, Mike Rubel, Rob Newton, John Conroy, Mike Pero, and Mike Krause.
'63 golfers in Connecticut

        Vacation cruises aboard ships of various sizes are very popular, for many good reasons. As fine as the cruises are, they can't match the experience of cruising with a classmate aboard his own boat. To prove the point, here is a trip report sent by Watt Miles in mid-September.
     Anne and I are back from an eight-day cruise along the Maine coast with Fifth Company classmate Fred Beckham and his wife Gloria aboard Slow Dancin, their Nordhavn 40 trawler. Fred and Gloria have lived on their boat for eight years, the first six in the Caribbean and the past two on the East and Gulf Coasts. This summer they have been in New England exploring primarily Cape Cod, Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard, and Maine.
"Slow Dancin," Fred and Gloria Beckham's trawler

     We met them in Quincy, MA, just south of Boston, toward the end of August, and cruised north about 30-40 nm each day at 6-7 knots before reversing course and returning to the Boston area. We spotted a whale, lots of seals, a few eagles, a flock of swans, and more lobster pots than I thought existed -- how Fred managed to avoid getting tangled in one is a mystery. Most nights we docked or moored in a marina, and one night we anchored in a cove that was one of those beautiful natural settings you see in travel magazines and wonder if the place really exists.
Gloria, Watt, Ann, and Fred

You can never have too many lobsters!

     We did, I think, make a dent in the local lobster markets, managing to feast on Maine's finest for 11 meals in eight days. We also drank a little wine and a bit of liquor. Well, maybe more than a little bit -- after all, we were in no danger of missing movement. We had a blast. Fred is one of those rare fellows who managed to smile his way through plebe year, and he kept that attitude through a career in destroyers and a civilian career with Merrill Lynch. Gloria is similarly a happy soul, and when one is with them one tends to laugh a lot. She is also a make-it-happen dynamo and a great cook, despite a small galley. We had wonderful conversations about all manner of things, maybe even a sea story or two.
     It was a good time we could not have foreseen in Bancroft Hall half a century ago, but the foundation for the good time, and much else in our lives, was laid then. Another demonstration of the truth that what seems important at the time is often not what is really going on.

        Jim Eckland is seeking donations of military unit patches. He sent this note about his interest and a possible connection with our 50th Reunion.
     In the early 1950s, my dad and I filled an Army blanket with Army and Army Air Corps shoulder patches from WWII and Korea. In 1998, I started sewing USAF unit patches from F-16 fighter squadrons and other armed services. Also, I brought back many patches from two years in Baghdad. I am inviting '63 classmates to send me any duplicate unit patches they can spare. It would be a welcome sight to have some 200-300 military unit patches on display at our 2013 reunion event. I have a good Vietnamese tailor who can sew them on blankets or poncho liners. My address is 4170 Heartstone Drive, Grapevine, TX 76051-6548.

        Mickey Mays tells us about a recent application of Navy's traditional support for Army football (on all but one day of the year).
     On 8 September, West Point was in San Diego to play San Diego State University. I gathered together some USNA friends and we went to the game to pull for Army. Army gave it their all but SDSU bested them. As you can see from this picture, LGEN Huntoon, the West Point Superintendent, appreciated our support. Pictured from left to right are: Frank Wilson USNA '65, Bob Joyce USNA '64, the general, and Mickey Mays USNA '63.
Navy supports Army football

        Coronado resident Phillip Marsden filed this photo and social news in early August:
Picnic in Coronado

     On a lovely summer afternoon Class of 1963 classmates gathered in Coronado for our annual Concert-in-the-Park picnic. We were joined by parents and midshipmen from the Class of 2013 to enjoy the beautiful setting, good food, camaraderie, and danceable tunes. Classmate attendees included Lee and Sue Cargill, Bill and Dottie Hughes, Clyde VanArsdale, Jay Roberts with his grandson Jackson, Bill and Donna Gentile, Donna Kaup, Dave Meyers, and Chuck and June Stone. Class of 2013 parents and mids included John and Gail Pedrotty with their son Paul, Bill and Amy Byrne with their daughter Brigid, Dharan and Linda Mandrayer and their son Shan, Dave and Luz Austin, John and Virginia Crow. A wonderful time was had by all!

        Rich Pace sent this very interesting after-action report about a tour of SPRUANCE (DDG-111). I'm sure you'll enjoy his description of the advanced technology and maybe you'll be surprised by the absence of verbal orders to, and responses from, the helm and lee helm. Like it or not, we seem to be old sea dogs now.
     On September 18 the directors of the Los Angeles alumni chapter were invited to tour SPRUANCE (DDG-111) while she was tied up at the Seal Beach Naval weapons Station for her initial loadout of ordnance. The tour was conducted by the ship's captain, Cmdr. George Kessler, USNA '95. Capt. Kessler was accompanied on the tour by several recent USNA graduates from the Spruance's wardroom.

     Although our board has toured other Arleigh Burke destroyers in the past, the newest version of the class was nonetheless dazzling. Over 600 feet long and displacing over 9,000 tons, the Spruance is "not your father's DDG." She not only has the latest in missile and torpedo weaponry, but she boasts a "digital" bridge which does not even require a human helmsman during regular independent cruising. Instead of giving orders to a helmsman and engine order telegraph operator, the officer the deck on the Spruance simply enters course and speed via a touchscreen, and the orders are transmitted instantaneously to the ship's propulsion and rudder systems. The days of "right full rudder, all engines ahead flank" have passed into history, at least on the new DDG's. It's now all done silently, on a full color video screen. I did spot an old-fashioned paper chart on what appeared to be a quartermaster's desk on the bridge, but I was told it was used as a backup in case the ship's GPS system somehow fails.
     Changes from the old days are apparent elsewhere. For example, the ship's CIC looks more like the bridge of the Starship Enterprise than the "combat" of old. Plexiglas screens with grease pencil entries are nowhere to be seen, as everything of interest (and potentially of interest) is displayed on large full-color video screens. The captain's GQ station isn't even on the bridge; it's in CIC. Back aft, the ship has a large helicopter landing deck and hangers for not one but two helos. The ship can even hanger and operate the Navy's new unmanned helicopters.
     We had the opportunity to speak with several of the recent USNA grads assigned to the ship, and I'm pleased to report that they all appeared to be the same sort of sharp, well motivated young people as were turned out by the Academy during our era. Some of their assignments were unknown during our time (for example, a young ensign was designated Force Protection Officer, a sort of a hybrid internal/external security position) but they all seem to be committed to making SPRUANCE a superb warfighter.
     Here are two photographs from the event. The first shows Cmdr. Kessler and myself on the ship's quarterdeck, and the second shows all the USNA graduates on the tour, old and young, posed in front of SPRUANCE's single automatic 5-inch gun. Unfortunately, I did not get the names of all in the photo, but it includes Gray Farley '61 (standing to my right) and Brett Potts, '95, (the chapter's current president and a classmate of Cmdr. Kessler) who is wearing a blue shirt and kneeling in the front row.
Rich Pace and the C.O. of SPRUANCE

Tour group and escorts

        We'll wrap up this month's column with this news from Len Eaton, which arrived just in time to beat the publication deadline.
     On September 28, four 1963 graduates of the Naval Academy attended the first Fall meeting of the Southern Arizona Chapter of the Naval Academy Alumni Association in Tucson. They listened to a great presentation by a guest speaker, retired Navy Captain Peter Rhee, a trauma surgeon, who attended to Congresswoman Gabriel Giffords and others who were shot on January 8, 2011 in Tucson. Dr Rhee was instrumental in training Navy Doctors to deal with trauma wounds in Iraq and Afghanistan.
'63 classmates in Tucson

     Our classmates survived another hot summer in Tucson and are currently engaged in planning their returns to Annapolis for our 50th Reunion. Pictured, left to right, are John Truesdell, Dick Augur, Bill Brinkley and Len Eaton. Unfortunately, Art Weidner, another Chapter member, was unable to join us as he is currently on the East Coast preparing to attend a 23rd Company fishing trip. Together, with Art, we will meet again on December 8 to support and cheer the Navy football team to victory over Army!

        That's a lot of news! Now my mail bag is empty and I'm many leagues away from the mail buoy. I need to hear from you soon.

Beat Army!

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