Shipmate Column
October 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.

        Since my last report we have learned of the deaths of three members of the Class of 1963.

Charles N. Calvano passed away on 30 June. Chuck's widow, Kathi, can be contacted at 3008 Reliant Street, Ft. Collins, CO 80524.

James E. Leeper died on 30 June. Speed's widow, Janet, can be contacted at 50 Shore Boulevard, Keansburg, NJ 07734.

Jack G. Dranttel passed away on 19 July. His widow, Mary Jo, can be contacted at 5203 Willow Links, Sarasota, FL 34235.

Please visit the Last Call section of our web site to see their obituaries and other information about their lives. Also, view their Midshipman profiles in the virtual Lucky Bag in the Classmates section. Chuck and Speed, who died on the same day, were in the 10th, and later the 8th, Companies together.

        "Sir, the Class of 2025 is formed!" Candidates for the class arrived at the Naval Academy in late June. Our classmate and former faculty member Eli Dabich tells us why this Induction Day was a major event for his family.
     On June 30, almost 62 years to the day that our class was inducted into the Naval Academy, Eileen and I had the distinct pleasure of watching our grandson, Benjamin Dabich, take the oath and be inducted along with approximately 1,185 classmates.
     Eileen worked many Induction Days when she worked for the Naval Academy Alumni Association but this one was special since our grandson is a member of the class of 2025. She volunteered to work again on Induction Day and was able to check Ben in at the Alumni Association table. After the class swearing-in, I had the opportunity to do a private ceremonial swearing-in at Smoke Hall. It was a very proud day for both of us. In this picture (L-R) are six proud members of the Dabich family: me, Eileen, Samantha, Charles, Benjamin '25, and Marsha.
The Dabich family on I-day for the Class of 2025

     We have never seen the yard so crowded. Tents along Stribling Walk and in front of Mahan Hall and food trucks spread around the Yard. It was extremely hot that day so the opportunity to have food and water close by was helpful. With so many families in attendance, I'm left wondering who is really going to the Naval Academy - the parents or their child.
     When I was teaching plebe Chemistry, we would have a Dark Ages party in February at our house on the Eastern Shore. We would invite four or five midshipmen, classmates, family and friends who were in the military so they could meet the new plebes. We also used this party as a fund raiser for Wounded Warriors. Looks like we will have the opportunity to resurrect our Dark Ages Party.

        Thanks to Jim Ring for telling us about the observance of Doug Davidson's 80th birthday and for sending some pictures for you to see.
     Doug Davidson's family had his 80th birthday party for his family and friends on June 24th in Rehoboth Beach, DE, where he has owned a wonderful beach home for years. I was fortunate to join the celebration. It was nice to connect with Doug and Charlsie because I hadn't seen them for a couple of years.
     Doug's birthday present was the 1982 TR4 that he used to drive to work in the 80's. Here is a picture of Doug and Charlsie in front of a large picture of the TR4. They are well and now enjoy retirement full time in Spring Island, SC, the state both of them are from.
Doug and Charlsie Davidson

     Thanks to Doug's daughter, Lacey, I can share this photo of Doug's nautically-themed birthday cake.

        John Peterson, who was photography editor of The Log magazine at USNA, has sent to me a number of old photoprints from our midshipman days. I will scan some of them for use in future Shipmate columns. John also told me about the fabulous employment he had for several years until the pandemic intervened.
     For the past seven years Jeannie and I have had an incredible job as onboard representatives for associations of cruise travel consultants, Distinctive Voyages and Virtuoso. That, of course, came to an abrupt halt with the well-publicized disaster of the virus infections but not before we had logged fifteen cruises ranging from ten to eighty days with groups up to 170 people on the longer cruises. Bill and Jennifer Earner were on one cruise with us down the Brazilian coast.
     Prior to the cruising gig, we had a sailboat for eight years in Southern Turkey near Bodrum and cruised most of the Eastern Aegean from Kusadasi to Marmaris and the Greek islands in between . We had numerous friends and family joining, Sandy Stoddard, Bill Umphrey and Jim Oakes among them. We sold the boat just as the big ship cruising bit was starting up but, perhaps more importantly, before the diaspora of refugees started flowing westward and really impacting the whole cruising economy in that area.
John and Jeannie Peterson in London

     When not sailing or cruising, we have maintained our residence in Central California, Pebble Beach, where I have focused on a thirty plus year house remodel plan. Far from over, it keeps me active and is a testimonial to my dear wife's tolerance for drywall dust and tools scattered throughout the house. We moved here after spending a wonderful seven years in Northern Italy where I worked for NATO at a center focused on underwater research. I still do a lot of local hiking and backpack for a week every year (26 trips for me) with a small group of aging hikers in the Sierras, Sandy Stoddard, Dave Moore and Phil Marsden each joining up for a period. Life is good.
John Peterson celebrates his new flagpole, a former sailboat mast

        Watt Miles sent this good news note from Norfolk, VA.
     I was at the annual USNAAA Hampton Roads Chapter annual meeting and luncheon today, 30 June. The speaker was retired Adm. Mark Ferguson '78, who is the new Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Alumni Association. In his short oral presentation one of the points he singled out for praise was the '63 Center for Academic Excellence. He noted that "in the old days" help was Extra Instruction or a classmate who hardly knew more than you did. Now, the CAE is staffed with professionals and the graduation rate is over 90 percent, the highest it has ever been. He said the CAE had 50,000 midshipman visits this past year.
     The Fifth Company is having its quint-annual mini-reunion in Charleston 14-17 October. We plan to watch the Memphis game on TV in a sports bar and partake of finer culinary treats later in the festivities. A visit to Patriots Point Naval Museum is also on the agenda. Some alcohol may be consumed and some sea stories may be told. Fortunately, we are reaching the age when we can't remember from one reunion to the other what we have heard, so they are all ever-new. Our OAOs are very patient women.
     Bonus comment. Our 60th Reunion is coming up in two years. I always thought it would take longer to get to this point. During our plebe year the Class of 1899 was at their 60-year point.

        Ken Sanger writes from his home in northern Idaho to report time well spent with a classmate.
     Ray and Judy Kutch moved to Coeur d'Alene, ID, in October 2020. On July 18, they paid a visit to me and Dawn Leeds at The Idaho Club near Sandpoint, ID, where Dawn and I reside. We enjoyed a lengthy brunch on the deck of the clubhouse restaurant next to the Pack River. It was a beautiful day with the quiet regularly broken by the arrival of firefighting helos, as they swooped in to scoop water from nearby Lake Pend Oreille. The fires were a few miles east and not threatening to us.
     North Idaho now is home to three members of '63: Ray, Pete Optekar, and me. Dawn and I have abandoned part-time in California to reside permanently in Idaho, though there will be an occasional escape from bad weather to Saint George, Utah.
Sandpoint, Idaho: Ray and Judy Kutch, Ken Sanger, and Dawn Leeds

Ray and Ken

        Checking in from San Diego, Phillip Marsden reports on the resumption of a tradition for our classmates there.
     There was a good turnout of local '63 classmates at the resumption of our concert in the park gatherings on a warm and beautiful Coronado day. We really enjoyed the opportunity to see and catch up with each other in person after two long years. This picture shows the attendees. Standing are Lee and Sue Cargill, Ted Krohne, Jim Oakes, Kay Krohne, Gail and Vern Von Sydow, Martha and Phillip Marsden, and Ron Wills. Seated in front are Karl and Marirose Kozak, Jim Oakes' friend Suzanne Fuqua, and Dee Wills. Unfortunately Dave Meyers arrived too late to be in the photo! A second gathering is planned for 15 August when we hope to see more of you. Come join us!
'63 gathering in the Coronado park

        That's a wrap for this month. Take a few minutes soon to send me an email about your recent activities; a photo or two will be most welcome. We need your participation to keep this news exchange full and lively. Thanks!

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