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7/29/09

David Randall Hinkle Obituary

David Randall Hinkle, CDR USN (Ret.), of Stonington, died at home on Monday, July 27, 2009. He was diagnosed with lung cancer in early 2008 but was able to continue his active lifestyle relatively unconstrained until his last several weeks. He remained in home health care and was surrounded by his loving wife of 55 years and his three daughters at his death.

Dave Hinkle was born in Clarendon, Tex., in 1930 and was raised as a farm boy on a West Texas ranch. He graduated from Tahoka High School and was licensed as a Baptist preacher before he attended Wayland Ministerial College in Plainview, Tex. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1948 and served in submarines before entering the U.S. Naval Academy by Fleet appointment.

Shortly after graduation in June 1954, he and Muriel Nelson were married.

He served in both a destroyer and one of the Navy's first advanced-sonar equipped submarines before being accepted for nuclear power training in 1958. Dave's subsequent naval career was heavily oriented toward the employment of advanced nuclear submarines in anti-submarine warfare. When he finished nuclear power training, he became part of the new construction crew of USS Tullibee, a small submarine designed especially for anti-submarine operations. Dave's job in that new-construction period was to ensure the proper installation and testing of the first of a new sonar system designed for the Navy's first production class of nuclear powered attack submarines. His performance in that job and the technical knowledge he developed were recognized by senior submarine officers, and he was ordered to the materiel staff of the force commander to institute formalized training in that new system.

Following that short staff assignment, the then Lt. Hinkle reported to the USS Haddo, one of those new class submarines being built at the New York Shipbuilding Company's yard in Camden, N.J. as operations officer. His next assignment was to the USS Plunger in Pearl Harbor, and his job was to make operational a new ASW missile system to work in conjunction with that new sonar system he had helped introduce in two previous submarines. Soon the then Lt. Cmdr. Hinkle became the executive officer of the Plunger for the initial deployments of those new submarines.

A tour with the Submarine Force's Development Squadron followed, where his unique expertise was further utilized in advanced anti-submarine warfare training and tactics. Selection for command entailed an intense preparation period in the Naval Reactors Office in Washington, followed by assuming command of the USS Pargo, which he commanded for three years, culminating his uniformed naval career.

Upon retirement from the active duty Navy, Dave started a dual path new career track. He entered law school with the University of Connecticut and also started work as an analyst in the field of underwater acoustics. Very soon, Muriel and Dave Hinkle founded Sonalysts, Inc., and when he had earned his J.D. from law school, they elected to pursue their analytical service start-up instead of entering the practice of law. It was difficult and at times frustrating, but they persevered. The Hinkles were very careful to hire entrepreneurial individuals, mostly former submariners, and the company began to grow. It is now a multidisciplinary company serving a wide range of government and commercial customers. Sonalysts, Inc., has been cited often for superior performance by various governmental agencies. In 1986 the Small Business Administration awarded the company the SBA Administrator's Award for Excellence, and Dave and Muriel were among those honored by President Reagan at a White House reception. In 1994, Dave and Muriel were finalists in the Entrepreneur of the Year competition sponsored by Ernst & Young, IBM, Merrill Lynch, US Trust, and Inc. Magazine. They were also pioneers in the field of employee ownership, creating their ESOP in 1979. This business model has been widely acknowledged as a very important factor in a company's success since, as owners and employees have a personal stake in that success. In 2002 the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut awarded Muriel and Dave Hinkle their William Crawford Distinguished Service Award. He was a member of the Naval Sumarine League and the Submarine Force Library & Museum Association. He was also a member of Ariston and the Thames Club. Many years ago he was instrumental in forming the semi-professional football team called the Southeastern Connecticut Seahawks.

David R. Hinkle was a happy man, a hardworking entrepreneur, a loyal friend, a real patriot, and a solid family man. In uniform he was more than a capable mariner, he was that, of course, but also a great deal more. He was technologically competent, militarily innovative, and a real leader of men.

He will be sadly missed by his wife, Muriel; his daughters, Valerie Hinkle Piland, Janet Lee Hinkle, and Sally Russell; also by his sons-in-law, Bud Piland and Nathan Russell, and by his grandchildren, Julie Davis, David Piland, Rebekah Piland, Nathan Piland, and Lillian Hinkle; sister, Marie Tankersley of Portland, Ore.; brothers-in-law, David Nelson and Robert Nelson and his wife, Cathy.

He was predeceased by his parents and his brother, Randall Wayne Hinkle.

Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 1, 2009, at the Shepherd of the Sea Navy Chapel, Groton. Burial with full military honors will follow at Elm Grove Cemtery, Route 27, Mystic. The family will receive friends from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday at Mystic Funeral Home, Route 1, 51 Williams Ave., Mystic.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Hospice Southeastern Connecticut, 227 Dunham St., Norwich CT 06360 or to a charity of one's choice.

The Hinkle family invites you to visit www.mysticfuneralhome.com for directions or to share an online message of condolence.

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