Three siblings have combined 83 years of military service and earned the same senior rank
The Three Captains
John Schempf ’58
Paving the way for younger sibs
“As the oldest child, I take some small credit for their successes as I was the example, good and bad, that they could observe,” John smiled.
During his school years, there was reorganization and changes throughout the district and physical school buildings. “A unique learning experience was in seventh grade when, due to crowding in the Lemont school, thirty or so of their seventh-grade students were bussed to Boalsburg where we were comingled together. After a period of time challenging each other to all sorts of playground games and sports, we melded together and became friends,” he said.
Mr. Samuel Ross, also known as Pop Sam, was his most influential teacher. In sixth grade, he instilled valuable time management skills to do assigned work in school when the opportunities arose rather than goofing off and then staying up late at night doing homework.
John said he wasn’t very good, but he played football, which taught him valuable lessons. “I learned about the comradery that develops among team sports members, and my fondest memories are of my football teammates,” he said.
After graduating in 1958, John went to Dartmouth College on an NROTC scholarship. “In college, I had too much fun and not enough studying, so I lost my scholarship, dropped out, and enrolled at Penn State for my junior year. At Penn State, I made Dean’s List and was able to return to Dartmouth to finish my studies,” he shared.
John planned to go to US Navy OCS, but a visit from a US Coast Guard recruiter changed his course. “He visited the campus just before graduation and asked if I wanted to be “a little fish in a big pond or a big fish in a little pond.” I chose the latter, and the rest is history,” he said. John was commissioned in the US Coast Guard in 1963 and retired in 1988, having served 28 years.
“Some of my most significant assignments included Group Commander, Group Sandy Hook, NJ during 1976 Operation Sail in New York Harbor; Executive Officer, USCG Training Center Yorktown, the service’s largest training command; and Group Commander, Boston (7 stations, three ships, 13 lighthouses) handling all Coast Guard missions from Cape Cod to the New Hampshire border,” he shared.
After enjoying his Coast Guard career, John now serves in local government. “I have been a City/Town Manager for seven smaller communities in four states, doing my best to assist the citizens in any way possible,” he said. “Whether it’s helping to understand their water bill, construction of a new recreational feature, or applying for grants to improve the streets. So, I continue my service to folks just as I was in the Coast Guard.”
John now finds value and joy in his family. “As I age, I have become more invested in my family. I have a son, also named John, who is also retired from the Coast Guard. He is a grandfather of five from his two sons. Of course, this makes me a very proud great-grandfather. Together we are researching our family history,” he concluded.
For current students he offered this advice— “Always stop before you fail so that you have the opportunity to regroup and give it another try!”
Paula Carroll ’62
From a small-town farm to paving the way for women in the Coast Guard
“High school was great…new friends, lasting friendships, and a comradery that I haven’t experienced since. I just attended my 60th high school reunion, and it was almost as though time had stood still even though we’ve all faced a myriad of life changes,” Paula shared.
Mrs. Corter was Paula’s favorite teacher who influenced her life in big ways. “She gave me a strong foundation for future school years, and the relationship continued beyond my graduation,” she shared.
After graduating from high school, she attended Penn State University, majoring in zoology with a minor in entomology. The major was an obvious choice for her.
“I chose this for my love of animals, having grown up outside State College near Linden Hall on a small farm and through many years of 4-H,” she said. “I graduated in 1966 with a BS in zoology and went to work for the Food and Drug Administration.”
She married a botanist, and together they embarked on a scientific journey of sorts.
Her greatest accomplishment was a 29-year career in the Coast Guard in the marine safety mission. This includes environmental protection through vessel safety inspections, pollution prevention, and response when things go wrong, and waterways management.
“I progressed from enlisted to the senior rank of Captain during this time, of which I am very proud. Along the way, I mentored young recruits and encouraged them to continue serving,” she shared. “I especially urged young women as this was a relatively new career opportunity for them and a great one. It wasn’t until 1973 that women were integrated into the active service, and currently, women make up 22% of the force, the largest percentage of any of the military services. I like to think I helped to make this happen.”
Needing critters in her life, she started a pet-sitting/dogwalking business after she retired in 2006. “It was pure joy, and I did it for 15 years. Now I’ve retired again and am enjoying the outdoor activities that Hawaii and its climate offer,” she said.
Paula offered this advice to students—“I encourage all young people to follow their dreams, and education is the cornerstone to a meaningful life.”
Pete Schempf ’66
Scrappy roots lead to an accomplished Naval Aviator
Pete is the youngest of the three captains, graduating from high school in 1966.
He values his teacher and coach, Homer Barr. “He was a great leader who encouraged and inspired me even though I wasn’t a great wrestler. His mentoring paid dividends as I went through flight school and received my wings as a Naval Aviator,” he shared.
Pete said he was lucky to have “skimmed by” in school and credits the most influential part of his education to his peers. “I received most of my formative education from the hooligans I grew up with around Linden Hall during the 45-minute bus ride to and from school. Needless to say, having the first name Peter was like the Johnny Cash song, Boy Named Sue. That’s why I prefer to be called Pete,” he said.
Pete joined the Navy and enjoyed every minute of it. “My career in the Navy was a blast from beginning to end, including a Viet Nam deployment, commanding a helicopter squadron based in Sicily, arms control negotiations in Vienna, and as the Executive Officer of a small aircraft carrier,” he shared. “Of course, you only remember the good times, but it was all exciting and rewarding while seeing the world, as they say.”
Pete has a deep passion for his roots. “Since my retirement from the Navy, my main accomplishments include restoring the family homestead for a second time since my dad’s initial restoration in the late 40s and enrolling the entire 42 acres in an Agricultural Conservation Easement with Centre County Farmland Trust so that it can never be developed,” he said.
He is also proud to have served in numerous volunteer organizations, many as president. Including Harris Twp. Lions Club, Friends of the Pennsylvania Military Museum, Navy League of Central Pennsylvania, Centre County Farmland Trust.
Pete shared this advice for students—“Stay off social media and watch where you are going for a change. Get a real job, any job that requires you to show up on time put in an effort, and interact with people.”