Wednesday, February 28, 2024
61.4 F


by Henry Lane Hull

In 1989 a young couple, seven years after their graduation from the United States Naval Academy, purchased a farm in the southern reaches of Northumberland County, not far form Kilmarnock. Their names are Cathy Calhoun and Paul Grosklags. Cathy is a native Texan and Paul hales from central Illinois. They began at once to transform the farm into a productive enterprise by establishing a fish farm, growing and marketing tilapia across a wide region, as well as restoring the Victorian home and building beautiful gardens surrounding it.

Cathy left the Navy after fulfilling her commitment and has served as a consultant in many quarters across the nation and the world. Paul remained on active duty until last Thursday, when he ceremoniously retired as a vice admiral, his last command being the Naval Air Systems Command headquartered at the Patuxent Naval Air Station in southern Maryland. My Good Wife, along with a number of others from the Northern Neck, traveled over to Saint Mary’s County to join in participating in the occasion.

The Navy put forth its full force in sending Paul into the well-merited retirement he has earned after 40 years of service, four as a midshipman and 36 as an officer. The event teemed with several hundred guests present, opening and closing and punctuated along the way by the playing of the Naval Academy Band.

As the band played the national anthem, I thought that slightly over two centuries ago the British fleet passed by the site on its way to and coming from the harbor in Baltimore where Francis Scott Key’s witnessing the raging battle led to his writing “The Star-Spangled Banner” on September 14, 1814.

As Paul’s ceremony drew to a close the Blue Angels, the Navy’s fight demonstration team, performed a number of spectacular maneuvers overhead. Their participation was particularly appropriate given Paul’s career in Naval Aviation, during which he has logged more than 5,000 hours of flight time in an extensive variety of aircraft. I had seen the Blue Angels on film and television, but having the opportunity to see their performance in person was unforgettable.

In his remarks Paul noted that as a midwestern high school student his first choice had been to attend the U. S. Coast Guard Academy, to which I might add the corollary that the Navy’s good fortune came in his decision to go to Annapolis. There he met Cathy, one of the early female midshipmen, which led to their marriage and ultimate passage to the Northern Neck.

Several years ago Cathy and Paul, who says he has retired to work on his wife’s farm, purchased Ditchley, the ancestral home of Kendall Lee, in Ball’s Neck, better known perhaps as the Virginia residence of Alfred I. duPont and his third wife, Jessie Dew Ball duPont, herself a native of Ball’s Neck. The duPonts restored the 18th-century mansion in the Colonial Revival manner and used the home until his death in 1935 and her death in 1970, often traveling here on their yacht, the Nenemoosha.

With Mrs. duPont’s death, the estate passed to a special trust she set up to care for its maintenance and use by a group of designated beneficiaries. After the trust’s decision to sell the home to Cathy and Paul, they began the process of planning its further restoration and developing the large tract of land as an apple cidery, planting hundreds of apple trees and importing geese to keep the fields down and eat as many bugs as possible.

In the past week Paul has gone from being an admiral in command of 27,000 officers, enlisted and civilian naval personnel to his new role working on the farm. As he enters this new career phase, he deserves the admiration and profound gratitude of all Americans for having heeded his country’s call to service and executing it brilliantly and selflessly these many years. He is a model for all Americans, not merely those in the armed service, to follow.

Congratulations, Paul! May the new chapter be as rewarding as the one now concluded. “Ad multos annos!”


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