All Things Maine
All Things Maine

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Rear Adm. Willard M. Sweetser, 1902-2007

The oldest alumnus of the U.S. Naval Academy has died. Rear Adm. Willard Merton Sweetser was born June 9, 1902, the son of Willard B. and Leonora (Whitney) Sweetser.
Mr. Sweetser grew up in Gray, the son of a couple that owned and ran the town's general store. Ancestors had been shipmasters, and Mr. Sweetser was interested in a life at sea. He enrolled as a midshipman in 1922.

"I guess, as some young folks do, my father at a young age had a passion for the sea and wanted to serve his country," said one of his two children, Willard Sweetser Jr. [Link]
Sweetser graduated from the Academy in 1926, and went on to command destroyers in combat during World War II. After retiring from the Navy in 1956, he earned a master's degree in mathematics from Purdue University, and taught mathematics and statistics at Lasalle University in Philadelphia.
In 1978, Sweetser and Robert T. Hill of Gray co-authored "The History, Records and Recollections of Gray, Maine, Volume I." [Gray Historical Society president Louise] Knapp calls that book "The Bible of Gray."

Fifty copies of the book were initially published in 1978, and in the 1990s Sweetster made a generous donation to the Gray Historical Society to print an additional 200 copies of the book , which spans from 1735 to WW II in 411 pages. [Link]


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