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  • Writer's picturePeel Funeral Home


Commander Frank Martin Richards, USN, Ret. 93, a beloved husband, father, granddad, and great-granddad passed away in Panama City, FL on April 11th 2023 due to sudden acute heart failure.

Frank was born on March 7, 1930, in Bonifay, FL to Douglas U. and Jessie Mae Richards. He was called Rich by his Navy shipmates, Martin by his mother’s family and Frank by everyone else. Frank lived an extraordinary life. He grew up dirt poor on a farm between Chipley and Bonifay, FL with no running water or electricity. Even though it was a tough existence, he had fond memories of his childhood where he learned to work hard and appreciate everything in life. At Chipley High School, he was the quarterback on the football team, played trombone in the band, was on the baseball and basketball teams, and was the class president.

After high school, he joined the Navy and for the next 30 years he excelled. He took a train ride across the country for basic training in San Diego, CA. After training, he selected submarine school. After completing training in Groton CT, his first tour of duty was on the U.S.S. Sea Cat diesel submarine in Key West, FL. It was there that Frank

would meet the love of his life, Shirley Thompson. While Shirley was on a tour of the Sea Cat she picked him out for her future husband. One day later, they met at a USO club dance, and two years later in 1952, they eloped and married in a chicken coop in Moss Point, MS. They celebrated 67 wonderful years until Shirley passed away in December of 2019.

Early in his career, Frank was asked to take a test and was one of a select few that qualified for the LDO (Limited Duty Officer) program where you could become an officer without a college education. Frank’s navy career would also see him serve on, in addition to the Sea Cat, the USS Chopper submarine, the Kittiwake, Tringa and Petrel ASRs (Submarine Rescue ships). His career took him to sea for many months during his 30 years of service. He traveled the world and always came home with great stories and gifts for the family from the various countries. He eventually worked his way up to captain of the USS Petrel

ASR. He was a Navy scuba and deep-sea diver and became the commanding officer of the Navy Diving School in Washington D.C. One of his projects as CO, was to move the diving school to Panama City, FL with its much clearer and warmer water for the divers. His final tour of duty was the Navy Experimental Diving Unit in Panama City, FL.

After retiring in 1979, Frank and Shirley built their retirement home on the property that he grew up on between Bonifay and Chipley. Frank designed the house and did a lot of the work including wiring, finishing and carpentry. In addition, to his outstanding Navy career, Frank was a great husband, father and beloved granddad and great-granddad.

Frank was predeceased by brothers Hughland and Donald Richards. Frank is survived by his daughter Susan Sanders (Leonard), son Greg Richards (Laura), and daughter Sheryl Seletas (Sam). He is survived by his 6 grandchildren, 6 great-grandchildren, multiple cousins, nieces, nephews and his three sisters, Boots Bush, Betty Bock and Skeet Schattie.

There will be no memorial service per Frank’s request. Donations may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association and American Heart Association in his name.

Frank, may you have fair winds and following seas.

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