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Washington Navy Yard shooting
Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Shooting spree on a U.S. military base
Number of victims: 12
Date of murders: September 16, 2013
Date of birth: May 9, 1979
Victims profile: Michael Arnold, 59 / Martin Bodrog, 53 / Arthur Daniels, 51 / Sylvia Frasier, 53 / Kathy Gaarde, 62 / John Roger Johnson, 73 / Mary Francis Knight, 51 / Frank Kohler, 50 / Vishnu Pandit, 61 / Kenneth Bernard Proctor, 46 / Gerald Read, 58 / Richard Michael Ridgell, 52
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Washington D.C., USA
Status: Killed by police the same day

Navy Yard Shooting

Remembering the victims


Michael Arnold, 59
Lorton, Va.

Michael Arnold had a deadline that was fast approaching. By his 60th birthday, he planned to finish the light airplane he was building in his basement in Lorton and fly it to Michigan, where his family has a cabin.

He was up at the cabin just two weeks ago for Labor Day, said his mother, Patricia Arnold, recalling how Michael and his younger brother went riding on their all-terrain vehicles that weekend. Like other Arnold family gatherings, it was full of “meals, games, good family fun.”

Now, her son gone, Patricia Arnold was making plans to fly on Wednesday to Virginia, where he had lived for 30 years. Arnold was one of 12 people killed in the Washington Navy Yard shooting Monday.

A retired Navy officer who had once been posted at Pearl Harbor, Arnold, 59, was a senior civilian contractor who had put his career’s worth of experience into designing and overseeing the construction of better naval warships for the next generation, co-workers said.

He was “an institution” who knew the Navy’s America-class amphibious assault ships as well as anyone, said Capt. Mark Vandroff, a colleague, adding that Arnold was the Navy’s go-to guy in negotiations over any purchase for America-class ships.

“Nobody knew those ships like him. He was the guy you depended on every time you went to talk to the contractor, to make sure you were getting what you had ordered.” Vandroff said. “Michael’s family will grieve for him, as a lost husband and lost father, but the Navy will also grieve. It has lost a tremendous human intellectual asset and just a wonderful man.”

Capt. Christopher Mercer, Arnold’s boss, went further. Arnold was a “national treasure,” Mercer said. “He was the Navy’s leading architect of amphibious warfare ships and systems for the last 20 years. He understood the entire fleet’s needs and designed ships that gave the United States what nobody else has.”

Even Arnold’s speech was flecked with ship-related themes. When asked how he was, his mother recalled, he would reply with his signature expression, “Steaming as before.”

As a boy, growing up the oldest of three children in Rochester, Mich., Michael loved to build model planes and ships, so it was no surprise when he joined the Naval ROTC at the University of Oklahoma. He met his wife, Jolanda, there, and they married when he graduated from college. The couple have two grown sons, Chris and Eric, who also live in Northern Virginia.

From the beginning, Arnold loved being a father. “He read to the boys every night,” his mother recalled. “It’s certainly not going to be easy for them, because they were so close to their dad.”

Arnold was also close to his mother, flying up in June to celebrate her 80th birthday, toasting her amid the spread of cake and balloons. “He was a wonderful, wonderful son to my husband and me,” she said. “There’s not anything we can do. It’s just something that’s going to be with me for the rest of my life.”

Michael Arnold’s uncle, Steve Hunter, told the Associated Press that Arnold had been working at the Navy Yard on a team that designed amphibious assault ships.

“It’s tragic,” Hunter said. “How can you get up in the morning and go to work and have that happen? How do bad things like that happen to good people?”

Story by Tara Bahrampour and Aaron C. Davis; Photo courtesy of WDIV-TV Detroit



Martin Bodrog, 54
Annandale, Va.

Monday afternoon, as it became clear that Martin Bodrog was among the dead, Capt. Mark Vandroff’s cell phone rang in a holding area for workers inside the Navy Yard.

Vandroff and Bodrog were longtime friends who occasionally enjoyed a cigar together after work at the wood-paneled Shelly’s Back Room in downtown Washington.

On the other end of the line was retired Commander Kirk Lippold, a U.S. Naval Academy classmate of Bodrog’s — and the commanding officer of the USS Cole when terrorists carried out a suicide attack in the port of Aden, Yemen.

“Is Marty okay?” Lippold asked.

“No,” Vandroff said. “Marty didn’t make it.”

He’d been killed outside his office on the third floor of Building 197.

Bodrog loved God, family, country and the Boston Bruins. Jeffrey Prowse, another close friend from the military, called him “a humble, loving father and neighbor [who] could frequently be seen in all types of weather, even post-blizzard bitter cold, in shorts and his trademark Boston Bruins jersey, walking his dog and helping shovel all the driveways of his elderly neighbors.”

He lived in Annandale with his wife, Melanie, whom he’d met in Newport, R.I., where she was serving as a Naval nurse and he was an instructor at Naval Surface Warfare School, according to Prowse.

There were three daughters — Isabel, 23; Sophie, 17; and Rita, 16 — plus the children’s ministry at Immanuel Church, where Bodrog led 3-year-olds in Bible study. He was also active in the Christian outreach program Young Life.

Bodrog was bulky, but he made himself small at in the presence of children at his longtime Fairfax County church, crawling around on the floor and singing songs.

“A lot of guys with size will intimidate you,” said Pastor Steve Holley. “Marty wasn’t about intimidating. He was about winning you over. He had a winsome smile and he put you at ease.”

Through tears, Prowse, a retired Marine Corps fighter pilot, said the news of his friend’s death had come as an “absolute shock.” Melanie Bodrog was in the house with their three daughters as Prowse spoke, but family members declined to comment.

Bodrog was born in Woodbury, NJ, and graduated from the Naval Academy in 1981. Officially, he served 22 years, retiring as a Surface Warfare Officer. But he never really left the service, finding a second, civilian career at the Pentagon, where he oversaw the design and procurement of the amphibious war ships used to ferry U.S. Marines and their supplies around the world.

“His expertise and experience in amphibious operations allowed Marty to make lasting contributions to the success of the Navy-Marine Corps Team,” said Prowse.

News of his death hit hard, from his street through the service.

A neighbor who declined to give her name said she was overcome with grief. “It just does not seem real,” she said. “We need more people like him.”

In his office in Missouri, Stephen Jasper, a retired Naval aviator, struggled to process his friend’s death.

Jasper had been commanding officer of the USS Dubuque in the mid-1990s when Bodrog was the ship’s executive officer. “Marty Bodrog was special,” recalled Jasper, who is now Boeing’s director of global strike aircraft business development. “He was a superb Naval officer. He was a caring father and a good friend.”

Jasper sobbed, then apologized, then said he had to go.

Minutes later, he sent an e-mail: “You can tell by my reaction this is a shock,” he wrote. “He will be missed.’’

Story by Jeremy Borden, Aaron C. Davis and J. Freedom du Lac; Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Prowse



Arthur Daniels, 51
Southeast, Washington, D.C.

For more than 19 years, Arthur Daniels, a father of five and grandfather of nine, labored as a handyman relocating and installing office furniture in federal government buildings around the region. On Monday, he woke at 6 a.m. and happened to be called to work inside the Washington Navy Yard. He was assigned to building 197, on the fourth floor.

His family and co-workers say they wish he was anywhere but there.

He was shot in the back by the gunman as he was running away, witnesses said.

In their two-bedroom apartment in Southeast Washington, surrounded by more than a dozen members of their grieving family, Priscilla Daniels, his wife of 30 years, said she fell in love with her husband as a teenager.

This is the second time that his family has endured a random act of gun violence. In 2009, one of his sons — 14-year-old Arthur Daniels — was shot in the back. He was also running away from an armed man.

The person who shot him — Ransom Perry Jr. of Northeast Washington — had been arrested nine times before that, including as recently as January of that year, on a charge of carrying a pistol without a license.

In 2011, Perry, 21, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and robbery charges related to the death of Arthur Daniels Jr. He was sentenced to 24 years in prison.

Priscilla Daniels wept through the night on Monday and into Tuesday, unable to find a reason for the loss of both son and father in a period of four years.

“I don’t know why they shot him,” she said of her husband. “He was a good father and hard worker.”

Daniels, 51, was a subcontractor working for District Furniture Repair in Arlington. He had been with the company for two years.

Family members said Daniels had worked off and on, generally for the Navy Yard, for more than 19 years.

Lewis R. Yancey II, who owns District Furniture Repair, said Daniels was “an excellent worker.”

“He has this great personality and is always helping others,” Yancey said. “And I have to wonder if he was doing that when he was shot.”

Brian Nault, president and co-owner of Blue Water Federal Solutions, a Chantilly-based contracting company that had hired District Furniture, said Daniels “was in the wrong place at the wrong time and that was just so heart-wrenching. There are no words.”

The company has 19 employees working at the Navy Yard on a facility management contract.

Daniels’s son, Arthur Jr., said the family was struggling to “understand why.”

“All he did was go to work,” he said. “That was his only crime.”

Story by Emily Wax-Thibodeux; Photo courtesy of Daniels family



Sylvia Frasier, 53
Waldorf, Md.

On her LinkedIn page, Sylvia Frasier projected the persona of a very serious computer wonk. Her job title on the social networking site: Enterprise Information Assurance Manager at Naval Sea Systems Command. Frasier, 53, who worked at the Washington Navy Yard for several years, boasted all sorts of jargon-laced credentials such as an ability to “implement DoD NIPRNET DMZ Harding initiative.”

But that was merely Frasier’s day job.

Her night gig was much more people-oriented. Between two and four nights a week, Frasier worked the past eight years as a customer service manager at the Wal-Mart in Waldorf, near her home in Charles County. Unmarried and without children, Frasier loved the retail atmosphere, especially defusing tense bouts with customers with a smile that colleagues said was permanently fixed on her face.

“This was not a must job. I often asked her, ‘How come you work a second job?’ She just said, ‘I love it. I like working with people,’” said Joe Sieger, the assistant manager at Wal-Mart’s store No. 1717 in Waldorf, adding that she often gave other employees rides home. “If someone brought something back and it wasn’t returnable, or it was past warranty, she could talk to that customer, and turn a negative into a positive.”

Now, instead of seeing Frasier’s smile or her gold-colored hair stick out in the aisles, Sieger and his Wal-Mart colleagues spent Tuesday planning a vigil in her honor at the store. As one of the 12 victims shot dead by alleged gunman Aaron Alexis on Monday morning, Frasier had been missing all day. Her family called and sent her text messages but got only silence in return. No government agency confirmed her death to her relatives until late Monday night, well past the evening news.

Frasier came from a huge family whose parents, James and Eloise, are in their late 80s. She left behind six siblings.

“Our family,” said her sister Wendy Edmonds, a college professor, “is a family of long lives.”

Story by Ian Shapira; Photo courtesy of family



Kathleen Gaarde, 62
Woodbridge, Va.

The memory garden Kathy Gaarde built for her mother sits at her home at the end of a quiet, leafy cul-de-sac in Woodbridge.

Now, a neighbor said it will also be a memorial for Gaarde, one of the 12 victims of the Navy Yard shooting.

It is a fitting tribute. Gaarde, 62, was remembered for her selfless devotion to her 94-year-old mother who died last year, her family and even the animal kingdom.

“Kathy was a caring daughter, fantastic mother, wife (of 38 years) and best friend for 43 years,” Douglass Gaarde, her husband, wrote in a statement.

The family declined to be interviewed, but offered a short biography of the financial analyst.

Gaarde was a bluebird counter for a local refuge and a diehard Washington Capitals fan. She held season tickets for more than 25 years.

She was born and raised in Chicago and attended Florida State University, but lived in the Washington area for the past 38 years.

She has two grown children. The daughter, Jessica, still lives with her parents, a neighbor said.

The tragedy was all the more poignant for neighbors because they couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to harm Gaarde.

“She was a very sweet woman,” said Patrick Bolton, who lives next door. “I can’t imagine her having a single enemy.”

Neighbor Tony Smoot put it a different way: “She was a really nice person with two nice kids. There’s absolutely nothing to say but good things.”

Bolton said Gaarde had a quiet, even-keeled demeanor that made her an excellent mother. Bolton grew up with Gaarde’s children.

“Instead of yelling at them, she would just tell them what to do in a positive way,” Bolton said.

Neighbors recalled that Gaarde often walked her two dogs up and down her street. They said she cared for the animals deeply.

Fittingly, Douglass Gaarde asked that donations be made in her name to the Virginia branch of the Humane Society.

“She’s a great neighbor — loving and caring,” said Vicki Bolton, Patrick’s mother. “Everybody’s crushed.”

Story by Justin Jouvenal; Photo courtesy of Douglas Gaarde



John Roger Johnson, 73
Derwood, Md.

For John “J.J.” Johnson, 73, working at the Washington Navy Yard was part of a second chapter after losing his wife to cancer.

Helen Johnson was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease in April 1994. She was only 58 at the time. In 1995, J.J. Johnson and the couple’s four daughters recounted to the Post her journey from doctor to doctor, before she was able to get a clear diagnosis from a specialist at Johns Hopkins University Medical Center.

After Helen Johnson’s death in 1996, J.J. Johnson, usually known for his energy and infectious smile, was “going through a bit of a rough time,” recalled William Atlee Jr., a longtime neighbor in Nags Head, N.C., where the Johnsons have had a second home for more than 20 years.

The cloud began to lift after Johnson met and married Judy Greene. Their union nearly a decade ago “really seemed to bring him around,” Atlee said.

Johnson could have retired. He had been a longtime civilian contractor. But he loved working and could not stay away, family and friends said.

About seven years ago, he went to work for Arlington-based TWD & Associates as a logistics analyst, president and chief executive Larry Besterman said.

“He thought it would be a good job,” Atlee said, “because he could work the hours he wanted.”

TWD dispatched J.J. Johnson as a civilian contractor to perform environmental assessments of systems used to locate mines. More recently, he provided support to the NAVSEA’s Command Information Officer.

William Venable, a colleague at the Navy Yard, told NPR Monday, that Johnson always greeted him with a hearty, “How ya doin’, buddy?”

When Johnson was not at the Navy Yard, neighbors in Derwood, Md., where Johnson has lived since 1972, recalled seeing him working in the yard.

“He always had a smile on his face. He loved children. He loved our grandchildren,” said a longtime neighbor, who did not give her name. She said his death had left her “heartbroken.”

He was also recalled fondly by neighbors in the Outer Banks, where Johnson and his family decamped each year for part of the summer. Johnson loved to sit and have a beer on the deck of his home, neighbors said. Over the years, the gathering grew as grandchildren arrived. Johnson’s 11th grandchild is due in November.

Despite his status as a veteran grandfather, known for giving bear hugs and tutorials on catching sand crabs on the beach, Atlee said Johnson looked like a man 20 years younger. “He looked very fit,” he said. “You would never guess he was 73.”

Johnson never talked much about his work at the Navy Yard, friends said, but it was still obvious that he enjoyed it.

“Dad always worked. He loved it,” Megan Johnson said. “He loved the interaction with the people, and wanted to keep doing it.”

Story by Annys Shin and Martin Weil; Photo courtesy of Johnson family



Mary Frances DeLorenzo Knight, 51
Reston, Va.

Eleven days ago, Mary Frances DeLorenzo Knight gathered with her family at a bed and breakfast in North Carolina for the wedding of her oldest daughter.

Knight, who was “very proud” of her daughters, had helped choose the bridal gown, flowers and all the trappings of a modern wedding, said her brother-in-law Theodore Hisey, a family spokesman. She prominently posted photos of the sunset celebration on her Facebook page.

“Her daughters were her everything,” he said. “They are in their twenties, so it was all about their colleges, their needs.” He described the daughters as “independent and very grounded.”

Knight, 51, whose LinkedIn profile said that she worked for the Naval Sea Systems Command, had been living in Reston for about the last five years. She spoke everyday to her younger sister or her daughters, enjoyed working out and was a practicing Catholic, he said.

She was born in Fayetteville, N.C., the middle child of a Green Beret who was an instructor at Fort Bragg, and a stay-at-home mother, Hisey said. Her older brother also works in IT, for the city of San Francisco. Her younger sister lives in Tampa.

Knight graduated from Fayetteville Technical Institute in 1983, received a bachelor’s degree from Raleigh-Durham’s Campbell University in 1998 and a master’s degree in computer resources and information management from Webster University in St. Louis, Mo. in 2004. Her LinkedIn profile also cited a degree from National Defense University in 2011.

Her Twitter name was “compuchick” but like a true computer security specialist, she locked much personal information about her on social media, unless she identified visitors as friends.

“She traveled quite extensively,” Hisey said, and not just within the U.S. “She lived in Germany, wherever the best opportunity was for her.”

She was very outgoing, he said, but also “about as strait-laced as you can get.”

Her LinkedIn profile said she switched just this month from being an information assurance manager at NavSea to Deputy Command Information Officer of Enterprise Cyber Security in the Naval Sea System Command.

She also became an adjunct assistant professor at Northern Virginia Community College in Loudoun and Annandale just this summer; college officials said she was supposed to teach a computer class this summer, but the class was cancelled due to low enrollment. Her fall semester classes started Aug. 21. She taught spreadsheet software Monday nights at the Loudoun campus, and software design Thursday nights in Annandale.

Story by Patricia Sullivan; Photo courtesy of family



Frank Kohler, 50
Tall Timbers, Md.

Frank Kohler was the doting father of two daughters and a former Rotary Club president who earned the distinction of “King Oyster” for his service.

For the past two years, Kohler has made the 65-mile commute from his home in Tall Timbers, Md., to Navy Yard, where he worked on contract as a computer systems specialist. He previously worked as a contractor for Lockheed Martin in southern Maryland.

“He was a gifted leader and a hard worker,’’ said John Rymer, a friend who met Kohler through the Rotary Club of Lexington Park. “Most of us are retired and Frank had a full-time job, but he spent so much time doing community service.”

The 50-year-old Kohler served as the president of the club in 2005, leading a campaign to donate a dictionary to every third-grader in St. Mary’s County. After serving his term, he earned the customary title of “King Oyster.” He received a crown and robe and helped lead the national oyster shucking competition.

While leading the club, Kohler was businesslike and results-oriented, friends of the family said, but at home he was a jovial spirit. He and his wife, Michelle, were constant fixtures at the King’s Christian Academy, where their two daughters attended school.

“This was a tremendous family,’’ said Kevin Fry, the school’s principal. “They were beloved by everyone.”

The Kohler’s two daughters, Alex, 18, and Meghan, 19, now attend Liberty University in Lynchburg. By Tuesday afternoon, their Facebook pages had been overwhelmed with best wishes and memories of their dad.

Kohler grew up in Western Pennsylvania. He was a computer science major at Slippery Rock University, where he met his wife, Michelle. He graduated in 1985. He moved to the region soon after college to work in the computer technology, said Dave Ness, who used to work with him at Mantech.

Frank and Michelle were married in the late 1980s in a Greek Orthodox ceremony, said Ness, who remembers them dancing around the ceremonial altar. Before they had children, the Nesses and the Kohlers often went to each other’s houses and played board games. Frank was particularly good at Boggle.

“One time we stayed over for the night and he insisted we sleep in their bedroom,’’ Ness said. “But that’s the type of guy he was, the type who would give up his bedroom for friends.”

A family member who answered Michelle Kohler’s cellphone said the family was too overwhelmed to comment.

“He was such a nice man,’’ said Jack Pappas, the current Rotary Club president. “In our club, I’d say about 80 percent have been in the military. All of us are used to this sort of thing. But this has really, really shocked us.”

Story by Robert Samuels; Photo by AP/Family of Frank Kohler



Vishnu Pandit, 61
North Potomac, Md.

When Vishnu “Kisan” Pandit was in his early 20s, he left India and moved to the United States in search of a better life.

He enrolled at the University of Michigan in 1974, finished his graduate studies and eventually moved to Maryland, where he and his wife raised their two sons.

“Kisan took great pride in being employed by the United States Navy, which he very proudly served in various capacities as a civilian for over 25 years,” Pandit’s family wrote in an obituary that one of his sons shared with The Washington Post on Tuesday. “Kisan felt extremely privileged to have contributed to the superiority of the U.S. Navy and the country that he served.”

Pandit, 61, was one of 12 people killed in the Washington Navy Yard massacre on Monday. His family remembers him as “a kind and gentle man who loved his family, friends, dog, and job.”

Pandit was born in November 1951 in Bombay. He attended a marine engineering college in Calcutta, then moved to Michigan “in search of a better life for his family,” his family said.

Pandit was married to Anjali Pandit and has two sons, Siddhesh and Kapil, who are both in their 30s. The longtime family home in North Potomac has been filled with relatives and friends this week, according to neighbors.

The family plans to hold a private Hindu service. In lieu of flowers, the family encourages donations to the Wounded Warrior Project, any charitable organization supporting the U.S. Navy or the Humane Society of Montgomery County.

Story by Jenna Johnson; Photo courtesy of Pandit family



Kenneth Bernard Proctor, 46
Waldorf, Md.

Breakfast beckoned in Building 197.

Kenneth Bernard Proctor, a civilian utilities foreman at the Navy Yard, didn’t work in that building, his ex-wife, Evelyn Proctor, told the Associated Press. But, she said, “it was a routine thing for him to go there in the morning for breakfast, and unfortunately it happened.”

The high school sweethearts had spoken Monday morning, before he left for work, she said. They talked every day, even after their marriage ended earlier this year.

“We were still very close. It wasn’t a bitter divorce,” she said. “We still talked every day, and we lived 10 minutes away from each other.”

He was, she said, “a very loving, caring, gentle person.”

After failing to reach her ex-husband by phone, Evelyn Proctor drove to the Navy Yard, fearing the worst, according to the AP. She waited about three hours with other people looking for their loved ones and was informed around 8 p.m. that Proctor was among the shooter’s victims.

He was 46 years old and loved his boys and his Redskins. He was born and raised in Charles County, Md., and lived in Waldorf. He’d worked for the federal government for 22 years, his ex-wife said. They married in 1994 and had two boys, now teenagers. Their youngest, Kendull, is 15. Their eldest, Kenneth Jr., 17, recently enlisted in the Army.

Relatives gathered dressed in black outside Evelyn Proctor’s Waldorf home Tuesday. One man said that she was sad and did not want to speak further to reporters.

A neighbor two doors’ down from Kenneth Proctor’s home remembered him as being very friendly. “He always sat in his front yard and said hello. We would talk a little bit,” Teresita Russell said. “The news is really sad.”

Story by J. Freedom du Lac and DeNeen Brown



Gerald Read, 58
Alexandria, Va.

Gerald Read left for work at 5:20 a.m. Monday, as was his normal routine. Cathy Read was just getting up as “Jer” walked out the door, and she told him: “See you tonight for dinner.”

But her husband of 35 years did not make it home.

The 58-year-old information assurance specialist with the Navy Sea Systems Command had spent much of his career in military law enforcement and information systems management, serving in the Republic of Korea and rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Army.

During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he served at Fort Belvoir, working with the U.S. Army Materiel Command, supervising efforts to supply and maintain forces deployed overseas. In recent years, he turned to civilian work at the Navy Yard, managing security risks related to information and data.

Read was passionate both about family life and his job, “totally reliable, really, really solid,” his wife said. She had no details about what had unfolded before Read was killed Monday, but given his nature, she said, “I’m sure he was right in the middle of it.”

Cathy Read had texted her husband and called his office Monday. She did not begin to worry until the day passed and there was still no word. At about 9:30 or 10 p.m. Monday, officials arrived in person to deliver the tragic news that he had been killed in the massacre.

A day after the shootings in Building 197 of the Navy Yard, she recalled her husband’s love of reading — he was a Civil War buff — and his bond with their daughter, Jessica, and his three grandchildren.

“He was a fine family man and a good friend,” said Jim Miles, his next-door neighbor. “I’m just devastated that he’s gone.”

At the Reads’ home in the Mount Vernon area of Fairfax County, Read was often in the company of his black lab, Roderick.

“Rod was always with him – always,” his wife said.

Read and his wife had been dog lovers a long time. They worked to help rescue labrador retrievers for more than a decade and there are three labs in their family — plus an Irish Setter and two cats.

Read’s wife and daughter run a dog-walking business, Biscuit Break. He helped the with their books, taxes and website.

The couple met while Gerald Read was attending Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He joined the Army upon graduation in 1977 and served — on active duty and later in the reserves — until 2006. He earned two master’s degrees.

He was dedicated to the military, to work, to public service, his wife said. “Definitely fit the mold,” Cathy Read said.

The last time Miles, his neighbor, saw Read was over the weekend with Keebler, one of the family’s labs. He recalls noticing his friend out the window, walking across their adjoining front lawns, in what seemed an ordinary moment. It became a final memory.

Story by Donna St. George; Photo by U.S. Navy, courtesy of the Read family



Richard Michael Ridgell, 52
Westminster, Md.

Richard “Mike” Ridgell was the kind of dad who sprinkled a trail of powdered sugar through the house so his kids would think Santa and his reindeer had just visited.

He texted his children several times a day to see how they were doing and to tell them he loved them.

And, after waking up before the sun every morning to get to work, he would come home to coach his daughters’ softball teams, just so he could spend more time with them.

“We all know he loved us because he showed us all the time,” said his oldest daughter, Heather Hunt, 33.

Hunt and her sisters — Megan, 19, and Maddi, 17 — sat in the family’s Carroll County home Tuesday afternoon, fondly remembering their father’s devotion to his daughters, his work and the Baltimore Ravens.

Ridgell was one of the 12 victims who died in the Navy Yard shootings Monday. Ridgell’s family said he was a private contractor at the Navy Yard, and news reports Tuesday indicated he was a security guard. But he woke up at 4 a.m. each morning to commute an hour and a half from Westminster, Md., to D.C., his daughters said.

“He died doing what he loved,” Maddi said.

Megan said she and her sisters were used to worrying about their dad, who was often involved in high-risk jobs, but that they didn’t feel the same way about the Navy Yard, which was tame in comparison to his years as a Maryland State Police trooper and as a private contractor in Iraq.

“He always had that desire to protect,” said Megan, adding that her father recently got her pepper spray after learning she would be interning in Harrisburg, Pa. “He felt it was his duty.”

Ridgell was born and raised in Brooklyn, Md. Right out of high school, Ridgell joined the police academy. He served as a Maryland State Police trooper for nearly 18 years. He spent three years working in Iraq for a private contractor, helping train civilians in local policing.

“Honor and duty meant a great deal to him,” Hunt said.

Ridgell loved to take photos, capturing memories of his daughters on vacations, school field trips and even routine trips to Wal-Mart. A red leather ottoman in the family’s living room is filled with his photographs, images his daughters are now grateful to have. A stack of photos sat on the coffee table Tuesday as Ridgell’s daughters talked about how their friends thought “he was always the cool dad.”

“He was one of those guys that wanted to make sure everyone was taken care of before him,” Maddi said. “Everyone who met him fell in love with him.”

He was a dedicated Baltimore Ravens fan, buying season tickets with his brother since the team moved to Maryland in 1996.

Ridgell also coached his daughters’ softball teams on and off since the mid-1980s. His youngest daughter’s team, for which he was an assistant coach, recently took home the championship title. Ridgell’s Facebook cover photo shows him with his arm around Maddi and the girls showing off their golden trophies.

“‘It’s a way to be with you girls and that’s why I do it,’” Hunt remembers her father telling her about why he dedicated so much time to coaching.

Story by Lynh Bui; Photo courtesy of Ridgell family



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