Cutter Tahoma Commanding Officer’s remains being returned to family in Virginia

PORTSMOUTH, Va. – The Coast Guard commanding officer who died aboard his ship in Maine this weekend is being returned to his family in Virginia Thursday.

Cmdr. Keith Willis, 44, from Frisco, N.C., was found in his cabin aboard the 270-foot medium endurance cutter Tahoma, home ported in Kittery, Maine, by members of his crew Sunday.

“We are all still grieving the loss of Commander Willis,” said Vice Adm. Robert J. Papp, Jr., the commander of the Coast Guard’s Atlantic Area command in Portsmouth, Va. “When you read the news articles and quotes from his crew, or see the old photographs and memories shared by his Academy classmates and former shipmates, it gives you a great sense of how appreciated and loved he was by so many people in the Coast Guard.”

An honor guard made up of Tahoma crewmembers met at the J.S. Pelkey funeral home in Kittery around 8 a.m. Thursday to render honors as their former commanding officer was taken by police escort to Logan International airport in Boston. Once at Logan, another group of Tahoma’s crew rendered honors while the body was placed aboard a commercial air flight to Norfolk, Va. Lt. John Christensen, Tahoma’s operations officer, is providing official escort over the remains back to Norfolk.

A six-person team from the Coast Guard’s Ceremonial Honor Guard will meet the flight in Norfolk tonight to render military honors and assist in the transport of the remains to a local funeral home.

“It’s very clear how much Commander Willis loved his family,” said Papp. “The thoughts and prayers of our entire service are with them as we move through today’s process of returning his body to them, and make preparations for the upcoming memorials and burial services.”

The Coast Guard-led investigation into the death of Commander Willis remains open pending the final results of the autopsy. Although the medical examiner’s office in Augusta, Maine, reported to the Coast Guard that their examining pathologist felt the cause of death was natural, it may take several weeks or longer for additional results and studies to be completed and a final determination made.

Funeral services are being planned by the family for early next week.

BOSTON - Crew members from the Coast guard Cutter Tahoma and other surrounding Coast Guard units render honors at Logan International Airport in Boston as they place the remains of Cmdr. Keith Willis, Tahoma's commanding officer, on a U.S. Airways plane bound for Norfolk, Va., Thursday, Feb. 19, 2009. (Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Lauren Jorgensen)

BOSTON - Crew members from the Coast guard Cutter Tahoma and other surrounding Coast Guard units render honors at Logan International Airport in Boston as they place the remains of Cmdr. Keith Willis, Tahoma's commanding officer, on a U.S. Airways plane bound for Norfolk, Va., Thursday, Feb. 19, 2009. (Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Lauren Jorgensen)

Related Posts

Comments are closed.