Richard G. McLeod, 32, seaman, saved David E. Wenger, 44, structural iron worker, from drowning and concussion, Shemya Island, Alaska, December 14, 1958. Cargo was being transferred from a ship docked at one of the Aleutian Islands, despite rough seas which caused the vessel to rise and fall as much as eight feet. During the unloading a 20-foot section of pipe struck Wenger, who fell from the pier. His head struck the ship, and he fell unconscious into water 30 feet deep between it and the pier, which had a solid understructure. Fearing that Wenger might drown or be crushed if the ship struck the pier as it lurched back and forth, McLeod decided to go to Wenger’s aid. No one heeded his request to brace the other pipe sections lest they fall on him in the six?foot space then between the pier and the ship. Without delaying to remove any of his attire, McLeod lowered himself down a line suspended over the side of the ship. He swam 20 feet to Wenger and lifted his head out of the water. McLeod then thrust his free arm through a life preserver which had been thrown to him and called for a rope. The ship continued to lurch but did not strike the pier, although the gap between them narrowed at times to three feet. The looped end of a heavy rope was lowered to McLeod, who tried to work the loop over Wenger’s head but was hampered by the heavy swells. Becoming numb from the cold water, McLeod called for someone to help him with Wenger. Another man was lowered over the side by a rope tied about his chest. By then McLeod had gotten the first rope around Wenger. The man clasped Wenger in his arms, and the crewmen immediately raised both men simultaneously onto the deck. A rope then was lowered to McLeod, and he also was lifted aboard. Wenger was revived and removed to a hospital. McLeod had been in the water 10 minutes and when removed from it was so numb that he could not stand. Both men recovered. 44649-4310
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Richard G. McLeod, of Seattle, died on Jan. 16, 2011. He was born on May 14, 1927, in Everett, Wash.
McLeod joined the Merchant Marines at 16, serving in the Pacific Theater during World War II. He proceeded to serve in Korea and Vietnam aboard U.S. merchant ships.
He was awarded the Navy Distinguished Civilian Service Award and the Carnegie Medal for saving a shipmate who had been knocked into the frigid waters off Shemya Island in Alaska in 1958. In the 1960s, he began working for Foss Launch and Tug, retiring in the early 1990s.
He met the love of his life and soulmate at 14 at Seattle’s Paramount Theater and proposed to her shortly after the end of World War II. They married on March 8, 1947, and were blessed with eight children.
Involvement by McLeod and his wife, Celestine (Cheri), in a Catholic family organization known as the Jubilee Club helped to instill his love of camping, travel, and adventure in their children.
He was interred at Tahoma National Cemetery in Kent, Wash.
(Edited from an obituary in The Seattle Times, Jan. 25, 2011.)