Craig County residents have become very familiar with the many creative “barn quilts” throughout the county.
Recently, one received a different look.
For several years, the Craig County Public Library has been designing and making what they call “Barn Quilts” to help raise funds for their needs.
Carol Looney attended the Farm Bureau’s Women’s Committee District meeting last fall and Martha Dillard was the special speaker.
“Martha spoke on her Barn Quilts around Craig County and how the money raised was going to help the local library,” Carol said. “I wanted to support the Craig County Library project and thought this would make a unique keepsake for my husband Ken.”
Carol searched on Google for Anchor Barn Quilts. “I liked the colors because of the blue and white and the Navy colors reminded me of the water. I changed the original anchor with the Anchor of a Senior Chief, one star above the Anchor,” she said.
Carol had a U.S. Navy emblem designed in the middle of the Barn Quilt because Ken retired as a Senior Chief after nearly 23 years of service.
“I was pleased to do this one for Ken and Carol Looney to honor his years of service. It is the only military piece I’ve been asked to do,” Dillard said.
Carol gave it to Ken as a Christmas gift. The Looney’s currently have the barn quilt on their front porch, amidst other special memorabilia.
Ken added, “I was very surprised and thankful for Carol’s loving gift. I did, however, have Martha Dillard to outline the anchor in black, and color the star in Gold, which really made a great improvement.”
Ken and three of his classmates – Gary Parsons, Roy Saunders and Frank Merritt – joined the Navy three months before high school graduation in 1966. “We all joined together under the buddy plan at just 18 years of age,” Ken reminisced.
He continued, “They kept us together at boot camp and then we went four different directions. I went to Pensacola, Roy to Washington State, Gary to Norfolk and Frank to Maryland, however, our paths did cross a couple of times.”
Ken added, “Three of the four of us made it a career and served 20 plus years before retiring. I served from August 10, 1966, to February 01, 1989.”
Though Ken could tell story after story in great detail of his many tours throughout the world, he concentrated on two.
“Two memories that I experienced and clearly recall are these. I was ordered to my first and only ship I served on, the U.S.S. America (CVA 66) Aircraft Carrier. The ships on board aircraft were a C1A Cod, used for carrying people, parts and most importantly the U.S. Mail aboard every day. They needed a body to become an Air Crewman, due to a retirement, and I was the least senior on board, so you can guess who got the job,” Ken explained before adding, “It was hard work for the first four to five months, with a lot of pilots getting their hours in, working 6 a.m. in the morning until sometimes 7 p.m., every day, learning the job myself.”
“The name of the plane was the ‘Miss America’ and I had the honor of flying the 1968 Miss America, Judith Ann Ford and her court, to the ship for a USO show. Mini- skirts were the rage at that time, so you can only guess what a stir these young ladies caused in all of their fine décor, throwing kisses to all of the homesick sailors. I had many offers to switch jobs with them, but I suffered in my various duties and all of its perks and stuck it out. After all someone had to do it, so I did,” he added with a smile.
The second memory came in his last duty assignment.
“I was detailed as a boot Senior Chief to Grand Prairie, Texas, to VR-59 Squadron, the Lone Star Express, which flew three DC-9’s around the world, and around the clock. I was the Maintenance Chief with over 200 sailors reporting to me, which made life very interesting and demanding,” Ken noted. “ I had the honor to host Sylvester Stallone’ s brother, Frank ‘Salvatore’ Stallone, in my office for a couple of hours, while we filed a flight plan to Nashville, Tennessee, to pick up the Judd’s Family, and then fly them all to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. On leaving Mr. Stallone said, ‘Senior Chief, isn’t Cuba a Communist country?’ I said ‘yes’ it is but there are no worries. You will be well protected by the Marines. Mr. Stallone then said, ‘I am not worried at all because I know Rambo personally.’ We had quite a laugh and they went on their way.”
Ken also talked about flying into a town north of Ho Chi Men. “We carried 45 pistols. All of a sudden, sirens started going off and these Vietnamese ran into a fallout shelter. The base was under attack. We heard people hollering and shooting, so we followed them,” he explained. “They tried to close the door on us, so we pulled out our 45 pistol and they let us in. We sat in there drinking Vietnamese beer until the sirens went off. When we came out, there were holes in the end of the tail of the aircraft the size of a baseball, but we said, ‘It’s flyable.’”
Among his fondest memories, Ken met Carol. They met in Pennsylvania in 1982 on a blind date.
Ken recalled that his friend, Larry, whom he made Chief Petty Officer together, his wife had a good friend, “a blonde”, and Larry kept asking him to meet her. Ken finally agreed, “Bring her in on a wheel barrel and I will meet her one time and that will be it, if you will shut up about it,” he recalled saying.
A week later, at a Navy enlistment club, Ken forgot about his commitment, as he was sitting at the horseshoe bar, watching the Eagles and Redskins play. “I was sitting with two girls I had been dating,” he explained. “So, they come in and Larry starts to laugh, and I quickly remembered I was supposed to have a date.”
Ken then told the two girls he was sitting with he forgot about something he had to go and do. He went to the men’s room and they left, and Ken proceeded to go around the table and meet Carol.
Ken admitted he had to look at the hands of the two ladies with Larry as he had never met Larry’s wife either and both were blonde, to see which one had on a wedding band. “I guess I’m taking that one out,” he thought to himself.
“We went back in the club to talk. My friends were talking Navy lingo, filthy stuff and she didn’t know what they were talking about,” Ken said. “She asked, ‘What are they saying?’”
Ken kept telling her that she didn’t want to know, but Carol insisted, and he finally told her.
Carol shared that her response was immediate. “It’s called reflex action,” she said giggling.
“She took her drink and poured it right over my head,” Ken said. “The guys got a real kick out of that and then the bar got quiet.” Ken then told Carol that she could either take a cab or he would take her, but “this thing is over.”
It was three months later, and Carol called Ken back. “I guess I called to say I was sorry or something,” she said, and he agreed to a second date.
“He and his friend wanted to go to a horse race, and I drove them all the way to Brandywine, Delaware, but it was closed,” Carol said. “So, they come up with this idea. Since they were Navy sailors, they wanted to bar hop all the way back to Pennsylvania. Not quite your normal second date.”
“We would go into a bar and get a drink, and then ask the bartender, ‘Ok, this is what we are doing, what bar do you suggest we hit next?’” Ken explained. “One guy led us into a biker bar, really nasty. Here we go in dressed all in our Navy gear, but we told him the same thing.”
Before they left, Ken said they were friends with everybody, and Carol continued their journey as they drove Ken’s 350 Pontiac to the next unknown location.
They dated for four years before getting married on July 26, 1986. Then moved to Texas 1986 and Craig County in 1988.
After Ken retired, Carol told him, “The Navy life is over, we’re going back to church buddy!”
“I was proud to be a sailor in the U.S. Navy and thankful for my successful career,” Ken shared with honest sincerity. “Every sailor worth his salt desires and strives to become a Navy Chief (E-7). Most don’t make it. To make the rank of Senior Chief (E-8) is a real honor and even less make that level of leadership.”
Carol shared that when Ken joined the Navy, the recruiter asked him what he wanted to do. His response was, “I want to be an E-8.” That is exactly what he did.
Ken added, “But to make ‘Master Chief’ (E-9) is the pinnacle of success. Only the very best make this rank and I am proud to say, I made it. I was selected #3 of 13, by the Promotion Board, to the rank of Master Chief. But I had to make one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make. I had to choose to either stay in the Navy, for two to three years more, or choose family. Had I accepted the Navy promotion to E-9 then I would have received orders to San Diego, California, and the family would have been sent home to Virginia, due to the cost of living in California.”
“With the Lord’s guiding hand upon me, I chose Family and I don’t regret it for a moment,” he said. “I do miss seeing that Second Star sometimes on my Barn Quilt, but to God be the glory for His blessings and for His guiding hand in my life. I couldn’t be happier that my life wasn’t wasted, but amounted to something more, than just me.”
“It was the good Lord’s leading to decide to take family over Navy,” Ken continued. “I was only unemployed five days and was hired at ITT, where I worked 23 years.”
Ken received three Vietnam Medals, Five Good Conduct Medals and Two Navy Achievement Medal in addition to 12 medals.
He retired February 1, 1989, and started to work at ITT five days later.
Carol shared she was happy to have the Barn Quilt made for Ken. “I want people who read this to know that a dedicated service man who loves God and Country, and the freedom we enjoy, lives here and is proud and honored to have served the Homeland Nation, even still today.”
“I have literally traveled around the world three times and have landed and stood in 38 different countries in my career, from Alaska to Australia, and from Japan to Iceland, and from home to Vietnam, and many other places in between,” Ken said. “I served in three campaigns in Vietnam and was most thankful to come home nearly 23 years later, unharmed and in one piece. I loved every minute of it and would do it all over again in a New York second.”
He added, “Now I just do my ‘honey-do’s’ and I’m not looking for a promotion now. We only go through life once and I am going to go through happy.”
Ken and Carol travel the world together now and will soon be heading to Florida Keys. “We want to continue to go as long as we still can,” he said. Carol still drives, and Ken added with a grin, “She drives and I pray.”