Norman G. Mosher

Norman G. Mosher

IRVINGTON—Norman G. “Norm” Mosher of Irvington passed away peacefully February 7, 2023, surrounded by family, after a three-and-a-half-year battle with lung cancer. He was 87.

Born in Glens Falls, New York, the only child of Irma Orcutt and Wesson G. Mosher, Norm moved with his family to Massachusetts. He completed high school in Marblehead, on the northern waters of Massachusetts Bay. He graduated from Boston University in 1957 with a degree in American literature and the following year completed the U.S. Navy Officer Candidate School. He learned to sail and, drawn to their classic lines, soon soloed on his own Cape Dory sailboats.

Assigned to USS POWER (DD 839), Norm rose to weapons officer before being transferred to the Navy ROTC Unit at Purdue University to teach naval weapons. While there, he engaged in graduate work on counterinsurgencies with a focus on the French experience in Viet Nam. Concerned about the U.S.’s growing involvement, he asked to be assigned to duty there. In August 1964, he reported to the Naval Advisory Group in Viet Nam nine months before the first American combat troops would arrive.

Norm advised a paramilitary force of sailors who patrolled the mouth of the Mekong and other coastal rivers in 42-foot motorized wooden junks to cut off the movement of men and supplies to the Viet Cong. There were no rules, no guidance except “get them to sea and to work.” Living alone and making things up as necessary to get the job done, Norm left a year later as a lieutenant, with 20 officers and more than 20 senior enlisted men working for him.

In 1965, Norm reported to the Pentagon, where, under Secretary of the Navy Paul Nitze, he set up further operations for riverine and coastal patrols. After sea duty on the USS CONYGHAM (DDG 17), Norm, by then a lieutenant commander, moved his family to the West Coast and flew out to Subic Bay in the Philippines to take command of USS FIRM (MSO 444). Norm was again patrolling the coast of Viet Nam. His ship rode out two typhoons, among other adventures, and ultimately received the Navy Unit Commendation.

Returning stateside, Norm entered The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Armed with masters’ in both international relations and law and diplomacy, Norm was able to complete the course work and oral examinations for a Ph.D. before being returned to sea as a commander, at the helm of the USS CHARLES F ADAMS (DDG 2). Once again ordered to the Pentagon, Norm helped the Navy develop alternative budget-constrained force structures, critical work that earned him a promotion to captain and selection as a naval aide and executive assistant to two under secretaries of the Navy. Later, acting as the anti-submarine warfare commander for an aircraft carrier battle group, he deployed on the USS CORAL SEA (CV 43). In the Indian Ocean, he cross-decked to the USS CARL VINSON (CVN 70) and was given command of that battle group for a Pacific crossing. During his career in the Navy, Norm’s personal awards include the Legion of Merit with Combat “V” and Gold Star, the Bronze Star with Combat “V,” and the Air Medal.

Back in Washington in 1983, Norm found himself adrift on one issue. He had met Jan, a widow and sailor whose first husband had also been building a career as a naval officer. There was no more guidance for this than there had been on his first deployment in Viet Nam. Norm studied the field conditions and finally executed his plan. “If you don’t agree to marry me,” he told Jan, “I’m going to pitch a tent in your backyard.” They married in 1983.

That year, Norm also retired from the Navy, later joining the staff of the United States Senate Committee on Armed Services before starting his own consulting company specializing in shipbuilding, propulsion and ocean science. After six years, he and Jan moved from Washington, D.C., to Irvington, near the mouth of the Rappahannock River, where he served on the town council for six years and as chairman of the Lancaster County Democratic Committee.

In the last couple years of his life, Norm sailed in the river on the Ericson 25 that he bought and fixed up with his daughter, Sam, whom he had taught to sail when she was 12 and had since experienced many sailing adventures together.

Fulfilling a long-held dream, in 1996 Norm and Jan sailed their 42-foot center-cockpit ketch, Magic, to the Caribbean. They lived aboard Magic for nearly two years, cruising the Virgin Islands, swimming, diving and soaking in the sounds of steel drums. After the sale of Magic, Norm designed and had built a 50-foot power catamaran, Crosswater, which successfully completed a West Marine Trawler Trek to Bermuda, finishing almost 24 hours ahead of the second finisher.

Norm is survived by his beloved wife of 39 years, Janet Van Saun Mosher; his children Michael (Helen) Mosher, Jonathan (Elizabeth) Mosher, Andrew Mosher, Roderick (Katherine) Van Saun, and Samantha Van Saun; seven grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by his daughter, Elizabeth June (Brett) Van Saun Snyder; and his first wife, Susan Davis.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, March 11, in the Chesapeake Center at Rappahannock Westminster-Canterbury, with a standing reception following. In lieu of flowers, donations in Norm’s honor may be given to the ALS Therapy Development Institute at ALS.NET. Captain Mosher will be returned to the sea by the United States Navy.

“We are tied to the ocean,” said President John F. Kennedy in 1962. “And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch it, we are going back from whence we came.”