In my own words… Farewell to a Naval aviator
By By Chatt McGonagill
June 28, 2001
On June 2, 2001, Capt. Robert Ryan Morton "slipped the surly bonds of earth to dance the skies on laughter-silvered wings"… (from John G. Magee Jr's. "High Flight.")
Capt. Morton, who had served as the Commanding Officer of NAS Meridian from 1978 to 1981, died of cancer at his home in Coronado Calif. His remains were inurned at the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery at Point Loma California. The cemetery is on a picturesque location jutting out into the Pacific Ocean with the San Diego Harbor to the east.
He is survived by his wife, Wanda and their two daughters, Lisa and Melanie. Lisa and her husband, Bruce Kirchenheiter, are the parents of the two grandsons, Robert and Thomas.
Served with honor
Capt. Morton or "Mort" as he preferred, unless being addressed in an official capacity, served the Navy and his country for 30 years with distinction and honor. He was a "Fighter Pilot," and often introduced himself with a twinkle in his eye as "The World's Greatest Fighter Pilot."
During the Vietnam conflict, he commanded VF-92 aboard the USS America. One of the fighters that he flew from the carrier in his earlier tour was the F7-U Cutlass. This was an aircraft that was soon discontinued by the Navy because it was so notoriously difficult to land aboard the carrier and had resulted in many fatal accidents.
Perhaps it was his rural farm heritage from southern Minnesota, but he loved the Meridian area and its people. He established many lifelong friends in Meridian that he and Wanda returned to visit as often as possible.
Among these, but not limited to, were Al and Lucille Rosenbaum, Jack and Dot Bouchillon, along with many of his former military associates. Also included in his list of many friends in the Meridian area were the civilian employees assigned to the base during his tour as Commanding Officer. Each time he returned to the area he would visit with his secretaries, Louise Smith and Mae Frazier.
He enjoyed participating in what would be considered "the simple things of life," such as cutting firewood, stomping through the woods looking for lighter (pine) knots or dining at one of the local catfish restaurants.
He was equally as fascinated and comfortable while participating at formal social occasions, whether it was an Admiral's Ball or addressing a distinguished assemblage. His approach to life can probably best be described as with intense fervor.
An example of his compassion was obvious through the one task where he was not comfortable. That was the admonishing of punishment at Capt.'s Mast to sailors that had committed offenses. The emotional strain that he endured while performing this unpleasant task was readily apparent.
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew.
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space, Put out my hand, and touched the face of God."
(From the above author)
On behalf of your Meridian area friends and shipmates, we bid you farewell, dear friend.
Chatt McGonagill, CDR, USN (ret.) was Executive Officer at NAS Meridian during Capt. Morton's tour.