PORTSMOUTH HERALD, April 12, 2014 2:00 AM
Thank you to
citizens of Kittery, from a member of the USS Thresher family
April 10 — To the Editor:
As I approached the Kittery traffic
circle the other day, the first thing that caught my eye was the large American
flag snapping smartly in a stiff breeze. The flag was illuminated by the
morning sun from behind and it gave the flag an ethereal and translucent
appearance. "Beautiful," I thought.
Upon reaching the traffic circle, I was
immediately struck by the solemn yet graceful granite markers engraved in large
dark letters that read "USS Thresher." Respectful and stark at the
same moment, it caused me to take a deep breath.
After exiting the traffic circle, I
looked over my shoulder toward Kittery Town Hall and saw the beautiful
stonework with a replica of the USS Thresher on it at the Memorial Park. I
thought to myself, "Wow, they actually pulled it off, our very own
After the loss of the Thresher, my
family stayed in the Seacoast and that is where I grew up. Every year, April 10
is a day of somber remembrance for those who were lost aboard USS Thresher.
This date has a particular impact on the families who lost a loved one, for the
Portsmouth Naval Shipyard workers and for the U.S. Navy submarine veterans.
As a young boy, then a teenager,
eventually a young man, and now as an adult, there was never a monument where
we could go to on April 10 to place flowers and acknowledge their sacrifice.
Now we have such a place.
I would like to thank the members of
the USS Thresher Memorial Committee for their dogged determination, skilled
diplomacy and resiliency in the face of adversity. Your steadfastness brought
this respectful and fitting tribute to life and is a great honor to those who
were lost aboard USS Thresher. I would also like to express my sincere
gratitude to all those who donated their time or their money to bring this to
fruition. It was through private fund-raising that the monies were derived for
this memorial site.
How fitting that this memorial is in
Kittery. For it was in Kittery that the plans for Thresher were first laid
down. It was in Kittery the Thresher was built. It was in Kittery that she was
launched and commissioned and, finally, it was from the dockside in Kittery
that the USS Thresher cast off her mooring lines for the last time and headed
to sea on what would be her final journey.
On behalf of the family members of the
USS Thresher, I say a heartfelt thank you to the citizens of Kittery for
allowing this memorial tribute to grace your town.
Editor's note: The writer is the son of
United States Navy Chief Petty officer Walter "Jack" Noonis, who died
while serving on USS Thresher on April 10, 1963.
"This is a wonderful tribute, and this Navy man and former Commander-in-Chief salutes you and your fellow Group Members for your commitment to ensure that those who served and those who gave their all are never forgotten. ....with my gratitude to you and my respectful best wishes."
President George H. W. Bush
“To the thoughtful and generous donor of the Capt. Ian Frew
Memorial Silver Anchor Paver,
Our Family and I wish to express our deep gratitude for the
Silver Anchor Memorial Paver in honor of my husband and their father and
It was when we were headed off to Nuclear Power School that
the tragic loss of the Thresher occurred.
It was like a baptism by fire and made Ian even more dedicated to his
future role in the submarine community.
Our bonding with her crew and their families was formed at that
time. Over the years, we found
innumerable occasions that being a part of such a distinguished community
filled us with great pride.
The latest was, perhaps, the most unexpected. When the Russian submarine, K-141 Tursk, was
in distress, Ian and so many of his shipmates had emails flying back and forth
with expressions of concern and offers to help in any way possible. The brotherhood of the deep sea warriors knew
no boundaries with respect to country or political ideologies in those dread
moments. They were there for the Kursk
crew and were suffering the very same grief as if it were our very own
countrymen in peril. The community of submariners is like no other, and may it
be ever thus.
It is with awed gratitude
that we will see Ian’s paver there amongst his admired comrades. This honor is priceless! Many thanks for your generosity and you act
of comfort.” Lyn Frew
“Fifty years ago
today my wife and I were spending the night at John Norris's
house with his wife. Celia. I was a member of the pre-commissioning crew and
had transferred to the GW when the Thresher went into drydock. Believe that I
made every trip except for the last. We were with Celia when we got the news that
communication had been lost. Spent the day listening/hoping for news. Yes 50
years is a long time but some memories are vivid.” Joseph Robert
"I still have my card, which I received going the the first sea trial of the Thresher with Captain Dean Axene. I don't believe there are many of us left who went down to test depth on the ship ."
W. Scott Leighton, Jr., Elec Engr CSO, Retired
"Sheri and I were high school students at Traip Academy and Saint Thomas Aquinas in 1963 and vividly remember the shock and sadness of the sinking. [Sheri's] father - Norman L. Cavanaugh - worked at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard as a marine mechanic when the Thresher was lost. The loss of Norm's coworker - Paul A. Guerette - deeply affected Norm for the rest of his life." James W. Clark
"The members of the National Association of
Superintendents of U.S. Naval Shore Establishments (NAS NSE), Portsmouth
Chapter, are proud to let you know that we voted to donate $5,000.00 to the
Thresher Permanent Memorial for the flagpole in the Kittery circle.
The NAS NSE (originally called Master Mechanics
and Foremen Association) was established on April 19, 1912. The 47th annual convention was held on April
22 & 23, 1963 in Washington D.C., attended by almost 40 delegates
representing 21 chapters from around the country.
Here is an excerpt from the convention
Delegate Mr. Spinney: …. We all feel very deeply for the THRESHER. I would like to suggest at this time that this
organization have a silent moment of prayer on behalf of the Foremen and
President Himmelfarb: In
accordance with the suggestion, I will ask each member to rise and let us have
a moment of silent prayer.
convention stood in silent prayer.]”
The National Association of Superintendents is
dedicated to ensuring that the Shipyard community never forgets the USS
THRESHER, the men who are still on patrol, nor the lessons learned from their
Trevor Thayer, President - NAS NSE, Portsmouth Chapter
"I was one of the Thresher's design engineers. I engineered her torpedo room & went to sea on her 3 times for trials. I knew many of her crew & shipyarders lost. Have stayed in touch with many surviving relatives. This memorial is a fine tribute to all." Russ Van Billiard
"My father, Billy Max Klier was on the THRESHER. I'm so glad to hear of
the memorial to be constructed. I will be donating towards memorial. I look
forward to seeing the memorial in April when I attend the 50th service. I was
born at the Portsmouth Naval Hospital and my family was honored to throw the
wreath in the river on the 47th service. Thanks to all involved in memorial, it
is long overdue and can't wait to see it." Bill Klier
"The Pipefitters from Shop 56...willingly donate...in memory of Mr. Henry C. (Hank) Moreau who perished alongside the other 128 men aboard the Thresher that fateful day in 1963. Mr. Moreau was a fellow Shop 56 pipefitter and we would like to honor his memory by donating to this wonderful project. ....we would like to honor Mr. Moreau in this special way because he is an inspiration to all pipefitters from Shop 56. Thank you." PNS Pipefitters
"I remember this tragedy well...my 16th birthday. Growing up in Newmarket, our family had close ties to the Shipyard. My dad was a sub sailor who met my mom, a shipyard employee, during WWII. My Eighth grade teacher, Richard Fisher, went down on the Thresher as a civilian inspector." Michael Anderson, DDS
"Today is my 87th birthday which represents my contribution. I worked at the Shipyard during the war and have fond memories there." Lorayne Dodge
"In loving memory of Ben Bragdon who had the sad job of informing the families of this disaster." Isabel
"Thurston was in sub school when Thresher went down. he stayed, but many left." Linda Powell
I remember you.
The smell of submarine on your shirt.
Deep love never dies ----
For America's Thresher on eternal alert!
"I lost my loved one on April 10th, 1963 and it changed my life forever". SCJ
"We all have
a hand full of vivid memories that we carry with us throughout our lives. One
of mine is when I first heard of the loss of THRESHER.
I began my
career at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in 1959. Today I can still see the
television image with just the words “NEWS BULLETIN” when I first heard that
THRESHER was “missing while on sea trials off the New England coast.”
Television was much less dramatic in those days. The next day a high school
friend of mine called and asked if I would come to her house. She had been
dating a THRESHER sailor and wanted to know his chances of survival. I had a
difficult time telling her there was no hope. As names of those on board
THRESHER were released, I recognized several of the shipyard employees. This
event had a profound impact and stayed with me throughout my career. It
influenced what I viewed as important as we all designed, built and maintained
the submarine fleet. The SUBSAFE Program is the vehicle that provides focus on
submarine safety. However, it is the people that work day after day within the
Program that make the real difference.
years later, as those of us with vivid memories of the loss of THRESHER fade
into the background, we look for others to carry forward the lessons learned
from THRESHER so that the remarkable safety record of the United States Navy
submarine program is maintained. I hope you are one of those." Bob Schultz, 2003
"Walter retired from Portsmouth Naval Shipyard after 30 years there....I was a tour guide on the Albacore & also worked many years with a Thresher widow at Strawbery Banke Museum." Nancy Pempey
"I was teaching second grade at Sherburne School in Portsmouth when Thresher was lost. One of my students, Lori Arsenault lost her father that day - a very sad time." Myrt Moore
"When the news of the loss of USS Thresher reached USS Barbero (SSG317), we were transiting the South China Sea on the surface, returning from port calls in Hong Kong and Okinawa after a 60-day strategic deterrent patrol in the far North Pacific. With only two diesels, we were a "Slow Boat from China". We dived to test depth to prove our watertight integrity and to observe a moment of silence for our lost undersea warriors." D. Brown
"Best wishes to you with this endeavor!" Peggy Weston Tipton
"I worked on the Thresher as a Shop Planner during its initial construction at the PNS. Good luck with the Project." Jim
".... Father-in-law, Arnold Wyndham, shipyard worker, due to sea trial with the Thresher, who was called off at the last minute for another project." Doc Clayton
"I remember being just a little girl growing in in this area and hearing about this tragic loss. It is still with me. Best of luck on this deserving and long overdue memorial." Anon
“My father was Samuel J Dabruzzi, ETN2 …..
lost on the USS Thresher. I just know the flagpole means so much to
all of us ….. Time is so precious …... One of those who perished on the
USS Thresher has no children living anymore. They have all passed away
due to various illnesses. The last one was just buried last week after a
9 year battle with cancer. She left behind 4 children. They are all that
remains of their grandfather, Charles Wiggins FTG1 USS Thresher.” Vivian Dabruzzi Lindstrom