CDR David Anthony Orriss, USN Ret

David Anthony Orriss

My father was born in May 12, 1938 in Great Shelford, Cambridgeshire, England to Clifford Walter Orriss and Eileen Mary Orriss (nee Brown). He had one sister who was a few years older than him, Angela. His Father, Clifford Walter (MBE), was in the Royal Air Force as a mechanic and served during World War II. Life was stressful for anyone living in England during that time, of course, and for my father that was certainly no exception. His sister, my Aunt Angela, told me that some of their earliest memories were of Nazi bombing raids over England.  The relationship between my father’s parents, was probably best described (in what few  bits I could learn from my Dad) as ‘strained’. It was during the war, and my grandmother’s estrangement from my grandfather, when she met a U.S. serviceman named Harley Schumacher. On his days off he would ride a bicycle from his duty post to where she lived to see her, 10 miles each way.  After the war, my grandmother, along with my father and my sister came to the United States on the RMS Queen Mary (yes the one you can see now in San Diego) and settled with Harley in Enumclaw, Washington (pronounced EE-num-claw) where Harley and Eileen had one son together, Dad’s younger brother, Chris Schumacher.

I had always wondered why, in all of Washington, with Seattle and Tacoma nearby, why settle in Enumclaw.  It turns out that in the 1940s, a significant segment of Washington’s economy was based on Timber since coal mining had all but completely been finished 30 years earlier.  As my father explained it to me, the rail systems (because that was how most people travelled) from the coal mining years still terminated in Enumclaw, which was convenient for the timber industry.  You had to take a ‘spur’ as he called it, over to Seattle (that would have most likely been the Maple Valley Railroad). My father came to the US through New York, and then via train from New York, to Chicago and then where the rails ended into Enumclaw.

My dad was very much from that point until he went into the Navy a “small town boy” and “local hero”. Dad went to school in Enumclaw and nearby Buckley, where he graduated from White River High School in 1955. Dad lettered in all the sports and was a bit of a local hometown hero. His name was on many trophies in the cases at the high school for many years after his graduation.

After high school, dad worked various jobs; he worked for logging companies cutting trees and driving logging trucks. He worked for the phone company, and then eventually he enlisted in the United States Navy. Initially he wanted to enlist in the Marines but being a naturalized US Citizen and not US born he was not allowed. It was at this point the recruiter for the Marine Corp suggested the Navy to him.

When Dad enlisted he wanted to go work in the Nuclear Submarine program.  To do that he had to pass a set of exams where he scored in the top 1%, and of course he was allowed to pursue his career choice.  Shortly into his enlisted tenure his Commanding Officer at the time suggested to him that he’d have far better career options if he tendered an application to the United States Naval Academy. After a Congressional Nomination letter, and sponsorship by the Buckley Jaycees, my father was first admitted into the U.S. Naval Academy Preparatory School at Port Deposit, MD, and then entered the Naval Academy in 1958. While at Annapolis “Limey Dave”, as he was known by classmates, lettered in soccer and graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1962, with Surface Warfare being his choice for deployment following graduation

While he was at the Naval Academy he met and became good friends with Jim (Sotir) Liakos, a fellow midshipman at the Academy. Prior to the Youngster (Sophomore) ball at the Academy Jim asked our father; “Hey, how would you like to meet my sister, Frieda? She’ll be in town…”  Three years after that chance meeting, they were married and began their lives together.

And so the adventure continues…

Dad served for 24 years in the Navy including his time when he was enlisted, at duty stations throughout the country and world. He commanded the Minesweeper USS Impervious (MSO-449) during two tours of Vietnam. He later went into the Submarine Service and qualified as an Engineering Duty Officer, earning the Submarine Engineering Duty Insignia – a designation that only a small number of highly qualified individuals receive. He became a Ship’s Superintendent eventually retiring as a Commander from the Navy in 1980. Dad’s final duty station had him supervising overhaul and refit of Nuclear Submarines when they came in to dry dock at Mare Island.  For most of my Dad’s life he was estranged from his father, Clifford Walter. Thanks to the Navy they were reunited for the first time after 13 years during my father’s first class cruise on the HMS Hermes. They were truly happy to see each other and have that time together.

When Dad retired from the Navy he worked for Shell OIl in Martinez as a Senior Engineer, until retiring from Shell in 1999. He eventually returned to the town he first moved to when he came to America; Enumclaw, Washington.  Mom and Dad were together for just over 54 years. They were married in the Greek Orthodox Church, had six children, nine grandchildren, lived on both coasts of the United States and Hawaii before Dad’s final duty station at Mare Island settled them in Napa, California and were always together until Mom passed away last year. After his Mom’s passing Dad spent his remaining months travelling when he could, including going back to Annapolis to the 55th Reunion of his USNA Graduating class, as well as seeing the Pacific Fleet in San Diego one last time. Our beloved PaPou, as his grandchildren called him, was at peace when he left us.

He inspired many lives and left more of an impact that can be measured by mere words. Dad, you will be sorely missed. Go be with Mom.. we know how much you missed her.