Deceased October 7, 2015
Les passed away Oct. 7 in Springfield, Pa. He attended Springfield High School prior to coming to Amherst, where he joined Alpha Delta Phi and the football, basketball and crew teams. With T. P. Plimpton, he was instrumental in restarting the crew.
Les continued crewing as a member of the Ocean City Beach Patrol, winning by 10 lengths the John B. Kelly trophy rowing race with lifelong friend Spike Beitzel. Thus, the Grace Kelly connection (mother of HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco).
After graduating, Les joined the U.S. Navy. As an outstanding student while training at Pensacola, he was asked by Admiral Richard Byrd to join the crew of the Navy icebreaker USS Glacier as a naval aviator. The ship’s primary mission was to lead a task force expedition, known officially as “Operation Deepfreeze,” to the Antarctic for the vast exploratory work taking place at the South Pole in connection with the International Geophysical Year, which lasted from July 1, 1957, through Dec. 31, 1958.
After flying the two helicopters aboard the USS Glacier, they left Boston, Mass., in mid-October 1955 and began the 37,000-mile trek. By December they were in New Zealand before starting their 2,400-mile ice battle south to Antarctica. The ensuing three months were spent constructing the two American bases (Little America V and Williams Air Operating Facility), both in the spectacular region of the Great Ross Ice Barrier. At the same time, the helicopters were supporting some extensive exploration. The polar finale came with a 6,000-mile exploratory trip around the Antarctic continent photographing areas never before seen by man.
The remainder of his life was spent teaching in Springfield.
At Les’ graveside service he was given a five-gun Navy salute in appreciation of his service to his country.
George “Spike” Beitzel ’50
George Hiller ’50