PORTSMOUTH, R.I. — Caesar A. Spero, Jr., “Chuck”, 98, of Portsmouth, Rhode Island, passed away peacefully in his sleep on February 6, 2020.
A lifelong resident of Aquidneck Island, Chuck was born in Newport on October 3, 1921, the son of Caesar A. Spero and Mary Antoinette Radice Spero. Chuck was a loving son, brother, husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather, and a true patriot. He is survived by his wife, Margaret Rita (Healey) Spero; his son, Brian J. Spero (Mikki), of Portsmouth; his daughter, Denice M. Spero (Christopher Pargellis), of Newport; his grandchildren Dylan (Kerri), Ryan (Kendra Johnson), Brian Jr., Andrew, Sydney, and Patrick Spero; and his great-granddaughter, Fayth. He was predeceased by his son, Colin G. Spero.
Chuck graduated in 1939 from Rogers High School, where he received the Bausch and Lomb Honorary Science Award, the Read Medal for Excellence in Mathematics, the Italian Language Medal, and his essay, A Tribute to Rhode Island, was selected from submissions from high schools in the thirteen original States and read in 1938 at the Valley Forge National Memorial Chapel – a first for Rogers. He attended MIT on scholarship and graduated with honors in 1944. While at MIT, Chuck joined the Navy, and upon graduation, attended the Naval Reserve Midshipmen’s School at the United States Naval Academy, graduated as an Ensign, and served aboard the USS Augusta, flagship of the Atlantic Fleet during World War II. He was aboard the Augusta when it ferried President Harry Truman and his party to Antwerp, Belgium, for their historic trip to the Potsdam Conference of Truman, Churchill and Stalin. While on the cruise home, President Truman announced to the officers first, and then to the world, that the atomic bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima. After several cross-Atlantic trips on the Augusta as part of the “Magic Carpet Fleet” responsible for getting the troops home as quickly as possible, the Augusta was decommissioned and Chuck was discharged from the Navy.
In 1946, Chuck accepted a position in the engineering department of Owens Corning Fiberglass Corporation working on projects in Pennsylvania; Ashton, Rhode Island (where he met his wife Rita); and in Anderson, South Carolina, where he was the chief engineer for the construction of the first fiberglass plant to manufacture fiberglass from raw material at one location.
In 1954, Chuck joined a small group of engineers at the Naval Underwater Ordnance Station, then a torpedo manufacturing facility with 400 employees, to resolve the widely publicized performance issues of the Mark 14 torpedo during World War II, and to develop a plan for growth of the laboratory in technical expertise and program scope. During his 26-year career at NUOS and NUSC, Chuck was instrumental in the growth of NUSC into a five-thousand employee, $500M-per-year research-and-development laboratory.
During his tenure at NUSC, he served as Head of the Engineering Department where he directed the transformation of the laboratory from analog to digital, including the development of the first digital computer for analysis and engineering equation solving;
Director of the NUOS Development Department to direct and integrate advance weapons, fire control and launchers, including the Mark 48 torpedo and the Mark 113 torpedo; Associate Director for Weapons; Chief of Research and Development; Director of Systems Development; and Deputy Technical Director. Chuck was instrumental in the development of virtually every submarine torpedo and missile system and submarine defense system developed by NUSC during the Cold War.
During his long career, Chuck received many awards, including a Superior Accomplishment Award in recognition of outstanding skill, energy, resourcefulness, leadership and devotion-to-duty demonstrated as the Head of the Engineering Department; recognition in American Men and Women of Science; a commendation for the research and development of a 5,000 foot deep water, three-dimensional torpedo and submarine range located off Andros Island in the Caribbean; a Society of Naval Engineers commendation for significant contribution to the art or science applied to the design, construction, operation, or maintenance of Naval ships and their installed systems and equipment; the Nancy Solberg Award of the Society of Naval Engineers for significant contribution to the design construction or maintenance of Navel ships; the NUOS Excellence in Management Award as head of the Development Department “for guiding and managing its growth in developing deep water ranges, advanced weapons, fire control systems and launchers”; and the Navy Distinguished Civilian Award.
Chuck worked tirelessly throughout his career to increase the scope of NUOS’ operations and capabilities. Upon his retirement, NUSC had achieved its goal of becoming the Navy’s premiere submarine warfare laboratory. A 26-year Civil Servant, he noted on his retirement that patriotism, interesting work, love of the Navy, and the quality of life in Newport were all more important to him than money.
After his retirement from NUSC, he continued to serve the nation’s submarine interests as a Vice President and Manager, Newport Operations, of the Oceans Systems Division of Gould Inc., and as an unpaid consultant to Rhode Island’s Congressional Delegation during the 1990’s Base Realignment and Closure threat to NUSC. In 1992, Chuck was nominated for a position as the Undersecretary of the Navy by Senator Claiborne Pell and Congressman Ferdinand St. Germaine.
Chuck and his life-long companion, Rita, were lucky enough to have a long, active and fulfilling retirement – dancing, sailing and traveling extensively throughout the world. Chuck was a mentor to many and admired for the love he gave and received from his wife and family, his sense of humor, his kindness and his intelligence. Chuck lived his life according to what is held as most important: family, community, faith, lifelong learning, enjoyment of the beauty of Aquidneck Island and love of his country.
Chuck was active in the Newport and Portsmouth communities. He served as a member of the Board of the Newport Hospital Corporation, President of the Newport Rotary, a member of the Board of Trustees of the Savings Bank of Newport (now, BankNewport), a member of the Executive Board of the Newport County Chamber of Commerce, a Director of JT’s Home and Builders Centers, a Campaign Chairman for the United Fund,
a member of the Southeastern Massachusetts University College of Engineering Professional Advisory Committee, a member of Wanumetonomy and Montaup Golf Clubs, an Assistant Scout Master of Boy Scouts Troop 50 in Portsmouth, an assistant Little League Baseball coach, and with special permission from the Department of Navy, a bipartisan appointed member of the Portsmouth School Committee, where he oversaw the construction of the Portsmouth Middle School. He was also a long-time member of Ida Lewis Yacht Club where he enjoyed his life-long passion for sailing his two beloved Pearson 30s and served on Race Committees for the America’s Cup.
He will be greatly missed by his family, friends, the Navy and Newport.
Calling hours will be held on Monday, February 10, from 4:00 to 7:00PM at Connors Funeral Home, 55 West Main Road, Portsmouth, RI.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Tuesday, February 11, at 10:00AM in St. Barnabas Church 1697 East Main Road, Portsmouth, RI.
Burial to follow in St. Columba Cemetery in Middletown.