Abbot’s Commanding Officers:
John Patrick Derr

January 28, 1965 — March 26, 1965


Also see John Derr’s memories of Abbot in the 1960s.

On 28 January 1965, Cmdr. John Pirro handed command of Abbot to his executive officer, Lt. Cmdr. John P. Derr, in preparation for decommissioning. Lieutenant Commander Derr became the first man to serve as both executive and then commanding officer, and was destined to also have the shortest term as skipper — barely two months.

Eventually, he would also become the only person to command Abbot twice.

John Patrick Derr was born on a farm at Clark Fork, Idaho, in 1929 and gained entrance to Annapolis in 1948. With his ensign commission in hand on June 5, 1952, he embarked on 24-year Cold War navy career, which meant a wide variety of experiences.

He served on six ships, including three destroyers, an aircraft carrier, a destroyer tender and the heavy cruiser Salem. He served afloat in both the Atlantic and Pacific, and ashore in Key West, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Rio de Janeiro and London — his shore duties were mostly in communications and electronics.

One of his early postings included the Gearing-class destroyer Henry W. Tucker.

Lieutenant Commander Derr joined Abbot as executive officer in June 1963. His tenure as Abbot’s skipper ended when it was decommissioned at the Sun Shipbuilding & Drydock Co. in Chester, Pennsylvania, on 26 March 1965.

But Commander Derr was not yet done with Abbot. Nearly a decade later, their paths crossed again. As Commander Derr remembers:

“During the time that I had command of the Philadelphia Inactive Ship Facility, Abbot was stricken from the Navy List in December 1974 and sold for scrap, leaving the facility in June 1975.”

So Commander Derr also became the only person to have direct command of Abbot twice.

After retiring from the navy in 1977, Commander Derr worked for ten years in Florida as the emergency management director in Charlotte County. He has been active in boating, both sail and power, and he holds a Coast Guard Master’s License and American Sailing Association instructor certification, including the celestial navigation standard. He teaches and organizes charter trips and boat deliveries in Gulf of Mexico, the Florida Keys and Caribbean from the British Virgin Islands to Florida.

Derr married his Annapolis sweetheart, Dorothy, in 1953. He has two children who are, he says, “successful and productive members in our society.” Kim is a nurse in Alaska and Mike is a building contractor in Florida, not far from John and Dorothy’s home in Port Charlotte.

The Derrs summer in southwest Ohio, but call Florida home.

You can also read Commander Derr’s Abbot anecdotes.

April 2007