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Mt. Holly’s Jack Conrad saw a lot during his years as a Navy Seabee

Feb 06, 2020 11:51AM

Jack Conrad

Note- Jack Conrad passed away as this story was being prepared for press.

By Alan Hodge

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Jack Conrad, 84, lived with his wife Opal on Nantz St. in Mt. Holly, but during his over two decades as a U.S. Navy Seabee, he traveled the world and was on the scene of many historic events.

But wait, just exactly what is a Seabee? The term “Seabee” is a way of identifying members of the U.S. Navy’s Construction Battalions. “CB” is “Seabee”, get it? The Seabees were founded in 1942 and their logo is a mad bee wearing a sailor hat and holding a hammer, wrench, and machine gun. The Seabee slogan is “We Build, We Fight”. There was even a John Wayne movie made called “The Fighting Seabees”.

Jobs the Seabees perform include building roads, bridges, hospital, airfields, warehouses, barracks, you name it. 

Ok, back to Jack. Conrad was originally from West Virginia, then moved to Ohio.  He joined the Navy on October 14, 1954 and became a Seabee Construction Electrician First Class.

“I just preferred the Navy over the Army,” he said shortly before he passed.

Seabees spend a lot of their time on land building things. Conrad served as an electrician in such far flung places as Barbados, Gulfport, Mississippi, Millington, Tennessee, Japan, New York, and Grand Turk Island. He served from 1966-1968 at the base and airfield at Phubai, Vietnam.

Seabees also serve on ships. In 1962, Conrad was on the destroyer USS Borie during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

“It was pretty exciting,” Conrad had said. “We were on high alert.” 

In a fascinating bit of irony that shows what a small world it really is, Belmont mayor Charlie Martin was also on the Borie during his Navy days.

“I spoke to Jack on several occasions,” Martin said.

On another occasion, Conrad’s ship was part of the naval group that picked up astronaut John Glenn’s space capsule.

Conrad retired from the Navy in 1981. When asked what his proudest time in the Navy was, he replied- “There are too many to talk about”.

 Jack and Opal moved to Mt. Holly in 1982 to be closer to their children. After retirement, he worked for a while at Pneumafil in Charlotte and at the U.S. National Whitewater Center.

Conrad’s years of dedicated service to his country as a Seabee show his character as a solid, patriotic, loving, man. 

Daughter Sheila Clark added- “He was always an awesome father,” she said. “He was a role model and an inspiration.”

Conrad’s son in law, Keenan Clark, a retired U.S. Army staff sergeant, remarked “He was one of the best guys I have ever known. He was like a father to me.”

Finally, Opal summed up her feelings on the love of her life.

“I’m so very, very proud of him,” she said.