M. Staser Holcomb  (January 18, 1932 - September 8, 2021)

M. Staser Holcomb of Edmonds, WA, was the second of two children born to Maurice Staser Holcomb and Uva Spratt Holcomb in Detroit, MI. His family moved to Seattle when he was six months old.

Growing up in several different Seattle neighborhoods, Staser was the student body president at Roosevelt High School, graduating in 1949. He attended the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD, graduating near the top of his class in 1953. He married Joanne P. Williams (UW '55) of Seattle in 1955.

Staser began his 32-year Navy career as an aircraft carrier-based pilot, flying the anti-submarine warfare fixed-wing S-2 Tracker. Stationed in Coronado, CA, he made several deployments in the '50s and '60s to the western Pacific, ultimately commanding a squadron of S-2s.

He earned a Master of Science degree in Physics from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA, in 1960. In 1964, he began a series of Pentagon assignments involving systems analysis, both in the Office of the Secretary Defense and in the office of the Chief of Naval Operations.

Identified by Navy leaders as a rising star, Staser was selected for the rank of Captain in 1970 and given senior assignments in the Pentagon, on the USS Saratoga, and in command of the USS Guam, a helicopter carrier. In 1974, he was the youngest officer selected for Rear Admiral at the age of 42.

As a Rear Admiral, Staser served as Director of the Navy's Systems Analysis Division in the Pentagon; Military Assistant to the Secretary of Defense (Donald Rumsfeld and Harold Brown); and Commander of an Aircraft Carrier Group in Coronado, CA.

After promotion to Vice Admiral, he served as Director, Navy Program and Planning in the Pentagon; Commander of the Seventh Fleet in Japan; and Deputy Commander-in-Chief US Naval Forces Europe and US Commander Eastern Atlantic in London. He retired from the Navy in 1985.

As a civilian, he worked in several positions as an Executive Vice President for the United Services Automobile Association in San Antonio, TX, including President of the Property and Casualty Division, Chief Information Officer, and President of the Federal Savings Bank, retiring in 1997. He actively supported the San Antonio Council of the Boy Scouts of America and received the Silver Beaver award. He was President of the San Antonio chapter of the Navy League and the first naval aviator to serve as the National President of the Order of Daedalians.

He returned to the Pentagon in 2001 for six years as an advisor to the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld. He was in the Pentagon when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into it on 9/11.

Staser's intelligence, integrity, humor, and gentle, friendly demeanor inspired people throughout his life. Inspired by his example, all five of his children, and four of his grandchildren, also chose careers in the naval and government service. He greatly enriched the lives of his colleagues, his shipmates, his friends, and his family.

Staser led an active life playing tennis and squash and always enjoyed a game of bridge or mah jongg. He was a member of the Seattle Tennis Club, a member of First Church of Christ, Scientist in Edmonds, and was President of the Rotary Club of Edmonds. He loved spending time at the family cabin on Puget Sound in Kingston, WA.

Staser is survived by Joanne, his wife of 66 years; children Richard, Helen, Donald, Ross, and Sally; ten grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.

Published on October 10, 2021 - The Seattle Times