Shipmate Column
October 2008

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.

        Many of our USNA Companies have held mini-reunions in recent years. The men of the 23rd Company convene annually, setting a fine example for the rest of us. Here is Mike Bonsignore's account of their latest event:
     Fourteen stalwarts from the 23rd Company gathered at the Soaring Eagle Lodge on the San Juan River in northern New Mexico on July 14. The OpOrder called for trout fishing, camaraderie, and conditioning of our laughing muscles. The weather was perfect and the browns and rainbows plentiful and cooperative. Harry Hirsch and Dick Ortwein planned and executed a flawless event, which even included a dinner speaker on Chaco and Navajo history for those still awake that evening.

Sherwood Zimmerman, Vern VonSydow , JJ Hogan , Bill Palafox, Bill Bradford, Steve Hoy, Mike Rubel, Jim Thornton, Mike Krause, Steve Leisge, Art Weidner and Mike Bonsignore made up the rest of the contingent. Several thousand pictures were taken. There were so many lies told that the angler who caught the biggest fish could never be accurately determined. Vern VonSydow won the smallest fish recognition by beating out Mike Bonsignore with a two and one-half inch beauty. Most of the fishermen had a hard time even seeing the tiny flies on the ends of their lines, guaranteeing job security for their guides. The most popular guide award went easily to Genghis Kim, a perennial favorite. All of the trout caught were lovingly returned to the San Juan river.

Special recognition went to JJ Hogan for reeling his fish out instead of in by working his reel backwards and to Harry Hirsch for his San Juan baptism after slipping on a rock and doing a half gainer to full submergence. Happily, there were no fishermen hooked and the same number of people finished the trip as started it. Laughing muscles were fully reconditioned. All the guides are in therapy, however. QUALITY ' 63

23rd Company fishermen in New Mexico

        The duty photographer for the trip was Mike Krause, who sent this group photo to me. In the front row: Mike Bonsignore, Bill Bradford, Steve Hoy, Mike Rubel, Jim Thornton, Mike Krause. In the back row: Harry Hirsch, Steve Leisge, Art Weidner, Zimm Zimmerman, Bill Palafox, Vern Von Sydow, J.J. Hogan, and Dick Ortwein. Mike has uploaded a large - and very entertaining - collection of his images to the Picasa web site. To see them, Click HERE.
        Spencer Johnson supplied this account of the funeral services for Mary Minter, the devoted wife of our Commandant and classmate, VADM Charles S. Minter, Jr.
     Mary Margaret Sheehan Minter, 92, was laid to rest in the Naval Academy cemetery alongside her beloved husband of 67 years on 27 June, following a memorial mass at St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Annapolis. Readings and prayers were offered by grandchildren, and a moving reflection was delivered by her daughter, Meredith Minter Hinkle. Admiral Minter passed away just before our reunion in late April. Mary was not able to attend our class memorial service because she herself was in the hospital with her terminal illness. In addition to Carol and Charlie Minter, classmates present included Kate and Jim Ring, Carroll and John Aucella, Doug Davidson, Carol and Bob Harper, and Andrea and Spencer Johnson. A handsome color photo portrait of Admiral Minter and Mary graced the table at the Officers Club reception following the interment next to the remembrance book placed there for signatures. Of particular note, the Admiral, photographed in a civilian suit, was wearing a Class of 1963 tie. Both he and Mary will always be counted as members of our class. They live in our hearts.
        Jim Ring later told me that
     Meredith gave a fabulous eulogy and said something that caused us to chuckle, especially since many had spent long careers in the military with many moves. Soon after her mother's death, Meredith wondered to her husband, a retired RADM, what her Mom was doing up in Heaven. He quickly replied, "Unpacking!" It was her last move.

        Al Breen sent this brief note to accompany an envy-producing snapshot:
     Primarily because the missus always liked me in some sort of uniform, I am in the U S Coast Guard Auxiliary, flying surveillance for the Homeland Security Department. Members fly missions in their own aircraft up the Hudson to the Canadian border and along the coast to Cape Cod. In this photograph I'm holding up the wing of my Seneca II at our Flotilla base at Lincoln Park airport in North Jersey. Bring on the bad guys!
Surveillance pilot Al Breen

        Dave Moore told me recently that he and Vern Von Sydow had been exchanging e-mails on the general subject of teaching. He related a few things about Vern's work as a teacher of at-risk teenagers. Intrigued, I asked Vern to tell me more, and this is what he said:
     These students have overcome many obstacles in their lives and I'm glad to be part of a very dedicated staff of teachers at Palomar High School, a continuation high school for "at risk" kids. "At risk" means that they are "at risk" of not graduating from high school. They have fallen behind their peers for reasons such as medical, financial, or legal problems, a dysfunctional family, poor attendance, bad attitude, discipline problems -- sometimes "all of the above."

I'm a Math teacher, School to Career Coordinator, and Scholarship Coordinator. As School To Career Coordinator I run a nationally recognized Navy Internship Training Program where our kids work at the San Diego Naval Base for half a day and go to school for half a day. They work in shops and offices at the Southwest Regional Maintenance Center. Their mentors (volunteer Navy Petty Officers) have been outstanding, positive role models for our kids. This program has turned a lot of our kids in the right direction. The kids learn how to say "Yes sir, No sir and No excuse sir!" Sound familiar?

They are given 20 points to start, and they lose 3 points for an absence, 1 point for a late and 1 point for failure to follow instructions. If they lose their 20 points they are "fired" and we tell them to "come back when you are serious about your life!" In most cases they come back next semester and successfully complete the program. Approximately 15-20 percent of the completing students enlist in the military as a result of their positive experience in this program. Approximately 95 percent of the interns who complete this program will graduate from high school. We also notice an increase in their GPA's, improved attendance, and an improvement in their attitudes towards school, authority, and their future.

During my tenure as Scholarship Coordinator, our scholarship program has grown for no scholarships in 1993, to one in 1994 (a memorial scholarship to ADM Baird -- to honor a former shipmate from ENTERPRISE days), to 43 in 2006, 52 in 2007, and 74 in 2008. Many of our kids are very smart but are lacking family support or got on the wrong path. To prove that point: this year at our Graduation four former Palomar High students who graduated from college this summer spoke to our graduating seniors. These four students (two male and two female) graduated from National University (BA Education), UC San Diego (BS Engineering), USD (BA Finance) and UC Berkeley (BS Math & Business). All four speakers also successfully completed our Navy Internship Training Program.

We have had generous scholarship donations from many USNA 1963 Classmates and local organizations. However, when it comes to "at risk" kids we are not on too many mailing lists for scholarships so we are always very appreciative of any support that is out there.

        What a wonderful program that is! For more information and to make a contribution, contact Vern at .
        The latest of our classmates to make the transition from full-time worker to retiree is Jerry Huss, who made the big jump this summer.
     I retired from IASCO on July 15. I figure that 30 years in the Navy, two years with Litton, and 13 years with IASCO ought to be enough. We'll see. Pam and I sold our house in Mountain View, CA, in five days, then turned around and bought a home in the Rose Garden district of San Jose a couple weeks later. Later on this summer and into the fall we have several trips planned, including a cross-country car trip to Florida. Should prove interesting with the price of gas.

Our boys, Jason and David, are doing fine. Jason is still in Chico working as an architect with a firm there. David is an account manager with Xerox in Santa Clara, and he lives with a couple of other guys in Sunnyvale. Other than that, Pam and I will be working on both houses (San Jose and Tahoe City), playing some golf, and possibly I will be doing some consulting work for IASCO, since we're starting up some additional contracts in China. Pam will be retiring from her office administrator job at a Los Altos physical therapy office, but she also may be called back part time on occasion.

        I was happy to hear from Jim McClure, who tells us about his very busy life and shares a rather striking photo.
     Since retiring in 1991, I have been working for the County of Santa Barbara. First I ran all the accounting operations for about 5-6 years, then moved on to become the Budget Director for another 5-6 years. I tried to retire and teach remedial math at the local community college but a newly elected official asked me to become his XO. We run all elections in the county, assess all property and record all your deeds, etc., as well as issue passports and marriage licenses. It is really very interesting and the elections part is particularly satisfying.

Several events lately have reminded me of my ties to the academy. First, in May I was in Scotland at my niece's wedding (much older brother Tom's daughter; he is class of 1960). So he wouldn't be alone he asked me to also wear a kilt. Since he was kind to me plebe year, I agreed. We wore the U.S. Navy Tartan -- very nice looking. Here's a picture of the two of us; I'm the tall, good looking one. It cost $460 to rent for one day. He owes me, big time.

'63 and '60 formally attired in Scotland

The second event was the recent GAP fire we had in Santa Barbara. I foolishly volunteered (Didn't they tell us plebe year to never do that?) to assist with Public Information . They immediately assigned me to the 7 PM to 7AM watch at our emergency operation center. Fortunately, the firefighters did a great job and I only had to do it for three nights over about a week. After one long night, Kathie, my bride of 44 years, said I looked really, really old . Best to you all, and Beat Army!

        The very busy Rich Pace sent this interesting report about his alumni activities, including both his service as an Alumni Association officer and a chance meeting with a classmate while on a vacation cruise.
     I recently stepped down as president of the Los Angeles chapter of the USNA Alumni Association after four years at the helm in order to take the position of chapter trustee with the national Association. I attended my first trustees meeting in May of this year, and was very impressed with the quality of the people on the Board. The week before, I attended our 45th class reunion, and enjoyed the experience immensely. To those classmates who have been reluctant to attend such functions, I strongly encourage you to reconsider; the opportunities to reconnect with USNA friends are diminishing with the years, and the rewards of doing so are great.
Outgoing president Pace hands the gavel to new Los Angeles chapter president Steve Shatynski '83

In early June of this year, my wife May and I took a 12-day cruise around the British Isles which began and ended in Southampton in southern England. Like some of our recent trips, this was a "heritage cruise", as its itinerary included ports in Ireland and Wales, the birthplaces of my maternal and paternal grandparents, respectively. As the ship pulled out of Southampton on its way to its first port-of-call in the Guernsey Isles, a pleasant fellow about my age approached me and asked "do I know you?" It turned out that he did. Ken Metviner '63 had been the team manager when I played plebe football, and had also been in the sixth Battalion second and first class year, the same as me. As May and I were traveling alone, this turned out to be a delightful chance meeting. Ken and his wife Sandy joined us several times for dinner during the cruise, and we all enjoyed trading stories about our days at the Academy and on active duty.
USNA '63 couples at Stonehenge

The trip itself allowed May and me to visit a number of sites which we had only read about, including a nearly intact Welsh castle, the Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland, Loch Ness (sadly, no monster appeared that day) and Blarney Castle, where we both kissed the Blarney Stone (thus acquiring the gift of eloquence, or so they say). During a stop at Dover in southeastern England, we and the Metviners visited Canterbury Cathedral, and on the final day of the trip the four of us toured the Stonehenge archaeological site in south-central England. This "we were there" photo of the Class of 1963's "Stonehenge four" shows, left to right, myself, May, and Ken and Sandy Metviner. All in all, it was a great trip made better by an enjoyable reunion with a classmate, and another example of the truth of the words from Navy Blue and Gold "whenever two or three shall meet and old tales be retold...."

        Note that the photo shows May Pace wearing a "63 CAE" button, which refers to the Class of 1963 Center for Academic Excellence, the object of our 50th Reunion legacy gift to the Academy. I suspected that Ken was her source, so I asked him, and received this response:
     I always wear mine, so when people ask me what CAE 63 stands for, I have a chance to spread the word. All four of us wore our buttons to the Captain's Dinner and attracted a lot of attention from our fellow passengers, all of whom are now aware of our great Legacy Project.

        Have you submitted your information for the current biography section of our web site? Current entries for more than 300 of us are already there. To pay a visit and sample a few biographies, go to and click on ; Wardroom - Classmates - Current Biographies . To add or update your own info, just e-mail your text, and photos if you wish, to our hard-working Webmaster at . Both Jim Eckland and Pete Deutermann have recently updated their interesting and colorful entries.
Jim Eckland

Pete Deutermann

        So ends another full report of news from our classmates. Thanks to all who contributed this month. If you are not among them, you need to repay your "info debt" by sending your news to me to be shared in an upcoming Shipmate. Thanks!

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   October 2008 
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