Shipmate Column
September 2020

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 of this writing in late June, the pandemic continues to restrict and affect all of us in ways we could not have predicted. Most of us have found ways to stay active and to stay connected with family, friends, and business contacts. Thanks to classmates who have contacted me by phone and through the internet, I have several items of '63 news to share with you.

        To begin, I have the sad duty to report the loss of four members of the Class of 1963 family.

        Michael P. Cronin passed away on 17 June. A true hero among us, Mike was a Prisoner of War in North Vietnam for over six years. His courage and leadership in that situation were truly remarkable. I encourage you to view his obituary and other information about his life in the Last Call section of our web site by clicking HERE. Mike's widow, Jackie, can be contacted at 13121 Esworthy Road, North Potomac, MD 20878.

Return with Honor

Welcome home!

        We have just learned of the death of Randall R. Smith on 6 December 2016. I have no contact information for his family. Randy gained his classmates' admiration for his determination and perseverance that enabled him to graduate with us as the Anchorman of the Class of 1963.

Randy Smith, our Anchorman

        I am also sorry to report that two spouses of our classmates passed away this spring.

Frank Radik's wife, Pat, died on 5 June. Frank can be contacted at 42 Surrey Run Place, The Woodlands, TX 77384.

Tom Reemelin's widow, Fran, died on 6 June. He had predeceased her by only three months. Their daughter, Tyler Bruner, can be contacted at 876 Nancy Lynn Lane, Arnold, MD 21012.

        USS FITZGERALD (DDG-62), named to honor our gallant classmate Bill Fitzgerald, left the Ingalls Shipbuilding yard in Pascagoula, MS, on 13 June to transit to her home port of San Diego. The ship had been in the Ingalls yard for repairs since January 2018
        It is hard to believe that nearly 25 years have passed since FITZGERALD's commissioning in Newport, RI, on 14 October 1995. Remembering that grand weekend, I went to my files and found text and photos to help you recall the event. This is an excerpt from our December 1995 Shipmate column:
     Nearly 90 members of our class with their ladies and numerous family members and friends filled the reserved seating on the pier alongside FITZGERALD when the commissioning ceremonies began at 1100. Among the featured speakers was our classmate VADM David Robinson, Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, who was introduced as the epitome of the "Old Sea Dog." We're glad that FITZGERALD will be under his command as the first Arleigh Burke-class ship to join the Eager Beavers of Destroyer Squadron 23 - the squadron which served with such distinction during World War II under the command of "31-knot Burke" himself.
     When the ceremony ended, most of our classmates assembled by the bow for a group photo. In addition to the official photo, I took a snapshot panorama for Shipmate.

        The June issue of Shipmate includes a feature article about Ron Terwilliger and his philanthropy to the Naval Academy. As announced earlier, Ron's most recent giving will fund The Class of 1963 Center for Academic Excellence endowed by J. Ronald Terwilliger and Classmates at its current level of operations in perpetuity. Through his generous support of this and other elements at the Naval Academy Ron has become the largest individual donor in Academy history. I encourage you to read the article and learn more about Ron's remarkable dedication to the Naval Academy and the Brigade. Click HERE

        Bob Harper sent two photos from Hundredth Night 1963 with this note:
     These pictures of the 17th Company festivities are courtesy of Jim Beesley '66.
     As background, Jim had been "dining" at my table for four weeks after a '64 member told him to give me a come-around early to be sure to get me. I guess he was an original member of the "Go ugly early" set. In any event, Jim had been "treated" each meal with an appetizer of Olive Oil that kept his skin glistening (and kept him aware of the nearest head). Since 100th night for us came on a Monday, I dropped in to inspect their room Sunday evening. Jim was aware that all the condiments would be removed from the Mess Hall, so he had taken the initiative to be able to return the favor for me. He was indeed very generous too, for he had procured a whole quart of 100-percent virgin olive oil! Unfortunately, I had to point out to him that it was not on the authorized items list for a plebe room. I then generously gave him the option of consuming all of this beverage OR decanting the contents down the sink. He looked quite mournful but chose the latter option, thus diminishing some of his most cherished planned charity for me.
     The first picture is me with generously applied shoe polish. The other shows (L to R): Mike Obsitnik, Mike Smith, Jim McClure, Jerry Jordan, Max Ricketts, and Bart Waide plus an unidentified companymate cranking out 63 push-ups. Note the total lack of social distancing.
Bob Harper on Hundredth Night

17th Company Firsties receiving some pay-back

        Steve Coester submitted this news about three 18th Company couples.
     On June 15, Ollie Donelan set up an 18th Company mini-mini reunion at Dixie Crossroads in Titusville, FL. Tom and Ann O'Brien drove two and a half hours from the Jacksonville area and Steve and Yvonne Coester 30 minutes from their nearby home in Rockledge. Ollie and Sandy were vacationing in New Smyrna Beach with 21 of their kids, grandkids, and great grandchild also about 30 minutes away. Like all such gatherings it was great fun catching up and remembering our times way back when. This photo shows, from the left, Ann and Tom O'Brien, Ollie, Steve and Yvonne Coester, and Sandy Donelan.
18th Company couples in Florida

        Two classmates contacted me with recommendations to pass along to you about worthwhile internet content.

        Doug Tozour recommended a fine video showing a joint flight by the Blue Angels and three vintage F8F Bearcats, the aircraft flown by the Blues in the 1940s. The three piston engine planes in formation with two F-18's are quite a sight. You can see the HD video by clicking HERE.

Jim Koehn alerted me to the availability of a large number of digital images and textual content relating to the Naval Academy, the War of 1812, the Civil War, World War II, and other topics. These can be accessed in the Special Collections & Archives section of the Academy's Nimitz Library web site. I found this photo of a 1963 noon meal formation there. Note the Stribling Walk tennis courts and the math and laundry buildings in the background. To access the digital collections click HERE.

Noon meal formation in 1963

        Recently added to the Classmates section of our web site is a copy of the program of events for June Week 1963. I'm sure you will enjoy seeing it. Thanks to Alan Merkel for providing the digital copy. You can view the program by clicking HERE.

        I discovered that the July-August 2020 issue of The Library of Congress Magazine explores a number of topics relating to World War II. An especially interesting item is the after-action map prepared by the Japanese navy showing battle damage believed to have been inflicted in the Pearl Harbor attack on 7 December 1941. To view the entire magazine, click HERE.
Japanese battle damage map of Pearl Harbor

        The pandemic has forced the cancellation or indefinite postponement of Company-level mini reunions that had been slated for this year. In partial compensation, the 14th Company staged a successful virtual reunion via the Zoom platform in early June. I know of one other Company that's already planning its own event. This is a great idea, so why not hold a virtual reunion with your companymates? Be sure to tell me about it.
        That's all for now. Please keep in touch!

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