THE FIRST COMMANDING OFFICER
CDR David E. Sigsworth
CAPTAIN DAVID E. SIGSWORTH, U.S. Navy, was born and brought up in the small community of Kipton, Ohio. Following Navy enlisted service at the end of World War II, he attended Oberlin College, Ober-lin, Ohio, graduating in 1950. Commissioned in 1951, after graduating with class I at Officers' Candidate School, Newport, Rhode Island; he served in destroyers, minesweepers, fleet oilers, and as Commanding Officer of the USS Outgamie County (LST-1073). Other tours have included staff duty with the Chief of Naval Operations, Commander in Chief Pacific, and Commander Amphibious Group Three. CAPTAIN SIGSWORTH is a graduate of the Naval Intelligence School in Washington, D.C. and the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. In addition to various campaign medals, he has been awarded the Joint Service Commendation Medal and the Navy Commendation Medal.
[photos courtesy of 1972 USS Schenectady cruise book]
Capt. David Sigsworth; assistant director of Naval Intelligence in '70s;
Coronado Floral Association leader. Dead in San Diego at the age of 79.
Other than commanding Navy ships, the job may have been the most responsible one Capt. David Sigsworth ever had, but his family knew little about what he actually did.
"He never talked about it," recalled his son, Grant Sigsworth. "I would ask him. He wouldn't tell me."
That top-secret job was assistant director of Naval Intelligence in the Pentagon. Mr. Sigsworth held the post from 1975 to 1977.
Retiring from the Navy in 1982 and in his mid-50s, Capt. Sigsworth eschewed a second career, instead tending to his flower garden at his Coronado home and qualifying as a master gardener. He joined the Coronado Floral Association with his wife and became its president from 1995 through 1997 while also helping prune and tend the rose garden in Balboa Park.
Mr. Sigsworth died Jan. 15 in Sharp Coronado Hospital after a sudden bout of pneumonia. He was 79.
His plunge into gardening after a career at sea and in intelligence gathering reflected "an affinity for making things grow" from his childhood on an Ohio farm, his son said.
Suzie Heap of Coronado, a member of the Coronado Floral Association for four decades, remembered him as pleasant, bright and quiet. His wife, a fellow Naval officer, Janet Burdick Sigsworth, enjoyed floral arrangement, and Mr. Sigsworth was particularly fond of raising roses and bonsai trees, she said.
Capt. Sigsworth also enjoyed a good game of bridge and worked The New York Times crossword puzzle in ink over morning coffee, Heap recalled.
"When he finished, if someone had The Wall Street Journal's, he would offer to help them with it," Heap said.
Sondi Arndt, a past president of the association, said she thinks the couple joined the floral association as a way to be involved in the community, as did many military retirees.
The couple helped organize the annual April floral competition; she helped with the newsletter, and he helped judge a competition of church lawns. Mrs. Sigsworth died in 2002.
David Eugene Sigsworth was born June 20, 1927, in Kipton, Ohio.
A precocious child, he once named a cow "Anonymous" when no better name came to mind, his son said.
Turning 18 and perhaps seeing a way off the farm, he enlisted in the Navy. He was finishing boot camp when World War II ended, and he was released from service, his son said.
He graduated from Oberlin College in 1950. He started graduate studies in European diplomatic history at Ohio State University, then changed his mind and graduated in 1951 from Navy Officer Candidate School in Newport, R.I.
After tours as a junior officer aboard the destroyer Harwood and the destroyer escort Haas, he became executive officer of the minesweeper Esteem, followed by a tour as commanding officer of the amphibious ship Outagamie County as a senior lieutenant.
In New Orleans, while he was stationed aboard the Haas, he met his future wife, whom he married in 1954.
He had several shore staff roles, then was executive officer of the oiler ship Hassayampa. Probably his most rewarding tour was as the first commanding officer of the landing ship Schenectady, his son said.
"It was an honor to be selected the first," Grant Sigsworth said.
He became assistant director of Naval Intelligence in 1975 at the invitation of the director, Adm. Bobby Ray Inman.
Grant Sigsworth, himself a retired Naval reserve officer, said he has concluded, through research through public records, that much of his father's intelligence work was involved with monitoring locations of Soviet submarines.
He returned to sea in 1977 as commanding officer of the amphibious transport dock Dubuque.
"I have a feeling he enjoyed the ships more" than the Pentagon, the son said.
His final tour, before retirement July 1, 1982, was as chief of staff of the 11th Naval District.
"He was just one of many, many career sailors that toiled in anonymity for no other reason than duty," his son said. "Sounds corny, but I think it's true."
In retirement, Mr. Sigsworth remained a voracious reader, with a particular interest in history of World War II politics and the Napoleonic Wars. He took classes through UCSD's extension program to earn the master gardener designation.
He survived several bouts with cancer, but was active, attending association meetings, until he was hospitalized with pneumonia.
Survivors include: his son; a daughter, Leslie Higginbotham, of San Diego; and one grandchild.
He was buried Jan. 26 in Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery.
Floral association members went to his home last week and dug up his garden of more than a dozen Heritage English rose plants. They will distribute them to master gardeners for caring.
By David E. Graham
STAFF WRITER San Diego Union-Tribune
February 11, 2007
Many thanks to Steven E. Rivara for providing the sad news of the death of Capt. Sigsworth.
Shipmates and plank owners proudly served under this gentleman officer and commander. His passing serves to remind Schenectady sailors everywhere of the good times and camaraderie enjoyed nearly four decades ago. Capt. Sigsworth was a friend and leader of his officers and crew. He well deserved the Navy Commendation Medal awarded to him. He proudly served the USS Schenectady and made her the pride of WestPac. He will long be remembered by those who knew him and served alongside him.
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