Adm. Charles R. Larson

Adm. Charles R. Larson, the onetime commander-in-chief of military forces in the Pacific who became superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy to restore discipline and morale after his alma mater had been rocked by the largest cheating scandal in its history, died early Saturday at his home in Annapolis. (Baltimore Sun / July 26, 2014)

Sen. John McCain of Arizona, a classmate of Charles R. Larson at the U.S. Naval Academy, says the four-star admiral and former academy superintendent was a "dear friend" and "great man" who, like McCain's father and grandfather, cast a large shadow.

Admiral Larson, 77, died early Saturday at his home in Annapolis after a long illness.

"As the son and grandson of four-star admirals, I have long been accustomed to living in the large shadows cast by great men," McCain said in a statement Sunday afternoon. "It has been a privilege and an honor, as a young man and an old one, to serve in Chuck's shadow.

"America owes this great man a deep debt of gratitude for his remarkable record of service, including as naval aide to the President of the United States, Commander-in-Chief of U.S. forces in the Pacific, and two tours of duty as superintendent of our beloved Naval Academy."

McCain and Admiral Larson were members of the academy's 1958 graduating class. They were also roommates during naval flight school.

"I can think of no finer example of honorable service to our nation than the service Chuck Larson has provided so faithfully and so well for so many years," McCain said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with Chuck's wife, Sally, and the entire Larson family at this difficult time.

"America has been blessed by Chuck's service, as I have been honored by his close friendship. Together we wish Admiral Chuck Larson, as we wish every good sailor, fair winds and following seas."

A memorial service for Admiral Larson will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday in the Naval Academy Chapel.