David M. Saunders, 83, naval officer, engineer

David McKeon Saunders, a career naval officer who was also an avid yachtsman and aviator, died Wednesday from complications of a stroke at his home in Annapolis. He was 83.

Mr. Saunders, who was born and raised in Washington, moved with his family to Takoma Park in the early 1940s. He graduated in 1944 from the U.S. Naval Academy with the Class of 1945, which was accelerated because of the need for officers during World War II.


After graduation, he served aboard the light cruiser USS Miami in the Pacific, and after graduating from flight school at Pensacola, Fla., he flew as a naval aviator during the last year of the war.

In 1951, he attended the Naval Postgraduate School in Annapolis and was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship to pursue jet propulsion studies at Princeton University. While at Princeton, where he earned a master's degree in science and engineering in 1952, he served as a jet engine consultant and project manager for Pratt & Whitney.


After leaving Princeton, he was assigned to the Navy's VP-21, its first prop-jet mine-laying squadron.

He attended the U.S. Naval War College in the early 1960s, before being named director of program evaluation for the Navy's Anti-Submarine Warfare Systems Project in Washington.

At the time of his 1968 retirement, Mr. Saunders had served a tour of duty in Vietnam as captain of the USS Chara, an ammunition carrier.

After retiring, he moved to Annapolis where he established S&R; Associates Inc., which specializes in real estate development, construction and restoration of old homes. He was president of the business, which is still family-owned and operated.

He also sold airport ground-support equipment, including firetrucks and other firefighting equipment.

Until giving up the sport in 1992, Mr. Saunders enjoyed flying his Cessna 340 twin-engine airplane.

An accomplished yachtsman, Mr. Saunders successfully competed aboard his two sloops, the Spindrift and Air Mail, in 19 ocean races, winning trophies in the Bermuda Race and Southern Ocean Racing Conference. He also won six high-point championships in the Chesapeake Bay, including the prestigious Viking trophy.

He was married for 46 years to the former Elizabeth Rosasco. She died in 1993.


Memorial services will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Naval Academy Chapel, 101 Cooper Road in Annapolis.

Mr. Saunders is survived by his wife of eight years, the former Carol Hoke; three sons, Mark P. Saunders of Yorktown, Va., and Scott F. Saunders and Craig W. Saunders, both of Annapolis; and four grandchildren.