Ronald Lee Ethridge,
MM2, USN, UDT 11
After growing up in the
central Illinois town of Taylorville, Ronald L. Ethridge
enlisted in the U. S. Navy in 1956 at the age of twenty. On July 6, 1956 he completed the prescribed course of study at the U.
S. Naval School, Machinist’s Mate Class “A”, Service School Command, at the
U.S. Naval Training Center, Great
Lakes, Illinois, and was assigned to the USS Ozbourn (DD-846).
At some point while aboard the USS Ozbourn Ron must have been influenced
by a recruiter from Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT) for he started training
in San Diego with UDTRA Class 19 in July of 1957 and successfully
graduated from that elite training on November 23, 1957. Ronald Lee Ethridge was
now and forever a Frogman!
Ron was assigned to UDT 11 in
Coronado, California, where he served with some of the Navy’s finest. In
January of 1959 he attended Air Conditioning and Refrigeration School before being released from active duty on December 8, 1959. His Naval Reserve status expired in January of 1962.
During his tour of duty with
UDT Ron spent about a month aboard a submarine, the USS Pomfret (SS-391). His wife, Judy,
tells this story about that time: “looks like it was only for a month but
enough time for the frogmen on board to try making potato jack out of the
potato peels they accumulated from their duty as potato peelers. A long story
but the "jack" blew up, made a BIG mess stinking up the sub and
getting the frogs in deep kimchi.
Ron said the "old man" gathered them all up, gave them a shot of
whiskey and after some choice words, sent them back to the kitchen.” Frogman hijinks!
Legendary frogman Warren “Fins” Foley was a teammate of Ron’s. Ron’s teammate
Phil Carrico recalled that Warren’s early nickname was “Peekskill”, perhaps because he came from Peekskill, NY. Only later, after his exploits in Korea, did he become Fins Foley. Judy remembers that years
later when Ron entertained his teammates Gerry Meyer, John Stephenson, and
Warren Foley at their home Fins was the only one to come to the kitchen to help
Judy with the dishes. A woman remembers thoughtfulness like that!
I learned this about Ron from
his obituary: “After leaving the Navy, he worked as an ordinance manager in the
Pacific Missile Range on Kwajalein Atoll, a part
of the Marshall
Then, in July 1963, he went to Eniwetok Atoll as a
recovery diver. Next, in 1964 on Johnston Island he worked as a construction diving foreman. For the
next two years, he returned to Eniwetok and worked as a recovery diver. After an extended
trip to Australia he came back to Seal Beach, CA with his many seashells and his island dog, Wooly Bugers. In 1968, Ron married Judy Rice.”
From 1970 until he retired
Ron’s career was in banking. He loved his life in Nevada where he and Judy hiked, camped, fished, and he
enjoyed his hobbies of hydroponic gardening, travel,
and woodworking. Ron was active in Washoe County School
Partners in Education program and generously donated his large seashell
collection to the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.
In the last decade of his life Ron was an active
member of the Fifties Frogs group, men who served in UDT in the decade of the
1950s, and who meet once a year to renew their bonds of friendship and shared
experiences. He attended those yearly gatherings even after Parkinson’s disease
put him in a wheelchair, thanks to his loving wife at his side. Ron passed away
14, 2017 at the Veterans Hospital in Reno,
Nevada. Hooyah, Ron!
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