Remembering B.J. Nolan


Born in Boise, B.J. followed his family to Washington at a young age. His father worked on the Grand Coulee Dam in the 1930s. They moved to Roy, where Bob attended high school. At 18, his search for adventure took root. He joined the Navy. He was at boot camp in San Diego in August 1945 when the Enola Gay dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. What ensued was a 25-year career in the service, working as a repairman on ships at ports near and far. The seaman recruit eventually became a lieutenant commander. He served a tour of duty during the Korean War and was deployed for four more during the Vietnam War. It was during his time in Vietnam that Bob's first wife died suddenly of cancer. He rebounded, met Marian, retired from the service in 1970, and began an odyssey of travel and business stints. Bob pursued the logging business, and then went to work for 10 years as a repairman for his good friend and partner, Don Small, at his family-run oil company in Auburn. Dan Small, son of the company's late patriarch, recalled the resourceful Nolan in a 2008 article in the Auburn Reporter Editor. "He always had something going on in his garage," he said. That included his love for well-built motorcycles and a restored cyclecar. "There isn't anything he can't build or fix," Marian said. "You turn him lose in the garage right now to do something ... and he remembers how to do it. There are some things you never forget."

Wardroom Colleagues Recall B.J.

Bob (BJ) Nolan came aboard PYRO within a few months of my arriving fresh from TDA at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, DCA School. The difference in our Navy career up to that point was as different as night and day. At that time, BJ came from 18 years of combined service both as an enlisted sailor, and as an officer. I was just months out of OCS and what I knew about the Navy and the engineering duties I was about to undertake would fit in BJ's shirt pocket. Meeting Bob for the first time, I immediately sensed that here was a man who, if there was the technology then, they would find that his DNA had gears and oil in it. As I remember it, BJ was chief Engineering Officer shortly after I came aboard. I believe he replaced Lou Sedoris at that billet probably about May '63. Bob didn't so much as work at his role as Chief Engineer, he personified what I would soon come to know him to be, an engineering authority and friend that I could turn to for guidance. Even though many times, not wanting to show my 'wet behind the ears' demeanor when Bob was nearby, he would give me that sideways stare with his jaw clenched, and I would know I had better ask for his advice or I would never forgive myself. Bob came up to Officer Country through the enlisted ranks, LDO and so on. He seemed to be the mother hen of the other LDO guys (Bob Lynch, Roy Pierce, Ted Wyle, etc.). He had a gruff, stern appearance at times, but he was deeply respected by officers and enlisted alike for his loyalty to Pyro's engineering group. You earned his regard if you at least attempted diligent service to the Navy and accomplished good team work. I hope you can tell from these thoughts, I liked the guy a lot.  Tom Moulton, LTJg/LT USNR

As a junior officer fresh out of Officer Candidate School I was blessed to be assigned to the same ship Bob "BJ" Nolan was serving on. From the minute I reported on board, I immediately recognized him as a mentor and model for what I should aspire to be. He was kind, considerate and highly respected by every shipmate on board the USS Pyro AE-24. If I had a question...the first person I would approach was BJ. He'd always take the time to give me a sincere answer - he was patient with all of us who looked up to him. His focus was not only the engine room but the ship, in general. It was apparent that the Captain of the shipadmired and respected BJ as well. He was the epitome of what a Naval Officer should be, in every regard. I have been fortunate to have had a number of role models in my life. None was valued more than BJ Nolan. John Wichtrich, LCDR USNR

Sea-stories describing Bob Nolan's technical and leadership skills, as well as his humor, could fill this issue of the Scuttlebutt. "B.J.", through his technical ability and leadership skills was a primary contributor to the success of the PYRO during those 63-65 days in
WESPAC. Bob's initiative, willingness to use his resources to support others and his leadership style helped mold many young P.O's and junior officers that had a lasting influence on their leadership traits. Larry Sheipline, LTjg/LT USNR


I'll always recall BJ getting on Rollie Stratton's ass for lack of professionalism.   Add to that his comments about us ensigns playing Monopoly. Those of us involved will pick up on this thought, but we had better not put it in writing. BUPERS can still make you forfeit your entire ensign's pay, retroactively. He was a great guy and a true leader. His "can do" attitude was an inspiration to me and many others. I think he rubbed off many good qualities on us "officers", including dedication to work, pride in the Navy, and loyalty to the USA. Frank Fannin, LTjg/LT USNR
I can remember being terrified by Bob (BJ) when I first came aboard. He had zero time for or patience with me. He found my questions absurd and dismissed them/me out of hand. One day the XO asked me to find him and I located him fast asleep in his stateroom. I told him the XO needed to see him. He told me to "go to hell and get the f_out of my stateroom!". No one, not even the CO, intimidated him. Everyone knew that he had no equal in the engine room and treated him like a demi-god; except for Chris, Gary and Wichtrich who always kidded him about his manner and dress (he was always smeared with oil/grease). After about a year, he finally tolerated me and we then became friends. What a guy!  Tom Murphy (Murph), LTJg/LT USNR
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Revised: 04/10/2016