John Richard (Rich) Seesholz,RADM USN (Ret.)
Oceanographer’s Work Takes Him to the Seas
John Richard (Rich) Seesholtz, Rear Admiral USN (Ret.), age 79, died on June 8, 2012,  of leukemia lymphoma surrounded by his loving family at home in Alexandria, Virginia. He was the son of John Francis and G. Elizabeth Seesholtz. His father was a self-made business man; his mother was a schoolteacher. Born March 30, 1933 in the midst of the Great Depression in Ashland Pennsylvania, Rich was the eldest of four children. His family moved from Ashland to Temple, PA, eventually settling in the Reading, PA area. An angelic looking child, photographed at an early age; Rich’s photo was submitted to a local newspaper, winning him the title of the most beautiful baby in the Reading area.

Before going off to school his first day, Rich looked at a massive newspaper headline and asked his mother why the headline was so large. It was the day Germany invaded Poland, a day which was an extension of many of the atrocities associated with World War II. He did very well in school, excelled in his studies, made enduring childhood friendships which lasted throughout his lifetime, saved his money from an early morning paper route and bought maps to decorate his bedroom. He was a role model and inspiration for the younger children in his family.
Following in the footsteps of his father, he attended one year at Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania, originally intending to graduate and go on to medical school. However, after the first year of study, his father explained to him that the family could not afford to send all the children to college. Rich applied for an appointment to the Naval Academy. After working with his father all day, he returned home late in the evening of July 3, 1952, receiving word in a telegram that he had been accepted to the United States Naval Academy (USNA). He reported to the USNA in Annapolis, Maryland the next day on July 4, 1952. While at the Academy, he spent a summer aboard the WWII battleship, the USS MISSOURI. He was a 1956 honor graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. He married Marylee G. Seesholtz in Reading, Pennsylvania on July 4, 1959. His first assignment was onboard the USS ARNEB in support of Antarctic operations.

While in Antarctic, he was involved in the capture of six pairs of Adelie penguins for the San Diego Zoo, which provided an opportunity to visit a penguin rookery. He mentioned throughout his lifetime that he still had no idea how to recognize a male penguin from a female penguin. Apparently, it’s impossible to tell short of an autopsy.

He served aboard the USS CHARR and the USS THOMAS A EDISON - an Ethan Allen class ballistic-missile submarine that had a Steinway piano installed during construction. In 1968, he graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with a doctorate degree in oceanography.

He was executive officer aboard the USS TIGRONE and the USS DOLPHIN, then subsequently the commanding officer of the DOLPHIN. The USS DOLPHIN was the world’s deepest diving submarine. During his tour as Commanding Officer deep sonar operations were undertaken which for the first time demonstrated the complete path of convergence zone sound propagation under unique oceanic conditions. He also commanded the repair ship USS AJAX. Other tours included staff duty as aide and flag lieutenant, program manager at Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and two years as a special projects officer and test director for the Director, Anti-Submarine Warfare Programs in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO). Seesholtz directed programs in under seas acoustics, ocean processes, Arctic, and air defense missile research and development in these latter positions.

He assumed duties as Oceanographer of the Navy in October 1983, a position he held until his retirement in August 1988. He was responsible for approximately 70 command detachments around the world, with five major oceanographic centers located in the United States. There were 14 ships under his command, involved in deep ocean mapping, magnetic and gravitational surveys. He led more than 3600 military and civilian employees in the combined application of such sciences as meteorology, hydrography, astronomy, chronometry and oceanography. He was the man at the cutting edge of exciting finds such as the discovery of the hottest water ever recorded on Earth - 750 degrees - in the Juan de Fuca Ridge in the Pacific Ocean, fostering the growth of giant clams, huge tube worms and various strains of bacteria.

During his time as Oceanographer, he was also the nation’s official timekeeper and guardian of the “atomic clock,” which is a series of master clocks scattered throughout three buildings at the Naval Observatory, using radioactive isotopes to measure the passage of time. One of the highlights of his tenure as Oceanographer was the
observation of Halley’s Comet (1986) visible through the manytelescopes at the Naval Observatory.

During his tenure in the U.S. Navy, he was awarded the following decorations, medals, badges, citations and campaign ribbons: Legion of Merit (2), Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Navy Commendation Medal, Navy Unit Commendation, Meritorious Unit Commendation, National Defense Service Medal (2), Antarctica Service Medal and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon. His career in the U.S. Navy inspired numerous family members to join the military. Among them, his son Dan, who served in the U.S. Navy for 26 years.

After retiring from active duty, Rich worked for Defense Group Incorporated (DGI), the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU/APL) and the Hawaii Center for Excellence in Research and Ocean Science (CEROS). His work for CEROS involved sonar buoys and radars. Additional work involved determining how cold sea water and warm Hawaiian sunshine produce the sweetest strawberries, and how to prevent a lobster from nervously shivering away his body weight when shipped from Maine to different parts of the country.

Dr. Seesholtz’ hobbies were: genealogy, history, science, travel, gardening and reading. He was blessed with a wonderful mind, excellent memory and humble spirit. He loved life and the different opportunities presented to him. He was a member of Aldersgate United Methodist Church Men of Note (a choir), the Sons of the American Revolution, the Mount Vernon Genealogical Society and the Mount Vernon Civic Association. He was blessed to pursue a career he truly enjoyed and a life that was full of adventure, excitement and purpose. He visited all the oceans of the world and saw every continent. He was a phenomenal teacher, an inspirational leader, the kindest most wonderful father, and devoted loving husband. We were blessed to have him in our lives. Not one moment, hour or day will pass, when we shall not miss him.