On June 1, 2022, Captain Richard Griffiss Alexander, U. S. Navy (Retired), slipped his mooring and peacefully crossed the bar, surrounded by his family. He was 99, just two months shy of 100.
Richard, or Dick as he was known to so many, was married to the love of his life, Hope Hodgman Powel, for 72 years until her death in 2019. He was predeceased by his brother William Henry Alexander, and is survived by his sister, Katherine Alexander Grimes of Jamestown. He leaves behind four children and their spouses: Hope and Lloyd Griscom, Lisa and Tom Goddard, Kate and Toby Field, and Tim and Kathleen Alexander. Dick was the beloved patriarch to eleven grandchildren: Hope Strode, Charlotte Strode Beck, Tom Goddard Jr., Libby Goddard, Caroline Goddard, Alex Field, Julia Field Driscoll, Heather Alexander Sanchez, Brooke Alexander Meyers, Sam Alexander and Hope Alexander Hutchinson and twelve great grandchildren, with more on the way. To the end, he took great delight in the lives of all his family. He was tremendously grateful for his family’s love and care in his last years and so appreciated the help and support of his caregivers.
Captain Alexander, “Captain” to many, was born on San Diego Bay, California, August 1,1922 to Lieutenant Ralph Clonts Alexander, U.S. Navy and Elizabeth Gates Evans. His early arrival aboard the admiral’s barge at the fleet landing provided a unique beginning for a man who faithfully served the United States Navy for 26 years.
A Navy junior, Dick lived in Coronado, Washington, and Annapolis where at age six he sailed aboard the yacht America. He was graduated from St. Alban’s School before entering the U.S. Naval Academy, class of 1945. However, due to the needs of the Navy during World War II, this class graduated and joined the Fleet in 1944.
Ensign Alexander reported to his first ship, USS Cushing (DD-797) in the Southwest Pacific as navigator. On September 2, 1945, he witnessed first-hand the Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri. Over the next 10 years he served in various capacities in USS O’Hare (DD-889), the Presidential Yacht USS Williamsburg, USS Rooks (DD-804), and USS Mitscher (DL-2). Following shore duty assignments at the Naval War College and the Bureau of Naval Personnel, he returned to sea as executive officer of USS Jonas Ingram (DD-938), followed by command of USS Hartley (DE-1029). In 1962, after service as Aide to the President, Naval War College, he took command of USS Semmes (DDG-18). In 1967 Captain Alexander reported as prospective commanding officer of USS New Jersey (BB-62), which was being re-activated for service in the Vietnam War. He retired in 1970.
Over the course of his career, Captain Alexander fought in World War II and served his country during both the Korean and Vietnam conflicts. His decorations include the Navy Commendation Medal for outstanding meritorious service, the American Defense Service Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign medal with one silver and one bronze star, America Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Navy Occupation Service Medal, Asia Clasp, National Defense Service Medal with bronze star, and the Philippine Liberation Ribbon with two bronze stars.
Throughout his life Dick was an avid aviation enthusiast. During high school and with the support of his uncle, Lieutenant Colonel Townsend Griffiss, U.S. Army Air Corps, he took flying lessons at Hillsgrove State Airport in Providence, eventually soloing before heading off to the Naval Academy. An aircraft owner for many years, he loved the excitement and the camaraderie of the aviation community. He travelled extensively in his airplane with family and friends and took great pleasure in teaching others to fly, including his children.
Following 26 years of dedicated service to our nation and Navy, Dick threw himself into new interests. He was very proud of successfully establishing viticulture on Aquidneck Island with the founding of Hopelands Vineyards (now Newport Vineyards), first on Indian Avenue and later at its current site on East Main Road.
Dick had a very warm spot in his heart for the Clambake Club in Middletown, serving as its president from 1979 to 1984. In acknowledgement of his superlative leadership, the club made him an honorary life member and President Emeritus.
He spent a lifetime in the pursuit of knowledge, and he possessed a great understanding of history, society, the world, and the universe. He never missed an opportunity to share his knowledge with the intent to instruct and inspire. Dick mentored his children, nieces, nephews and many young people, teaching them important life lessons on a sailboat, in his workshop and garage, in his airplane and in the vineyards. He was a toastmaster extraordinaire, using his platform to both amuse and educate. He was a prolific writer, authoring many professional articles and shared his views often in letters to the editor of the Newport Daily News and the Providence Journal.
The Captain loved God and his country, supporting many charities that improved the lives of veterans and those in need. Dick served St. Columba’s Chapel in Middletown, joining the vestry as treasurer, then as chairman of the Cemetery Committee. He significantly improved the parish’s cemetery management systems and developed a detailed oral history of many of the churchyard residents.
Dick Alexander will be remembered for his ever-present gratitude for life’s blessings and for demonstrating, by his word and example, how to age with grace. He will be greatly missed.
A celebration of Captain Alexander’s life will be held at St. Columba’s Chapel on Tuesday, June 14th at 11AM. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to St. Columba’s Chapel, 55 Vaucluse Avenue, Middletown, RI 02842 or another charity of your choice.