January 04, 2009

A True Legend Has Left Us

The First SEAL has died.

Roy Boehm of Punta Gorda, a cantankerous retired U.S. Navy lieutenant commander who fought three wars, started the Navy's first SEAL team and shared his harrowing adventures --and his battles against military bureaucracy --in an autobiography, has completed his last mission.

Roy Boehm, who had struggled with health problems for many years, died at home Tuesday night. He was 84.

His widow, Susan Boehm, declined to be interviewed about her husband. In fact, she pleaded that no story be written.

Susan said she was trying to carry out her husband's last wish, that his death not be publicized.

He wanted no obituary, no funeral service and no fanfare over his death, Susan said.

"He just wanted to go in peace," she said.

Boehm, however, had become a legend nationally for the historic role he played in pioneering unconventional warfare tactics.

Locally, Boehm also was respected for the way he stood up for the military veterans within his community, several local veterans said Friday.

"John Kennedy was right," wrote U.S. Navy Admiral Whitey Taylor, in a 1997 letter to Boehm. "The U.S. Navy SEALs will bear your mark as long as they and the freedom they fight for exists."

"He was quite a great guy," said Lionel Schuman, a board member with Charlotte County's Military Heritage & Aviation Museum.

Schuman said he got to know Boehm, who became an avid pilot during his retirement, through both men's participation in events with Experimental Aircraft Association 565.

Boehm and his wife, Susan, started a tradition of providing hot dogs, beverages and other snacks to military personnel who stopped by the group's hangar during the annual air shows, Schuman recalled.

"He definitely stood behind you, and he was always there when you needed him," Schuman said.

"His last 30 years were as full as the 31 he spent in the Navy," said Susan Boehm.

UPDATE: I didn't realize Ace had it on his sidebar already. My bad.

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