Crowds gathered under the magnificent dome of the Naval Academy chapel twice this week to mourn the loss of two young men whose recent deaths have shaken the Annapolis campus.
Yesterday, the academy held a memorial service for Jay Michael Dixon, 21, who died in a fall from the fourth-floor window of his room in Bancroft Hall dormitory April 9.
Monday morning, the academy held a funeral service for Navy Lt. Myron Emanuel Ludvick II, 27, a graduate student who collapsed and died April 18 after a 1 1/2 -mile run on Farragut Field for a routine fitness readiness test.
The Navy continues to investigate both deaths.
Both services drew crowds of more than 300 that included the academy superintendent, Vice Adm. Rodney P. Rempt, and dozens of faculty members and midshipmen who shared memories of the men.
Before the service for Ludvick - who was buried in the academy cemetery overlooking the Severn River - friends stood outside the chapel and spoke fondly of a young man they called cheerful, positive, charming and driven.
"Myron had so much charisma and personality - people were drawn to him," said David Fallon, one of Ludvick's classmates. "This is devastating for his friends and family."
"He was always positive and upbeat," said Cmdr. Christopher Kennedy, the director of Ludvick's graduate program, who spoke at the service. "The one thing I will always remember about him - what everyone will remember - was his smile."
A tall, handsome man with a broad smile, Ludvick was born in New York City to Myron E. and Bernice V. Ludvick. Known affectionately as "Hitch" to family and friends, Ludvick attended high school at the Marine Military Academy in Harlingen, Texas, where he was captain of the football team and president of the school's chapter of the National Honor Society.
In 1996, Ludvick was admitted to the Naval Academy, where he excelled as a member of the midshipman's honor brigade and the black studies club.
After graduating from the academy in 2000, Ludvick served on the USS Cowpens and was responsible for five Tomahawk strikes in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
After his tour of duty, Ludvick returned to the academy to study in the leadership education and development program, from which he was scheduled to graduate in June.
"He was a tremendous officer with unlimited potential," Kennedy said. "The Navy has lost a fine leader and a mentor."
The academy also lost a leader in Dixon, said the friends and family who traveled to Annapolis for the service yesterday morning in his memory, an hourlong tribute that included choir music from the academy's glee club and the playing of taps.
The eldest son of J. Michael and Debrah Dixon, the 21-year-old physics major was raised in Destrehan, La., a small town 15 miles from New Orleans. Having dreamed of a career in the military from a young age, Dixon attended Brother Martin High School in New Orleans and entered the Naval Academy in 2002 - one of only a few students from his high school to gain acceptance to the academy during the past two decades.
Among the midshipmen at yesterday's service were Dixon's roommates, juniors Patrick Murphy and Colin Chandler.
The two midshipmen chuckled at memories of their spring break trip with Dixon to the Florida Keys, and a trip to Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
"He was a serious academic, but he knew how to have a good time," Chandler said. "He loved his books, and he was one of those guys who could learn six weeks of physics in one night."
Murphy, who read a Bible verse at the service, added: "He was a great man and a good friend."
In honor of Dixon, his friends at the academy wore ribbons made from his favorite flannel shirts to the service, which was attended by Dixon's mother and younger brother.
At the end of the service, academy Chaplain Lt. Kim Donahue encouraged people to read verses from the Book of Ecclesiastes about living each day to its fullest.
"We don't know how long we will be here," Donahue said. "All we can do is get up each day and live it."