Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Remembering my friend, mentor and lunch partner

Back in 1981, the Chief of Naval Personnel, Vice Admiral Lando W. Zech Jr. made a very wise detailing decision.  He sent CWO3 Wallace Louis Exum to teach celestial navigation at Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island.  I was one of hundreds of his students.  Both men influenced my Navy career greatly.  VADM Zech signed off on my first set of orders in June of 1982, sending me to Atsugi, Japan to fly with Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron ONE.  Thirty years later, both men were still in touch with me and we developed into great friends.

Sadly, Vice Admiral Zech passed away two years ago this month and is no longer with us, except in spirit.  The last time I saw him, he was in good spirits.  He was ill and weakened from his lengthy hospital stay - but his spirits were high. We talked a little bit about the USNA honoring him and a few of the other guys recently for being Captains of their varsity baseball teams over the years.  He was very proud of his years at the United States Naval Academy.

Besides being an athlete, he was very much an old school submariner and later a surface warfare officer. My goodness, how he loved the Navy and his family.  After his retirement from the Navy, he was Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  He leaves behind a wonderful widow - Jo, 5 beautiful daughters and many grand children.  And a very sad Shipmate who still grieves deeply and tries to keep his memory alive in all ways that he can.  Farewell Admiral Zech.  Those who knew you - loved and respected you greatly.  Those who didn't - missed out on a great experience.  I said my good-byes at Arlington National Cemetery but they were in no way - final good-byes.  You will remain fresh in my memory.


My Kids' Mom said...

Great to see and read about Lando! Thanks for sharing.
KInd regards from Sweden

Anonymous said...

Every time you mention Admiral Zech, I am reminded that his signature appears on the Naval Aircrewman certificate that was presented with my NAC wings in 1980. In looking at his bio, it's humbling to be peripherally connected with somebody whose included WWII service in the Pacific AND command of FOUR submarines as the submarine force entered the nuclear age.

I have several boxes of naval correspondence waiting for a major organizational project. That certificate is one of the few that is a "must keep" (along with the late 1970s enlisted evaluations forms that include my favorite evaluation category ever: "misfit"). I have a current USN Captain co-worker who finds this amazing.

On a lighter note, Lando W. Zech remains as one the principle examples that officers with really cool names advance faster and farther than those of us with more pedestrian appelations. Seriously...one of the single coolest names EVER.