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1/12/09

Death of a Classmate - John William Sellers

By Byington sent this in:

Obituary: John William Sellers commanded destroyers for Navy


By TERRY LEE GOODRICH
tgoodrich@star-telegram.com
ARLINGTON — John William Sellers downplayed his distinguished military career as a Navy captain, declaring that he was "just a dumb ship driver."
In reality, Mr. Sellers commanded destroyers during nine tours of duty before and after the Vietnam War. He earned many medals, including the Legion of Merit, and some of his papers, including one on anti-submarine warfare, were used as military training manuals.

At 8 years old, he already had his career plan. He took quill pen in hand and wrote a letter to his mother on the back of an envelope, telling her his intention to enter the Naval Academy, said Mr. Sellers’ older son, Clay Sellers of San Diego.

On board ship, some called him "the hanging judge," said his daughter, Lynne Ann Sellers of Arlington. "He was fair, but if you were wrong, you paid the consequences," she said.

On the flip side, "everybody said the same thing: that he was the biggest-hearted grumpy old man," said Mr. Sellers’ younger son, Andy Sellers, a Tarrant County print shop employee who lives near Burleson

Mr. Sellers died at a Fort Worth hospital Tuesday of a heart attack after cancer. He was 76.

Mr. Sellers was born April 29, 1932, in Terre Haute, Ind. He graduated from Garfield High School in Terre Haute, where he was captain of the football team, said his wife, Jeanie Sellers.

Mr. Sellers graduated from the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., in 1954. He earned two master’s degrees: one in U.S. marine affairs from the University of Rhode Island and one in management and strategy from the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, R.I. He also attended the Navy Nuclear Power Training School in Idaho Falls, Idaho.

After he graduated from the academy, he married Kae Howard on Nov. 13, 1954. They were married 43 years, until Mrs. Sellers died of pancreatic cancer in 1997. They had three children.

Lynne Ann Sellers said her father gave "great hugs" and had a droll sense of humor.

"I brought home a date named Sam in high school," she said. "My father backed him into the door of the coat closet and said, 'Would you like a punch in the nose?’ Sam said, 'No, sir.’ My dad said 'OK’ and walked into the kitchen."

Mr. Sellers was introduced to his second wife by son Andy Sellers, who was her friend and former neighbor.

"I thought he [Mr. Sellers] was quiet," said Jeanie Sellers, formerly Jeanie McNeill. "I was wrong."

They were married April 1, 2000.Mr. Sellers had a resounding bass voice and performed with barbershop quartets. He also sang with the Naval Academy Choir at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C."My father was the finest man, with a wry sense of humor, and was very giving," said Clay Sellers, a retired Navy commander. "I couldn’t have had a better role model."

His father retired in 1984, performing his last military act at a retirement ceremony in Grand Prairie, when he promoted Clay Sellers to lieutenant junior grade.

After retiring, Mr. Sellers taught math, science and economics for 11 years in a former performing arts high school in Fort Worth.

He was "a bulwark" in the choir at St. Barnabas United Methodist Church in Arlington and a member of Stephen Ministry, a laity outreach, Mrs. Sellers said. In his spare time, he did woodworking and handpainted 103 buildings to make a village.

Military discipline aside, "he would sit and watch Extreme Makover with a box of Kleenex beside him," Jeanie Sellers said. "He was very soft-hearted."

Survivors include his wife, Jeanie Sellers; his children, Lynne Ann Sellers, Clay Sellers and Andrew Sellers; stepchildren, Brian McNeill and Heather McNeill; 10 grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.

Memorial service 3 p.m. Saturday at St. Barnabas Methodist Church, 5011 W. Pleasant Ridge Road, Arlington.
Memorials: Donations may be made to the Good Samaritan Fund in care of St. Barnabas Methodist Church.

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