This is a painting of the Castle Hill lighthouse off the Ram’s Head in Newport, Rhode Island. My daughter, Gina, and I hiked the short trail to this rocky beach with our dear friends Ray and Julie Jorgensen and their daughter Claire.
The occasion was the graduation of Ray and Julie’s son, Curtis, from Officer Candidate School. The graduation ceremony was a thing of beauty. Rows upon rows of crisp, white uniforms with black trim, short-brimmed caps. The pageantry of the event–and the tradition–struck me like a lightning bolt. It became clear to me that the United States Navy is more than a military unit. It is a culture, an identity, a membership in an exclusive club of brave and disciplined voyagers.
The city of Newport itself was an unforgettable experience for me. While driving through the town, I spotted a welcome sign for Newport. “Founded in 1639”. I guess I didn’t pay attention to my history lessons that well, for this little fact instantly reset my admiration for this place. I loved walking through the city center, its quaint shops, deliciously-smelling cafes, and the landmark Trinity Church where the likes of George Washington and Queen Elizabeth worshiped. We walked along the Cliff Walk, an elevated, paved walking trail several hundred feet above the breakers. The Cliff Walk winds along the cliff in front of some massive and ornate mansions including Cornelius Vanderbilt’s The Breakers and the famous Rosecliff, where Robert Redford hosted his extravagant parties as the fictitious Jay Gatsby. We enjoyed the best clam chowder I’ve ever eaten at Anthony’s Seafood on the Northwest side. I highly recommend it!
A little side note on the Jorgensens. It was a pleasure experiencing Newport with Ray and Julie. They are my in-laws, and I count it a rare blessing to have such good friends to share this role. Curtis married my daughter, Jessica, in 2013. They were sweethearts since the fifth grade. They grew up attending the same church. I worked for Ray in the 90’s. Later we reversed roles and he worked for me. Through all our working together, I always found Ray to be an excellent teacher, very patient and knowledgeable. Curtis was a complete gentleman in the way he approached me about marrying Jessica. I couldn’t ask for any better son-in-law. To this day, I always tell people to treat coworkers well, for someday they may be related!