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William Rockey

 

Marine, Musician, Diver

Bill enjoys learning new things. When he was in high school at the Mercersburg Academy, an aunt gave him a tenor banjo. Bill found a tenor banjo method book in the little town of Mercersburg and taught himself to play. He went on to learn other stringed instruments – the mandolin, ukelele, classic and flamenco guitar – as well as the chromatic harmonica.  Much later, traveling with his wife, Anna, Bill watched Russian musicians and was inspired to add the balalaika to his repertoire.

Joining the Washington Balalaika Society as a novice player, he studied with the Conductor, a Ukrainian Master balalaika player. Bill has enjoyed his 18 years with this talented group of musicians of all ages from all backgrounds. “I enjoy music and playing keeps me busy. I am the oldest member of the orchestra, and I guard my status as Orchestra Antique jealously,” Bill adds. Some members of the Society practice here at GHBC on Saturday mornings, and residents are privileged to be able to sit comfortably on the bench outside the Aerobics Room and listen to their work.

 

    
High School Years   Bill with one of his Balalaikas



Just before graduating from Mercersburg Academy in 1945, Bill followed his father’s footsteps by enlisting in the Marine Corps. One of his most treasured art pieces is an oil painting of his father, who had the distinction of serving at two of the three historic battles fought by battles -- Belleau Wood in WWI and Iwo Jima in WWII. Bill missed the fighting in WWII – he was finishing up boot camp training at Parris Island when Enola Gay dropped the bomb on Hiroshima. He then took the competitive examinations for the Naval Academy, graduating with the class of 1950, and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps. After Basic School, he shipped out to the Korean War and commanded a Light Machine Gun Platoon, a Rifle Platoon, and a Rifle Company. Subsequent assignments included various schools and CO of the Marine Detachment aboard a heavy cruiser that was the flagship of the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean. It was there “he discovered his high school French was good enough to find his way to the men’s room.” He commanded an Infantry Battalion in the Vietnam War, and later served as Senior Marine on the staff at the U.S. Naval Academy.

 

         
Just out of boot camp,
Parris Island
  At the Ring Dance
Naval Academy
  Aboard the cruiser Aurora



Bill and Anna traveled extensively during his Marine Corps career, stationed variously at Camp Lejeune, Guam, Annapolis, Boston, Camp Pendleton, Okinawa, France, Egypt, and Oman. While in Okinawa, they were able to visit Japan, Korea, China, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Singapore; and from Oman, they visited much of the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates, and Greece. It was while stationed in Okinawa that Bill discovered scuba diving. He became an accredited scuba instructor with both NAUI (the National Association of Underwater Instructors) and PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors). He taught all three of his children to scuba dive, and his son continues to dive off Thailand, where he lives with his wife.

         
In Okinawa   At the Marine Corps Birthday   Anna with Bill, just back from
Saudi Arabia, 1984



In making almost 600 dives, Bill became an avid shell collector – “this was long before the environmental cost of such collections became a topic of concern.” His collection is currently in storage as there simply wasn’t room in his apartment for it. He also has a large stamp collection, a small collection of musical instruments, “and a closet full of slides, negatives, and photos to digitize.” Anna, a certified instructor of the Japanese Sencha Tea Ceremony, has a fine collection of tea ceremony artifacts and of Japanese snuff bottles. Their apartment is a treasure trove.

In retirement, Bill and Anna lived at Skyline. The Fairfax County Adult Education Program gave Bill the opportunity to enroll in French and math classes, “out of interest.” Anna enjoyed the Skyline Sports and Health Club, where she made many friends in the water aerobics class. It was some of those friends who encouraged the Rockeys to move to GHBC in 2010, when the Pointe opened.

Soon after moving in, Bill joined the Veterans Committee that had been organized by Rick Terman. Bill has remained very active in the group’s activities, planning events and tours of interest to veterans. In 2018, the group began a film series around historic battles and historic events.

Bill also enjoys GHBC’s excellent Woodworking Shop where he has completed several small woodworking projects.

He and Anna participate in the Lincoln Society, begun by Ken MacGowan and George Towner. The group is open to all GHBC residents who share a conservative outlook on government. There is a monthly meeting with a speaker and a dinner for discussion afterward.


Anna and Bill at the wedding of their daughter Alice

 

The Rockey’s two daughters live nearby, one a journalist and the other a Registered Nurse. Their son has retired and lives in Thailand where he and his wife are building a house. There are six grandchildren, ranging in age from 19 to 30.

Bill continues to play the Balalaika, do small woodworking projects, and work on GHBC committees even as he and Anna prepare to downsize to a smaller apartment here at GHBC. Who knows what new interests are just around the corner?



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