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Reminiscing with Rachael : Former Rear Admiral John Higginson retires…again

April 10th, 2008 · No Comments · Reminiscing with Rachael

higginson.jpgAfter 15 years as the CEO of the national charitable trust American Gold Star Manor and Home, Retired Rear Admiral John Higginson is giving retirement a second chance. In addition to a 34-year naval career, Higginson was also president of the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce and has a long history of community involvement.
“I thought now would be a good time to retire. Besides, my wife keeps asking me when I’m going to clean the garage,” said Higginson.
Not that retirement means Higginson will be slowing down anytime soon. A former environmental science teacher at the United States Naval Academy and the United States Naval War College, he is already considering teaching locally.
“I’m strongly leaning toward teaching again. I’ve always done part-time teaching. I taught a lot at the naval academy and I co-authored a textbook on oceanography called Sea and Air: The Marine Environment,” said Higginson.
Higginson is originally from East St. Louis, Illinois. He attended community college in Bellville, Illinois, and then St. Mary’s University in St. Antonio, Texas, where he met his wife.
“She was working in the registrar’s office at St. Mary’s and had the pick of several thousand guys; it was a guy’s only school at the time. And she picked me,” said Higginson. “Now, we’ve been married 50 years. People always ask us how we’ve stayed married so long. And the answer I like to give is we promised.” Today John and Nancy Higginson have four sons and seven grandchildren.
He was commissioned into the navy in October 1956 and went on to do recovery operations as a helicopter pilot. He was eventually transferred from a squadron to a ship.
“By sheer circumstance, I was transferred to the ship that was the primary recovery ship for the next Apollo mission. It was exciting. You know, when the president of the United States flies all the way down south of the equator to greet the first guys coming back from the moon, that’s exciting. I saw a lot of that,” said Higginson. “The first one I was on involved three guys that had just been in lunar orbit around the moon. They came down and had dinner with the officers in the wardroom. There were 40 or 50 of us in the wardroom, and here’s these guys who had just been up to the moon.”
Higginson participated in the recovery operations for Apollos 8, 11, 12, 13 and 15 before coming to Long Beach as a flag officer.
“I was sent here in ‘86 to make sure that people knew the navy was back in Long Beach. The navy used to be one of the biggest operators in Long Beach and then, after Vietnam, they pared everything back,” said Higginson. “It required me to get out to an enormous number of community organizations. The United Way of Los Angeles, the Federal Executive Board-you name it. As a consequence, I got to know an enormous amount of people in the community.”
After he retired from the navy in 1990, he did a two-year stint as the president of the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce. Then a friend suggested he might enjoy working at the American Gold Star Manor and Home.
“I liked working with the older people; they’re fun. By the time I retired I was older than half of them. You had to be 62 to get in there. It is 25 acres, and it’s just a lovely place done largely by the foresight of the trustees who planned it. I enjoyed it. It was a good spot,” said Higginson.
Higginson will be replaced by former president of the Rotary Club of Long Beach and Gold Star Manor Trustee Terry Geiling.
“Admiral Higginson used the many leadership skills he developed in the U.S. Navy to effectively manage the American Gold Star Manor. Under his guidance the Manor has prospered and provides a quiet and comfortable home for its senior residents,” said Geiling.
Higginson has also served on the executive boards of both Leadership Long Beach and the Boy Scouts of America Long Beach, was the vice president of the Long Beach Civic Light Opera and is currently a member of the National President Club and the Rotary Club of Long Beach. In 1992 he was named “Man of the Year” in Long Beach, and in 1993 he and his wife Nancy were awarded the Humanitarian Award by the California Conference for Equality and Justice.
“My wife and I are gregarious people. My wife is just as active in the community as I am. She’s been the president of the Red Cross chapter, the Assistance League, the first female president of the downtown Lion’s Club, library foundation,” said Higginson. “I’m not sure why we’re so active in the community. Maybe we feel some obligation or maybe we like getting to know so many people. It just makes it a real home town for us. We like Long Beach a lot.”

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