Ralph Ensign Wilson, 88, a retired Navy vice admiral who served as chairman of the old Federal Maritime Board in 1960 and 1961, died of pneumonia Dec. 21 at Anne Arundel Hospital Center in Annapolis. He lived in Annapolis.
Adm. Wilson, a Navy officer from 1924 until retiring in 1960, was a highly decorated combat veteran of World War II. He commanded the destroyer Buchanan against Japanese forces in the battle of Cape Esperance off Savo Island and won the Navy Cross, the Navy's highest award for valor except for the Medal of Honor. His ship won a Presidential Unit Citation.
The award for his Navy Cross cited his "extraordinary heroism during an engagement with enemy Japanese forces off Savo Island on the night of Oct. 11, 1942." His command of the rear destroyer group led to the sinking of an enemy cruiser.
Also during the war, Adm. Wilson served as Navy liaison to Army Gen. Alexander M. Patch on Guadalcanal. He ended the war as operations chief of Fleet Adm. William Halsey's Third Fleet and witnessed the ceremonies in Tokyo Bay aboard the battleship Missouri that marked the surrender of the Japanese empire.
After the war, he commanded a cruiser, then from 1950 to 1953, served with the old Military Sea Transportation Service, becoming its chief of staff and deputy commander. He then commanded cruiser divisions in the Pacific and Far East before returning to the Pentagon in 1955. From 1957 until retiring from active duty, he was deputy chief of Naval Operations for logistics.
In addition to the Navy Cross, his decorations included four awards of the Legion of Merit, and two Bronze Star medals.
After resigning from the Maritime Board, he joined J.J. Henry & Co., a New York-based naval architectural firm. He retired in 1969. He then lived at Leisure World in Silver Spring until moving to Annapolis in 1988.
Adm. Wilson was born in Boulder, Colo., and was a 1924 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis. He received a master's degree in electrical engineering from Columbia University and was a graduate of the National War College.
Before World War II, he served aboard the battleship California, as well as cruisers, destroyers and submarines. From July to September 1940, he was an assistant naval attache at the U.S. Embassy in London.
Adm. Wilson was a member of St. Anne's Episcopal Church in Annapolis.
Survivors include his wife of 65 years, the former Martha Elizabeth Powell of Annapolis; a son, retired Navy Capt. Ralph Wilson Jr. of Rolling Hills Estates, Calif.; two daughters, Nancy Lee Rule of Ouray, Colo., and Marcia Elizabeth Tyeryar of Bridgewater, Va.; nine grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.
FRANK R. SPICER SR.
Alexandria Jail Employee
Frank Reed Spicer Sr., 81, a maintenance employee of the Alexandria City Jail for 16 years before retiring in 1975, died of pneumonia Dec. 21 at Fairfax Hospital. He lived in Annandale.
Mr. Spicer, who was born in Culpeper, came here in 1926. Until joining the jail in 1959, he worked in the restaurant trade and owned three restaurants over the years.
Survivors include his wife, the former Dorothy Ramey, whom he married in 1933 and who lives in Annandale; a son, Frank Jr., of Springfield; five daughters, Jean Wagner of Hyattsville, Maryjane Hawk of Frederick, Beverly Case of Fulton, Md., Joyce Cavanaugh of Dale City, Va., and Joan Ricker of Annandale; 11 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
SIEGFRIED 'DOC' PELS
Siegfried E. "Doc" Pels, 89, a retired optometrist and one of the original residents of what in 1937 was the new town of Greenbelt, died of pneumonia Dec. 14 at Greenbelt Nursing Center.
Dr. Pels was born in New York City and graduated from the Massachusetts School of Optometry.
He moved to the Washington area in 1936 and worked as a lens maker at the Navy Yard until after World War II when he opened a practice of optometry in Washington. He also worked part time at Melart Jewelers and bowled in the Jewelers League of Washington. He retired in 1968.
His wife of 43 years, the former Teresa Halloran, died in 1979.
Survivors include two children, Elizabeth Pels Nash of Greenbelt and Philip S. Pels of Alexandria; and a brother, Seymour Pels of Dunwoody, Ga.