IRVINGTON—Retired U.S. Navy Captain Richard Graffy, 97, of Irvington died in Kilmarnock May 9, 2018.
He was born January 22, 1921, in Chicago, Ill., the son of Joseph Graffy and Mary Margaret von den Driesch. He was the beloved and loving husband of Barbara M. Touchette, also of Irvington. He also is survived by his daughter, son and two grandchildren.
Captain Graffy began his naval career in 1943 as a Navy Ensign dive-bomber pilot in the South Pacific during World War II. He later transitioned to carrier based fighter aircraft and deployed with squadrons aboard USS Roosevelt (CVB 42) and USS Midway (CVB 41). He was a “plankowner” (original crew) of USS Forrestal (CV 59), the world’s first aircraft carrier designed and built specifically to operate with jet aircraft. He later commanded an anti-submarine aircraft squadron deployed with the carrier USS Randolph (CV 15).
During the Cuban Missile Crisis he served as navigator aboard the same ship enforcing the quarantine of Cuba ordered by President Kennedy and also served there as operations officer. During the Vietnam war he was captain of Navy ammunition supply ship USS Shasta (AE 33), and also aircraft carrier USS Bennington (CV 20) in the Tonkin Gulf.
While there, his ship hosted the annual Bob Hope Christmas Show with Phyllis Diller and later served as host for several days to the well-known actor Henry Fonda of “Mister Roberts” fame who countered the adverse publicity generated by his daughter, Jane Fonda, and her relationship with Hanoi, North Vietnam.
On completion of assigned duty in Tonkin Gulf, his ship proceeded to Sydney, Australia, to serve as the U.S. Navy flagship for the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the World War II Battle of Coral Sea, an Australian national holiday. After unloading an air group in San Diego, Calif., his ship had orders to Pearl Harbor for Middle Pacific operations in preparation for duty as primary recovery ship for the Apollo 4/Saturn 5 mission. After conducting trial pickups with a NASA mock-up spacecraft, the ship, with NASA scientists and technicians aboard, completed a successful open sea recovery of Apollo 4, then offloaded the spacecraft in Pearl Harbor.
Noted in Captain Graffy’s November 24, 1967, report of fitness, “His thorough understanding of and confidence in his recovery group’s capabilities in the face of forecast unsuitable weather were major factors in the decision to continue the Apollo 4 mission as planned and contributed in a major degree to the successful accomplishment of all NASA’s objectives for the mission.”
During his career he worked in multiple assignments with Navy headquarters in the Washington, D.C., area, including the Bureau of Aeronautics, Bureau of Naval Weapons and Office of the Navy Comptroller.
Captain Graffy received a bachelor’s from Chicago Teachers College, now Chicago State University, and after the war earned a master’s (1947) in aeronautical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Lt. Graffy, USN, joined with four lieutenant commanders in completing a thesis, “The Effect of Residual Gas Concentration and Engine Speed on the Detonation Characteristics of Iso-Octane, Triptane, Di-Iso-Butylene and Ethyl Benzene.”
As a “senior officer” (a commander & captain program) in 1960, he completed a master’s in international relations at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I. His thesis, “The Threat of Communist China to Southeast Asia and its Influence on U.S. Naval Strategy,” was well received.
His earlier education included St. Carthage School (age 6-11, won a scholarship), and De La Salle Institute (age 11 to 17, won a four-year scholarship to college), this being where he learned to play the clarinet. He then added the saxophone when he joined a dance band in college, all in the Chicago area. He had a deep love of music, mostly enjoying concert, symphony, classic and adding opera in his later years.
Following his retirement from the Navy, he organized a homebuilding group in California. Later he moved to the Northern Neck where he continued these activities. In addition he volunteer tutored mathematics at the Lancaster Middle School for 10 years.
He was an enthusiastic sailboat sailor and a commodore of the Yankee Point Yacht Club in its early years. He enjoyed racing as well as cruising in the Atlantic and Caribbean. A long-time aspiration was realized in an adventure-filled extended voyage through the South China Sea in a 40-foot sailboat starting from Hong Kong and ending in Singapore with a number of en route ports-of-call in Macao, the Philippine Islands, Thailand and Malaysia.
Of particular joy was a seven-year long labor of love wherein Richard and Barbara built with their own labor, their beautiful home, Farnsworth East, by the Corrotoman River.
Captain Graffy’s wish to donate his body to the Virginia State Anatomical Program for the advancement of medical education and research has been honored. His cremated remains will be returned to the family.
A private memorial reception will be held for family and friends.
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