In his memory:
Capt. Frank "Fang" Liberato, USN (ret.)
Died October 3, 2013
Updated: March 20, 2015
Capt. Liberato sitting in his detachment's RF-8A Crusader
with his former plane captain Richard Flake AMSC USN (ret.)
VFP-62 reunion Battleship Park 2008
- Capt. Frank A. Liberato lived and died with the bravery and passion of a fighter pilot. A 1951 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, he is the only American to survive going through the screws of an aircraft carrier after the engine on his Hellcat fighter failed on takeoff. His plane crashed and the carrier ran over him and his plane. But he said his greatest accomplishment was to marry Patricia Nelson.
The son of Frank and Anna Lee Croft Liberato, he is survived by Patty and their children, Lynne, Frank, Mark and Paul and their spouses, James Flodine and Anne, Robin and Lindy Liberato, his brother Samuel Rodman Liberato and his son-in-law Dr. Tom Nichols. He so loved his grandchildren, Callon, Vince, Gina, Austin, Benjamin, Reid, Alexandra, Aaron and Nick. Baby Peyton will be his first great grandchild.
Captain Liberato was a Navy fighter pilot from 1953 -1977, served on 9 different aircraft carriers as a pilot or ship's company member. He retired from Chance-Vought in 1990 as Manager of System Safety. Before his four years at the Naval Academy, he attended Auburn University from 1945-47.
A Requiem Mass will be held at 11 a.m., Wednesday, October 9, at St. Cyril Catholic Church, 10503 Westheimer Road. A luncheon will follow immediately after the services. There also will be a Rosary for the family at 10 a.m. at the church, but anyone is welcome to attend. Capt. Liberato had asked those wishing to do so to make donations to Catholic Charities of Houston, U.S. Naval Academy Foundation, Inc. or the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation, Inc.
Heaven has one more warrior guarding its gates.
Published in Houston Chronicle on October 6, 2013
USS Intrepid Det 33 pilots; circa 1961
L-R: Lt. Cdr. Liberato, Cdr. Winslow
L-R: Lt.jg Adam Miklovis, Lt. Cdr. Liberato
Memories and Tributes
A Warrior has Passed Away
October 3, 2013:
Today a dear friend passed away. His name is CAPT. (R) Frank Liberato, USN, Annapolis graduate. He was 84 years old. His wife and my Hattie were at his bedside when he closed his eyes for the last time at a hospital in Houston, Texas.
Frank was one of my true hero's in life. I respected and honored him so much. Frank was a patriot and a gentleman, but most of all....he was a fighter pilot, he would tell you that himself [his call sign was 'Fang']. He will truly be missed.
The Liberato Family is a gift to the world. The joy and goodness in this Family is a true blessing. Frank has four children; one daughter and three son's*. ALL are very successful. Frank has multitudes of grandchildren. One grandson, Callon, is also a Annapolis graduate , and is now attending Harvard University. Callon and his brother Ben are two wonderful young men that I truly like.
I'm proud to say that Hattie and I are honorary members of this wonderful Family. That is why Frank's passing away really hurts.
Frank is also immortal.
In Mobile, Alabama at the USS Alabama Battleship Park are displays of military historical 'hardware'. Besides the great battleship, there is a submarine, B-52 bomber and assorted other military hardware. One aircraft in particular, is a U.S.Navy RF-8 Crusader photo reconnaissance jet that had been one of the planes that took photos [during] the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis [See photos this page].
Please go visit this park when your on I-10 going through Mobile, and walk up to that Crusader and say 'Hello' to my hero.....Frank Liberato, one of our countries finest.
I'll be leaving next week to Houston to say goodbye to Frank. I'm sure going to miss you Fang.
God Bless You, Frank.
From a friend and fellow veteran.
- A dear member and former president of Big Lagoon Kiwanis died Oct 3. Frank was a valued member who was always willing to help in any endeavor. His pickup truck was loaded many times with coats and jackets for the for the poor.
David Herman via Nora Wilcox via Jerry Unruh
4 October 2013
- Though Fang Liberato was leader of the bunch down the passageway, he was a hard-charging, admired figure around NAS Dallas for many years. I have many fond memories of the man, who was always smiling and running at about 110%.
5 October 2013
- Frank, of course, flew with VFP 62 during the Cuban missile crises but I knew him as a co-worker at LTV in Grand Prairie. He was also CO of Reserve squadron 701 (or 702) at NAS Dallas of which I was also a member. After retirement I believe he lived in Pensacola where he was the official tour guide for the Naval Air Museum. He was a great guy and leader and certainly worth a nickel on the grass. I have attached his obit from the Sunday Chronicle. [Linked at http://tinyurl.com/l6ulksq ] The sad part is I never knew he lived in Houston.
6 October 2013
- You could always VID Frank from a distance at Tailhook because of his straw cowboy hat--and the big grin that went with it.
When I was on The Hook mid-80s we ran his story about splashing his TraCom Hellcat off the bow of the Monterey Boat. The ship ran over the Ironworks product, sending Fang bouncing down the keel while hearing the THRUM-THRUM-THRUM of the approaching props. Don't know how he kept his breath, but he was spit out BETWEEN THE SCREWS and popped up in the wake. Frank said he was almost high enough to see the ramp. He nearly passed out from the sudden oxygen infusion but a coupla days later he got another F6 and completed CQs.
6 October 2013
Battleship Memorial Park, Mobile ALSince Dad was the last CO [Capt. Mo Hayes], and I knew Fang, I decided to have my photo taken on that side of our airplane at the USS Alabama memorial earlier this year. Besides, I couldn't compete with the geared up mannequin.
VFP-62's RF-8A Bu No 145645 (913)
Photo: Hank Hayes (with a knockoff "Liberato straw cowboy hat")
Upon news of Fang's death it occurred to me that the above photo has some significance.
He was Mister Liberato to me - one of Dad's pilots while I was a young Sonofagunfighter. He seemed a little different from the other guys - colorful and funny. Anybody named Fang gets a kid's attention.
Dad says he had a good enough sense of humor that he called himself the Skinny Guinea. It seems that everybody knew him, which is a nice thing to say about a man.
- "Fang" and Dallas USN(R) squadrons story:
As a VF-124 Training Officer when they were called up, I accompanied our XO Jerry Abercrombie to their newly assigned Ready Room to welcome them aboard NKX. I gave the course rules lecture in about 15 minutes, then the XO really laid down the law for general conduct around the base. Perhaps he was inspired by the fact that about half the pilots were in attire that was neither Navy nor Airline! At any rate, some 30-year old JG in the back of the room finally said (loudly): "Hey, it's noon! Let's knock this crap off and go to the club for a sandwich and a beer!" They sprang to their feet and headed for the door. The XO, who had just cautioned them about having an SDO on duty at all times, shouted at Frank, "Who's the duty officer?" Frank said over his shoulder. "Thanks for taking it for us, Jerry!" Those were the days . . .
8 October 2013
- (10/14/13): Mr Liberato was Pensacola born and bred. He told me all the pretty girls were in Pensacola, went after those gold wings, got himself gold wings, and he got the Pensacola girl of his dreams.
Phillip Jax Smith jr
- (3/20/15): I was sad to hear if the passing of Mr. Liberato. Ironically the movie Top Gun was on the television and it caused me to lament on my old friend and mentor, who instilled values in me that are present today. I looked him up online and realized the bad news.
In the late 80's my father was stationed at Carswell AFB in the Ft. Worth area. We bought a house on Woodford Drive in Arlington. Frank and Patsy had lived there for a few years and we were close neighbors. Dad traveled a lot TDY as he was the DO for the F-4 Phantom squadron based at Carswell and one of the up and coming group of the "fighter mafia" officers. Mr. Liberato was a M-F worker at the time and was always around. He quickly became a close friend and we had a relationship similar to Mr. Wilson and Dennis the Menace. I as a young boy I always loved to hear his stories of Naval aviation and the life lessons he offered. I was always thrilled to see the table in the living room that contained his uniform rank and unit insignias, along with his "fruit salad".
Mr. Liberato taught me the basics of wood working at a young age. Let me tell you, that man was good with a saw and router. Today my garage and wood shop reflect the organized and clean manner in which he maintained his 25 years before.
I also learned from the "Fang" and my father the basic principles of responsibility, duty, promptness, and integrity.
In 1990 the decision was made to terminate the F-4 from active reserves and dad had to chose between learning a new airframe and maybe working for the airlines upon retirement, or starting to climb the admin ladder. He declined the former and off to GA we went, where he ran a logistics program. Moving away from Mr. Liberato was akin to losing an uncle or grandfather for me, and I missed him greatly.
After GA dad was transferred to the Pentagon and we settled in Annapolis for the remainder of his career. Because of this I was able to see Mr. Liberato a handful more times when he and Patsy would come up for Naval Academy Alum functions. As with many things, life went on and I didn't communicate with Mr. Liberato as much over the years, but I never forgot him.
He'd be proud to know I chose a career serving the public and eventually found my way into a cockpit as well.
In closing, I'd like to thank Frank for his service to the Navy and in smaller part to me. I was just the annoying kid next door that he tolerated, daily, and had a major impact on. Part of who and what I am today are a product of me having met him years ago.
Patsy, I hope you are well and I am sorry for your loss.
Addio Mr. Liberato
Captain Charles Steptoe, NR-P, FP-C
District of Columbia Fire and EMS Department Special Operations Division
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