Remembering my friend, mentor and lunch partner

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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 at OCS.  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 (VQ-1).  Thirty years later, both men were still in touch with me and we developed into great friends.

Sadly, Vice Admiral Zech passed away eight 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 nuclear 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 left 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.
His obituary:
ZECH LANDO W. ZECH. JR Vice Admiral, U.S. Navy (Ret.) Former NRC Chairman Lando W. Zech, Jr., age 87, a retired Navy Vice Admiral who later served as Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission died on Sunday, January 9, 2011. Admiral Zech, a resident of Falls Church, VA was born in Astoria, Oregon and spent his youth in Seattle, Washington, where he attended Roosevelt and Lakeside high schools. He was appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1941. At Annapolis, he played varsity baseball and basketball. In his senior year, he captained the baseball team. Admiral Zech served 39 years in the Navy after his graduation from the Naval Academy in 1944 with the World War II Class of 1945. His first assignment was to the destroyer USS JOHN D. HENLEY (DD 553) in the western Pacific where he participated in the second battle for the Philippines, the Iwo Jima and Okinawa campaigns and on picket station duty off the coast of Japan during the last days of the war. After the war and a second destroyer tour on the USS HENRY W. TUCKER (DD 875), Admiral Zech volunteered for submarine duty and subsequently commanded four submarines, USS SEA ROBIN (SS 407), USS ALBACORE (AGSS 569), and after nuclear power training, USS NAUTILUS (SSN 571) and USS JOHN ADAMS (SSBN 620). He later commanded the guided missile cruiser USS SPRINGFIELD (CLG 7). Upon his selection to flag rank, he served as Commandant of the Thirteenth Naval District in Seattle, WA, the Chief of Naval Technical Training in Memphis, TN and as Commander, U.S. Naval Forces, Japan in Yokosuka. After his selection to Vice Admiral he served as Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Manpower, Personnel and Training and Chief of Naval Personnel in Washington, D.C. He retired from the Navy in 1983. Admiral Zech graduated from the Armed Forces Staff College, the National War College and received a Masters Degree in International Affairs from George Washington University. In addition to campaign and foreign service medals he was awarded two Distinguished Service Medals, two Legions of Merit and the Navy Commendation Medal. On retiring from the Navy he was appointed a Commissioner and later Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission by President Ronald Reagan. During this 5 year appointment he visited all 110 nuclear powered plants in the United States and many plants overseas including Chernobyl after the accident in the then Soviet Union. After retiring from the NRC, he served on the Board of Directors of the Commonwealth Edison Company (now Exelon) for another 5 years and later as a Nuclear Safety consultant. Admiral Zech had been a resident of Falls Church since 1983. He was a parishioner of the Cathedral of Saint Thomas More in Arlington, VA, a supporter of the U.S. Naval Academy, the Archdiocese for the Military Services, U.S.A., the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton and a member of the Army Navy Country Club. He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Josephine K. Zech; five daughters: Janet Z. Cocke (James) of Richmond, VA, Joanne Z. Lyons (Coleman) of Atlanta, GA, Nancy Z. Cunnane (Robert) of Coto de Caza, CA, Carol M. Zech of Arlington, VA and Patricia Z. Nelson (Kirk) of Sammamish, WA.; his 12 grandchildren and three great grandchildren. Also surviving are his brothers, Dr. Robert J. Zech and Dr. Jerome M. Zech, both of Seattle. He was preceded in death by his brother John R. Zech. 

5 thoughts on “Remembering my friend, mentor and lunch partner

  1. 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.

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  2. I was fortunate enough to have called Lando Zech and Joe Zech . . . Uncle Lando and Aunt Joe. My father was a fellow graduate and submariner. He actually introduced Uncle Lando to Aunt Joe. Our parents were life long friends and our families of 8 daughters melded as one. Knowing Uncle Lando was a an honor. He was a wonderful human being, father, husband and Uncle. Thank you for your post.Patricia DwyerDaughter of Edward C. WhiteClass of 1945An amazing group of graduates

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  3. Mike:Until you started blogging about him, Lando W. Zech was known to me only as the rather unique name and signature on the bottom of my Naval Aircrew certificate. As a young sailor, I once held a theory that carrying such a name aided an ascent to the flag deck at least as much as a USNA education.Thanks for bringing to life the person who would have been otherwise known to me only as the signature at the bottom of a piece of correspondence. When we look at such documents, it's always a good idea to reflect on the people that are reflected in them.Dean in MD

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  4. Sounds like a very good man. I met Exum when I was in Newport at NSI back in 81 which is where I bought his book on sale in the basement PX underneath Nimitz Hall, OCS. Interesting generation of men in the Navy I joined so long ago.

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