Commander Ward L. Berkey, USN(Retired), age 86, died peacefully Wednesday afternoon, January 14, 2009. He was born in Johnstown, PA, in 1922, the oldest of three brothers. He began his naval aviation career in December, 1942. He was awarded the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Air Medal with 3 gold stars.
He took part in the first carrier air strikes against Tokyo as a fighter pilot flying aboard the USS Langley in February 1945. During his naval aviation career he was also a LSO (Landing Signal Officer) and helicopter pilot, as well as a piston and jet fighter pilot.
After retiring from the Navy in 1970, he worked for the city of Jacksonville for several years. He was very active in Christ the King Catholic Church. He was on various committees including the stewardship committee for many years, and earned the 4th degree in the Knights of Columbus.
He was preceded in death by his brother Kerry Berkey and first wife Anna Berkey. Ward is survived by his wife Grace Keys Berkey; children Bonnie Frazer, Terry and Jeffrey Berkey; stepsons Marcus, Vernon and David Keys; brother Wayne Berkey and eleven grandchildren.
Ward was skipper of our VFP-62 det 45-58 on the USS ESSEX from Nov. 1957 until we returned back in Nov. 1958. This was the long cruise that started in the Med with the Sixth Fleet and ended in the Pacific with the Seventh. Qualifying for two Armed Forces Expeditionary Medals for Lebanon and Quemoy, Matsu and the Taiwan straits.
Other members of our detachment were Eugene Bezore (see In Memoriam), Paul Corrigan (see In Memoriam), Dick Dietrerich (see In Memoriam), who we lost in Lebanon. Our PI was Dennis Looney. Ward was a skilled pilot and great detachment skipper, well loved by everybody and will never be forgotten by those who knew him.
VFP-62 seemed to attract the best of the Navy at that time. As the last pilot survivor of this detachment, it is my responsibility to honor them. ---Rick Maioriello
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