O Trinity of love and power!
Our brethren shield in danger's hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them wheresoe'er they go;
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.
"Eternal Father, Strong to Save" (Navy Hymn)
Captain William Henry DeMers II, USN Retired, 93, of Linden Ponds Retirement Community in Hingham, MA, passed away peacefully on May 23, 2020 holding the hands of his children.
Bill was born in the small town of Troy, NY on December 11, 1926 to William H. DeMers, Jr. and Ruth Parsons Millard. Bill’s father attended Cornell University, enlisted in the Army during WWI, and worked in real estate after the war. Bill’s mother graduated from Russell Sage College with a home economics degree and spent a few years teaching in PA and in Troy, NY before marrying.
Bill had two siblings: an older sister, Barbara Alice, who died at the age of five from spinal meningitis; and a younger brother, David Millard, born with intellectual disabilities now understood as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Tourette’s Syndrome. Much of Bill’s adult life was spent trying to provide a better life for his brother. The Great Depression caused financial hardships upon his family and would make an impression on Bill in his adult life and on his career choices.
After graduating from Troy High School in 1944, Bill enlisted in the Navy before his 18th birthday, near the end of WWII. After boot camp he was selected for Radar School in Virginia Beach, VA. He recalled, “The Cavalier Hotel was taken over by the military. They had radars on the top of it, and it’s a resort-golf course, cabanas, and all that. It was stripped of all the furnishings and just put bunk beds in there, but it was a delightful time.”
From there he received orders to board a ship commissioned in Rhode Island for a nine-month tour. His ship arrived in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii the very night the Japanese surrendered. He spoke of how all the ships in the harbor celebrated this momentous victory by shining their searchlights and tooting their horns - quite a night of celebration! During this tour, he was asked if he wanted to attend the Naval Academy. Following the tour, he then received orders to go to prep school in Bainbridge, Maryland followed by admission to the U.S. Naval Academy.
Bill graduated from the Naval Academy with the Class of 1950. He would say that “he probably wasn’t the most scholarly” student but he absolutely enjoyed his time there, especially being part of the gymnastics team – his event was the pommel horse. The friendships he made at the Naval Academy lasted a lifetime.
Bill’s Naval career navigated him all around the world. In 1950 he was assigned to the USS Worcester which participated in the early phase of the Korean War. He revealed, “I would stand on the deck watching artillery gunfire fly overhead!” His poetic letters with black and white photographs to family shared the excitement and beauty of places like Gibraltar, Malta, France, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Spain, Hawaii, Australia, and the Virgin Islands. In 1954 he went on to destroyer service with duties throughout the years which included deciphering Soviet codes as a Crypto Security Officer, an Engineer Officer on the USS Barton, a Navigator on the USS Tweedy, the Commander of the USS Lester, the Commander of the USS Glover, and Military Deputy to Deputy Assistant Oceanographer for Ocean Science.
In 1951, Bill met a blue-eyed beauty from Nashua, NH, Barbara Virginia Hermance, while stationed in Boston, MA. They married in April 1952. She was the love of his life, and their marriage lasted 67 years until Barbara’s passing in 2019. They raised three children together and made many moves up and down the east coast as Bill’s career advanced.
A total of 34 years defined his Naval career, with retirement in 1977. Suddenly, Bill found himself entering the workforce as a civilian in a whole new world. Family laughed but understood when he signed up to take a class on “how to be a civilian” to prepare him for no special salutes when entering buildings!
Bill loved hiking (the Appalachian trail, numerous trails in the White Mountains) and sailing a Sunfish on the windy waters of Newfound Lake, NH. He used his woodworking skills to create beautiful jewelry boxes and cedar chests as precious gifts for Barbara and his daughters. Time spent gardening produced zucchini, from which delicious zucchini relish was made, among other vegetables. He absolutely loved photography and printed seasonal notecards, right up until his death, of beautiful nature landscapes at Linden Ponds. He proudly sold these cards, year after year, with proceeds going to a scholarship fund for high school students working at the retirement community. And he faithfully followed the Boston Red Sox in good years and bad, attending season openers and playoff games with his son, Bob.
Bill’s life story would not be complete if we did not mention his love of golf! From the age of six when his father first took him to the golf course, his love of the sport took hold. Bill was quite good as a player and it needs to be noted that he reached the pinnacle of the sport when he made a hole in one…not once, but twice! A highlight of his fatherhood was experienced when he treated his son and two sons-in-law, Dave and Ric, to attend the 2010 Masters Tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club where Phil Mickelson won the prestigious green jacket!
Grampy, as the grandchildren called him (and sometimes Grumpy too!) will be remembered for his inimitable reading of The Night Before Christmas every year when our families gathered together at Christmastime. In 2002 Bill and Barbara celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary by generously inviting their children, children’s spouses, and grandchildren to all join them for a magical week at Disney World. Grampy’s rolls, blueberry pancakes, and cinnamon buns were his culinary specialties. Many Balderdash game definitions with belly laughs will not be forgotten, and competitive cribbage matches will be missed.
Above all, he and Barbara left our families with the most treasured gift of all…the gift of memories and time, past, present and future, to carry on their traditions at Newfound Lake, NH. “Time spent at Newfound Lake is never wasted.”
Bill leaves behind his children Diane (Dave Ballantine) DeMers, Robert DeMers, Carol Anne (Ricardo) Aguayo; grandchildren Alisha Aguayo (Alex) Semprebon, Pooja Ballantine, Keerti Ballantine, Ariyana Aguayo, Mariel DeMers; and great granddaughter Cleo Grace Semprebon. He was preceded in death by his wife Barbara Hermance DeMers, and his grandson Kevin William Ballantine.
A memorial service will be held at a later date (due to COVID-19). Bill will be buried next to Barbara in the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen, NH, most likely in the Spring of 2021. He would welcome a celebration with his friends and family…to tee off one last time.
Donations may be made in memory of Bill and Barbara DeMers to Union Congregational Church, PO Box 67, Hebron, NH 03241, or to the Salvation Army at https://give.salvationarmyusa.org/.
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