Saturday, July 13, 2024

Avenue of Heroes: Richard Coolidge

Prepared by: John Coolidge (son)

Hull Technician Senior Chief Richard Coolidge was born December 18, 1935, in Boston, Massachusetts, the youngest of six children. His parents taught him the value of a hard day’s work and his handshake was his bond.

He enlisted in the Navy at the age of 17 and served initially as a pipefitter, and later transitioned to damage controlman. His naval career took him many places around the world, and he always appreciated getting to know and train the sailors that he served with from Vietnam’s Sea Float Command to aircraft carrier duty on USS Kitty Hawk at NAS North Island. HTCS Coolidge earned many awards during his distinguished career in the Navy, including the Presidential Unit Citation, two Navy Unit Commendations, seven Good Conduct medals, two Meritorious Service Commendations, four Vietnam Service Medals, and a Republic of Vietnam medal with Gallantry Cross.

On December 11, 1973, aboard the USS Kitty Hawk, a fuel leak sparked a fire in the main machinery room, 700 miles off the coast of the Philippines. Senior Chief Coolidge and the Special Fire Fighting teams worked tirelessly to extinguish the flames, saving over 5,500
lives. This relentless effort earned him his highest award, the Navy Commendation Medal.

In honor of his heroic achievement, the Commander of Seventh Fleet, Vice Admiral G.P. Steele wrote, “Chief Coolidge distinguished himself above and beyond by the aggressive manner in which he combatted the fire to evacuate casualties. Ignoring his own personal safety, repeatedly entering the space despite the overwhelming intense heat.”

Senior Chief Coolidge retired on December 5, 1987, after more than 32 years of wearing his navy uniform. He and his lovely wife, Joan, moved to Vancouver, Washington where he enjoyed tending his vegetable garden, woodworking in his garage, traveling, and visiting his favorite casinos. 25 years later, they sold their Washington home and returned to Coronado to be closer to family. Richard and Joan were married for over 60 years and enjoyed the beautiful beaches, people, and memories of navy life in Coronado. Richard passed away on February 24, 2016, at the age of 80. Before his passing, his young nephew, David, asked him if he was a war hero, and Richard replied, “No, just
an old sailor.”

The Avenue of Heroes military service recognition program is sponsored by the City of Coronado. Introduced in 2014, the program has honored 261 hometown heroes to date. On May 18, 2024, another 16 were honored. City staff and volunteers from the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2422, the Coronado Historical Association and Third and Fourth Streets Neighborhood Association oversee its operation.
In 2011, the program was inspired spontaneously with the movement of two Navy SEALs to their final resting place. News spread quickly and the local Rotary Club passed out American flags. People lined Fourth Street to honor the fallen service members. As the procession approached the Coronado Bridge, a lone Navy SEAL stood at attention, saluting as he waited for the passage of his comrades. That moment made clear that Third and Fourth streets were already an Avenue of Heroes.
That spontaneous beginning launched the program in May 2015 with 18 banners. The Avenue of Heroes is a reminder that Coronado has a rich history and legacy of service to the country.

Managing Editor
Managing Editor
Originally from upstate New York, Dani Schwartz has lived in Coronado since 1996. She is happy to call Coronado home and to have raised her children here. In her free time she enjoys reading, exercising, trying new restaurants, and just walking her dog around the "island." Have news to share? Send tips or story ideas to: [email protected]

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