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Newsletter VP-24 Alumni Association Newsletter
(VB-104, VPB-104, VP-104, VP-HL-4, VA(HM)-13)

Fallen Shipmates

Memorial William Francis Surgi, Jr.

VP-24 recently lost one of its more famous, dedicated and colorful veterans.

World War II Navy veteran and Smithsonian Air and Space Museum volunteer William Francis Surgi, Jr., 79, who founded the Battle of the Coral Sea Association and helped Dr. Robert Ballard locate the sunken remains of the Yorktown, died 1 November 2003 at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda MD.

Bill was born on 7 February 1924 in New Orleans LA. He entered the Navy on his 17th birthday and served on aircraft carriers in the Atlantic and the Pacific, including the Yorktown, which was sunk at the Battle of Midway. After the war, he was attached to the RAF, serving as "Representative to His Majesty for the Morale of the Forces." He left the Navy after 11 years, spent 22 years at other work, then returned to the Navy for another 10 years, retiring as an Aviation Machinist Mate First Class on his 60th birthday in 1984.

Bill started the Battle of the Coral Sea Association, a group that included American, Australian, and Japanese veterans, as well as others interested in that historic battle. In 1993, he attended the reunion of the Japanese carrier Hiryu, which was sunk at the Battle of Midway. In 1998 he was the only Yorktown veteran to accompany Dr. Robert Ballard on the National Geographic expedition to locate the Yorktown. He was also invited to join the Japanese on Midway Island in August 2000 at a memorial service for their war dead.

At the groundbreaking for the World War II Memorial on the Mall in Washington DC in November 2000, he was one of two veterans representing the U.S. Navy and stood between President Bill Clinton and former Senator Bob Dole on that occasion. Bill was a member of the commission that selected the design and oversaw the erection of the Maryland World War II Memorial in Annapolis. He was also involved in the development of a memorial at Midway Airport in Chicago.

At the time of his death, Bill was serving as the only enlisted Trustee of the Association of Naval Aviation, and was training to serve as a docent at the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum, for which he had volunteered for many years in preparing the aircraft engine collection for display. He was an active member of the Disabled American Veterans, the American Legion, the Civil Air Patrol, the Naval Historical Foundation and the Southern Cross Club. In the City of Rockville and his neighborhood of Twinbrook, he was in charge of the annual block party on the Night Out Against Crime and was involved in various other community activities. He participated in the Rockville Memorial Day Parades every year, usually with his local DAV chapter, and usually riding in a vintage olive drab jeep wearing his WWII helmet and life preserver.

In addition to his military activities, Bill was an advocate for the treatment of the mentally challenged and a member of the Voice of the Retarded. He was the first recipient of the City of Rockville's F. Michael Taff Award honoring an individual or organization that has made a contribution to improving the lives of people with disabilities.

Survivors include his wife, Jean S. Surgi of Rockville; two sons from his first marriage, Rand Surgi (and his wife Kathy) of Portland, Maine, and Alan Surgi of Lompoc, California; his former wife, Betty Rand of Portland, Maine; two stepdaughters, Kathy Allison (and her husband Arthur) of Brinklow and Martha Moore of Silver Spring; two grandchildren, Erika Moore and Kayce Allison; three sisters, Marie Claire Logiudice of Ohio and Florida, and Adele Antoine and Lisette Surgi of Louisiana; and a host of other relatives and friends in this country, Australia, and Japan

"VP-24 (VB-104, VPB-104, VP-104, VP-HL-4, VA(HM)-13) Alumni Association"