The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution announces with great sorrow the death February 6, 2001, of Valentine Patrick Wilson of North Falmouth at the Royal Nursing and Alzheimer’s Center in Falmouth. He was 76.
Valentine Patrick “Val” Wilson was born October 28, 1924, in Kenosha, Wisconsin. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy in August 1942 and participated in the European, African and Pacific campaigns. While in the Navy Val volunteered for the submarine service, working aboard a number of diesel-electric and nuclear-powered submarines for fourteen years beginning in 1950. He served on the commissioning detail of the USS George Washington SSBN 598, the first Polaris submarine, and was aboard the sub during the first successful launching of a Polaris missile from a submerged submarine.
During the war he also participated in many amphibious assaults, including the invasion at Normandy, receiving a number of military awards and commendations during his career. Prior to his retirement as a chief quartermaster in 1964, Val served as an instructor at the Submarine School in New London, CT, teaching all systems and components of conventional and nuclear submarines.
Val joined the staff at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in December 1964, working as a Research Assistant in the Deep Submergence Research Vessel Group under Earl Hays. Although originally hired to be the captain of the new submersible Alvin‘s support vessel, Research Vessel Lulu, Val soon became one of Alvin‘s first pilots and oversaw construction of Alvin at Electric Boat. In 1966 Val was promoted to Research Associate working with Bill Rainnie. That same year he participated in the search for and recovery of a U.S. hydrogen bomb lost off Palomares, Spain, in an airplane collision, work for which he received a Secretary of the Navy commendation for outstanding achievement.
Earl Hays noted in 1966 that Val “had a great deal to do with the catamaran planning and much of its success…. As a pilot, he is superb with a good understanding of the vehicle and its problems, navigation, and seamanship. He has taken a good deal of the management type responsibilities that enter into expeditions in which Alvin is involved, as well as being one of the lead men in the overhauls.”
In addition to his skills in operating Alvin and Lulu, Val was also recognized for his technical skills in other areas. He worked on numerous surface buoys and tripod systems for Brad Butman at the U.S. Geological Survey as part of the Survey’s sediment tripod program. Colleague Dave Hosom, who worked with Val on the project, noted that “Val’s proven ability for accomplishing difficult tasks within difficult schedules is a resource for maintaining WHOI as a leader in the field.”
A charter member of The Deep Submersible Pilots’ Association, Val served with many of Alvin‘s early pilots, working for Larry Shumaker and Jack Donnelly. Val retired in 1986 and continued working at the Institution off and on until 1992.
Val Wilson is survived by his wife, Shirley A. Wilson, of North Falmouth, MA; three daughters, Laurie Ann McNee, Holly Lynn Wilson, and Carrie Sue Griner; two sons, Steven Patrick Wilson and Thomas Scott Wilson; and nine grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, donations in Val Wilson’s memory may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association, P.O. Box 953, Barnstable, MA 02630.