Capt. William J. Keating, a retired career naval officer and public and legal affairs counsel, died Jan. 30 of emphysema at National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda. He was 75.
The former Baltimorean was a resident of the Fairfax retirement community at Fort Belvoir, Va. He retired in 1983 after a 19-year association with the National Grain and Feed Association, an industry trade organization that represents grain elevator and terminal operators, where he worked as legal counsel.
Al Oliver, retired executive vice president of the organization, said, "He was a man of high integrity and ethics. When he retired from the Navy he wanted to work in a business that didn't have contracts or contacts with the Defense Department or people he had worked with during his naval career. He was a tremendous friend and greatly respected in the grain industry."
Born and raised on Kentucky Avenue in Northeast Baltimore, he attended Severn Preparatory School and was a 1936 graduate of Loyola High School.
After his 1940 graduation from the Naval Academy, he was assigned as a gunnery officer to the USS Lexington, a 33,000-ton aircraft carrier.
During the Battle of the Coral Sea in May of 1942, the Lexington was crippled in an attack by Japanese dive bombers. Explosions below decks eventually set the entire vessel afire, forcing its abandonment. To keep the ship from falling into enemy hands, it was sunk by U.S. destroyers.
"When you are as busy as we were during the last hours of the Lexington, you haven't time to be afraid," said the then Lieutenant Keating in an interview in The Evening Sun after he returned to Baltimore.
"It was a sad sight to see the Lexington go down."
He was reassigned to the North Atlantic, serving aboard destroyers during the invasion of Italy and as executive officer on the USS Beatty and commander of a destroyer division.
"It was great being able to serve with Bill Keating," remembered Edward Muhlenfeld, a friend from Baltimore and shipmate on the Lexington. "He was a fine naval officer, and I count him as a good friend."
"He used to play golf but lost his clubs when the Lexington went down," said Judith M. Keating, a daughter who lives in Arlington, Va. "Years later, he was talking to Jack Nicklaus and told him what had happened to his clubs, and Nicklaus replied, 'There are days when I wish my clubs had gone down on the Lexington,' " she said with a laugh.
Captain Keating earned his law degree from George Washington University in 1949 and later served as a legal and legislative adviser to the deputy chief of naval operations, head of the Pacific bases branch and flag secretary to the chief of the Atlantic fleet. He retired from the Navy in 1964 as director of training management in the Bureau of Naval Personnel.
He counted among the highlights of his life meetings with Popes Pius XII and John XXIII. He was a 30-year member of St. Ann's Roman Catholic Church in Arlington.
"His whole life centered around his religion and family," said his daughter. "He also liked playing bridge and was a great sports fan."
Services were to be held at 1:45 p.m. today at Fort Myer Chapel, with interment at Arlington National Cemetery.
In addition to his daughter, survivors include his wife, the former Lillian "Goody" Ahern, whom he married in 1943; three sons, R. Mark Keating of Gladwyne, Pa., Capt. William J. Keating Jr. of Arlington and John A. Keating of Annandale, Va.; another daughter, Betsy K. Meehan of Arlington; and four grandchildren.
Memorial donations may be sent to the U.S. Naval Academy Alumni Association, 247 King George St., Annapolis 21402-5608.