Navy Yard shooting victims had long careers there
WASHINGTON (AP) A dozen people died in a shooting rampage Monday at the Washington Navy Yard. It was the deadliest attack at a domestic military installation since November 2009, when an Army psychiatrist killed 13 people and wounded 30 others at Fort Hood, Texas. Early Tuesday, the stories of some of those who died started to surface.
Michael Arnold, 59, of Lorton, Va., was a Navy veteran and avid pilot who was building a light airplane at his home, said his uncle, Steve Hunter.
"It would have been the first plane he ever owned," Hunter said in a telephone interview from Rochester, Mich., Arnold's hometown. "It's partially assembled in his basement."
Hunter said his nephew retired from the Navy as a commander or lieutenant commander and had previously been stationed at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. He worked at the Navy Yard on a team that designed vessels such as the USS Makin Island, a Wasp-class amphibious assault ship used by the Marine Corps.
Arnold and his wife, Jolanda, had been married for more than 30 years, Hunter said. They had two grown sons, Eric and Christopher.
Hunter said Arnold returned to Michigan for Labor Day to visit his 80-year-old mother, Patricia.
"He was a loving son of his mother and his wife, and great father to his kids," said Hunter. "It's tragic. How can you get up in the morning and go to work and have that happen? How do bad things like that happen to good people?"
Sylvia Frasier, 53, had worked at Naval Sea Systems Command as an information assurance manager since 2000, according to a LinkedIn profile in her name.
Frasier studied at Strayer University, earning a bachelor of science in computer information systems in 2000 and a master's in information systems in 2002. Her duties at NAVSEA included providing policy and guidance on network security, and assuring that all computer systems operated by the headquarters met Department of Navy and Department of Defense requirements.
She also led efforts "to establish and implement procedures to investigate security violations or incidents," according to the profile.
Her brother, James Frasier, declined comment Monday night.
Kathleen Gaarde, 63, of Woodbridge, Va., was a financial analyst who supported the organization responsible for the shipyards, her husband, Douglass, wrote in an email to the AP Tuesday.
Douglass Gaarde declined to speak, but wrote that he was unable to sleep.
"Today my life partner of 42 years (38 of them married) was taken from me, my grown son and daughter, and friends," he wrote. "We were just starting to plan our retirement activities and now none of that matters. It hasn't fully sunk in yet but I know I already dearly miss her."
Madelyn Gaarde, of Grand Junction, Colo., who's married to Douglass Gaarde's brother, said her sister- and brother-in-law met while he was studying electrical engineering at the University of South Florida in Tampa.
Douglass Gaarde, an Illinois native, also worked for the Navy until his retirement last year, his sister-in-law said.
"She was a very gracious person and very welcoming," she said of Kathleen Gaarde.
Frank Kohler, 50, was a past president of the Rotary Club in Lexington Park, Md. As such, he proudly held the title of "King Oyster" at the annual festival celebrating the region's signature bivalve the third weekend of each October.
"He walks around with a crown and robe and gives out candy," said Bob Allen, Kohler's former boss at Lockheed Martin in southern Maryland. "In fact, he was in charge of the beer stand. I used to have that job and when I left, I handed it off to him."
The married father of two college-age daughters had driven up to the Washington Navy Yard for a meeting Monday when the shootings occurred, friends told Allen. Allen said Kohler had taken over for him as site manager for the defense contractor, but that his friend had since left the company. Allen was unsure what business Kohler had at the Navy Yard.
Allen said Kohler, a graduate of Pennsylvania's Slippery Rock College, was a Pittsburgh Steelers fan and an avid, though not overly skilled, golfer.
"He could probably shoot in the low 90s," Allen said in a telephone interview Tuesday from Bradenton, Fla. When Allen retired, Kohler picked his gift a gold pocket watch with the inscription, "From your friends in Lockheed Martin to help you putt into the future."
Kohler lived on the water with his wife, Michelle, an employee at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River. Allen said his friend loved to boat and fish, and went on frequent hunting trips to Canada.
"A great family man, a Christian, and a great friend," he said. "It just doesn't seem possible. I mean, you hear about these things all the time ... But when you know somebody, it just makes it all the worse ... It's a huge loss for southern Maryland."
Information technology specialist Mary Knight, 51, of Reston, Va., was the daughter of a former Green Beret instructor, according to Theodore Hisey, who identified himself as a family spokesman.
Her father served at the Fort Bragg Army installation and retired in Fayetteville, N.C., Hisey said. Knight's mother, Liliana, told a Raleigh television station that the shootings were a test of faith.
"I hope there is such a thing as heaven," she told WTVD. "You know, you pray for your family, and sometimes I wonder. I really do."
Knight attended high school in Fayetteville and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Hisey said. The university did not immediately respond to a request for confirmation.
Knight was also a part-time instructor of information technology at the Annandale and Loudon campuses of Northern Virginia Community College, school spokeswoman Jessica Baxter said.
Marine engineer and naval architect Vishnu Pandit, 61, preferred the nickname Kisan, the Hindi word for "peasant." It suited the hard-working Indian immigrant, known for his devotion to family, community and his 30-year civilian Navy career.
"He was very dedicated to improving the performance of naval ships and systems," longtime friend M. Nuns Jain said Tuesday outside the North Potomac home where Pandit's family privately mourned. "The only saving grace in this horrible incident is that he died doing what he loved the most in the service of his nation."
Jain said Pandit, a Mumbai native, earned a bachelor's degree in marine engineering in India in 1973 before coming to America and receiving a degree in naval architecture from the University of Michigan.
He said Pandit sailed with the U.S. Merchant Marine before joining the Naval Sea Systems Command, headquartered at the Washington Navy Yard.
Married to his wife Anjali since 1978, Pandit had two sons and a granddaughter, Jain said.
"He was a real family man and he loved dogs," including the family's golden retriever, Bailey, Jain said.
Neighbor Satish Misra said Pandit was on the home owners association board in their leafy subdivision, and active in the local Hare Krishna Hindu temple.
"He was a gentle man. I really loved him and his family," Misra said.
Kenneth Proctor, 46, worked as a civilian utilities foreman at the Navy Yard, his ex-wife, Evelyn Proctor, said. He spent 22 years working for the federal government, Evelyn Proctor said.
The Waldorf, Md., woman spoke to Kenneth early Monday morning before he left for work at the Navy Yard. It was his regular call. The high school sweethearts talked every day, even after they divorced this year after 19 years of marriage, and they shared custody of their two teenage sons.
She was in shock about her ex-husband's death.
"He just went in there in the morning for breakfast," Proctor said Monday night of the building where the shooting took place. "He didn't even work in the building. It was a routine thing for him to go there in the morning for breakfast, and unfortunately it happened."
Proctor said she tried to call her ex-husband throughout the day and drove to the Navy Yard on Monday afternoon, fearing the worst. After waiting for about three hours alongside other relatives concerned about their loved ones, she was informed around 8 p.m. that he was among the dead. Officials did not detail the circumstances of his shooting, she said.
The Proctors married in 1994 and divorced this year. Their older son, Kenneth Proctor Jr., 17, enlisted in the Army after graduating from high school this spring and is in basic training in Oklahoma. Their younger son, Kendull Proctor, is 15.
"We were still very close. It wasn't a bitter divorce," Evelyn Proctor said. "We still talked every day, and we lived 10 minutes away from each other."
Kenneth Proctor was born and raised in Charles County, Md., where he lived until his death.
"He loved the Redskins. Loved his kids a very loving, caring, gentle person. His kids meant a lot to him," Evelyn Proctor said.