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Hershel A. Lighter


1919 - 2014 Obituary Condolences
Hershel A. Lighter Obituary
Hershel A. Lighter

Virginia Beach - Hershel Arthur ("Dusty") Lighter, 94, died April 25, 2014. Born August 31, 1919 in Dodge City, Kansas, Dusty experienced first-hand some of our country's greatest trials (the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, Pearl Harbor and World War II), and also some of its crowning achievements (the World War II victory and the development of the nuclear Navy.)

On Black Sunday, April 14, 1935, he and his buddies were playing ball in a vacant Dodge City lot when they saw the giant black dust clouds rolling into town. Before they could make it home, they were engulfed in dust so thick they couldn't see their hands held in front of their faces. Upon graduating from high school in 1937, Dusty headed west, like so many others, to look for work. He harvested hay, picked grapes and olives and cotton, worked as a short order cook, and in a plant nursery.

After developing an interest in diesel mechanics, and anticipating the impending war, Dusty volunteered for the US Navy's submarine service in 1940. On December 7, 1941, Dusty had just completed some schooling at the Navy Base at Pearl Harbor and was awaiting the return of his submarine, the USS Cuttlefish (SS171), when the Japanese attacked. He was strafed by a Japanese fighter plane as he ran from the mess hall, where he had just finished breakfast, to his barracks. He spent most of that day standing watch on the top of the base's diving tower. From that unique vantage point, he witnessed the day's horrific events unfolding.

During the war, Dusty made three war patrols in the Pacific aboard the USS Cuttlefish, and six war patrols on the USS Archerfish (SS311), which he helped put into commission at the Portsmouth (NH) Naval Yard. On the Archerfish's fifth patrol, November 28, 1944, it sank the Japanese aircraft carrier Shinano on its maiden voyage leaving Tokyo bay. This remains the largest ship ever sunk in wartime by a submarine. The Shinano was a top-secret weapon that was unknown to US forces. It was not until after the war that the military finally determined what was sunk by the Archerfish that day.

Dusty retired from the Navy after 23 years of service in 1963. He then worked at Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics in Groton, CT, where he was a sound technician, conducting sound surveys on the nuclear submarines being built there. During his 20 years of employment at EB, Dusty rode each new submarine,often on its initial sea trials, including the first Trident class boat, the USS Ohio.

Dusty retired from Electric Boat in 1983 and relocated to the Creeds area of Virginia Beach, where he tended his massive vegetable garden and maintained his acre of paradise like a park. Throughout his life, Dusty's idea of a vacation was to jump in his car and drive somewhere. He drove cross-country and back at least eighteen times (although to be honest, we've lost count), sometimes with his young children or grandchildren riding along. At the ripe young age of 85, he made his last cross-country drive .. alone.

Dusty remained amazingly healthy and vital well into his 90's. He attributed his good health to two habits: 1) take a long walk every day if possible; and 2) stay away from doctors. In his later years, he lived in a condo in the Nimmo area of Virginia Beach and walked all over. Many local residents will remember repeatedly seeing the white-haired gentleman dressed in light blue, strolling that area's roads and sidewalks, or hiking the oceanfront boardwalk from beginning to end and back.

Dusty was predeceased by his wife of 52 years, Betty Jane (Duncan) Lighter, as well as four of his five siblings. He is survived by his son Bruce Lighter and wife Brenda of Marietta, GA; his daughter Anita Lighter and partner Paula Renzi of Yakima, WA; and his daughter Virginia Burke and husband Daniel of Virginia Beach. He also leaves behind four grandchildren: Melinda Warbington, and Christopher, Emily and Jamison Burke.

Funeral services will be private. The Cremation Society of Virginia is handling the arrangements. The family suggests that anyone wishing to honor Dusty's memory go for a long walk on a beautiful day or pile their family into the car and go on a road trip.

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Published in The Virginian Pilot on Apr. 27, 2014
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