06 December 2014


A man is indeed fortunate who can claim to have two or three real friends in his life.  By “real friend,” I mean a man who sees you at your worst, battling demons or life or physical foes and not only runs to join you, but does so with a smile on his face and joy in his heart.  He is the man that you just know will come to your side when you need him and without asking.  I have had two such friends in my life.

My friend, Bill Pine, was one of those two.

In 1982, I took my son, Michael, to a  meeting of Boy Scout Troop 1345 (“The best troop alive!”) in Burke Center, Virginia.   When I asked the Scoutmaster if they had room for Michael, he grinned and told me that there was a spot for both of us in the troop.  It was a big troop, with a dozen uniformed leaders.  When I was introduced to the assistants, the Scoutmaster said, “This is Mike McCarty.  He and his son are joining the troop. He’s a Marine.”
There were a lot of nods and smiles, but one fellow with a cocky air and a crinkly smile said “A Marine, huh?  Well, I guess everybody ought to have one of them for his own.”   I had just entered the wonderful world of Bill Pine.

Bill Pine was a man of many talents.  He was an educated man who at the time of his retirement from the Navy was the Oceanographer and Meteorologist of the Atlantic Command.  He was a rugged warrior, a veteran of riverine operations with the South Vietnamese Navy.  He was a loving father and grandfather and his wife’s best friend.  He liked working with wood and stone and being on the water.  And he had a sense of humor.

At one point, our Scoutmaster was a very senior IRS officer. He was was a great guy, but very straight-laced.  Once, when Bill called his office, Bob’s secretary asked the nature of the call.  “Uh, well, this is the Acme Sperm Bank and we wanted to tell him his account is badly over-drawn.”

He was a wise man and trusted leader.  When my marriage went to hell, he gave me the wisest counsel possible by just inviting me to spend a quiet weekend with Pam and him.  “You can talk or not talk or just stretch out in the hammock in the back yard.  But come.”

And he was a natural woodsman.  In February 1983, he invited me to camp with him and his friends, Duke and Barry Vickery, on their annual campout along the Middle Fork of the Savage River in Garrett County, Maryland.  It was a backpacking campout—tents and campfire cooking—that came to include our sons and grandsons.  It was serious camping, miles back in the woods, in temperatures that would often drop below zero and, once, snowed us in when 44 inches of snow fell after we got to the site.  Many of the happiest days of my life have been spent around a campfire with Bill and Duke and Barry.

When it came time for me to choose a best man for my second wedding, there was no doubt that it would be Bill.  That’s a pretty apt description; along with my Dad, my Grand-dad, Pat Oates and my sons, Bill Pine joins that pantheon of men who have been examples for me of what “a good man” is.

Bill Pine—Naval Officer, warrior, husband, father and shipmate—died suddenly and unexpectedly on Thursday night.  As Pam told me on the phone last night, they didn’t just break the mold when they made him, “they beat the living hell out of it!!”  I think Stevenson was describing Captain Donald William Pine, United States Navy (retired) when he wrote “Home is the sailor, home from the sea, and the hunter home from the hill.”

"Alpha Mike Foxtrot, Shipmate.  Sleep well, Green Worm.  Blue Worm, out.”