Stories of the victims

  • Updated: September 17, 2013 - 9:44 PM

This photo provided by the Rotary Club of Lexington Park, shows Frank Kohler, the 50-year-old man from Tall Timbers, Md., who was one of the 12 victims killed in the shooting rampage at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday, Sept. 16, 2013.

Photo: (AP Photo/Courtesy of Rotary Club of Lexington Park),

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

A dozen people died in the rampage Monday at the Washington Navy Yard in the deadliest attack at a domestic military installation since the Fort Hood shooting in 2009. Here are some of their stories:

Michael Arnold: veteran and avid pilot

Michael Arnold, 59, of Lorton, Va., was a Navy veteran and avid pilot who was building a light airplane at his home, said his uncle, Steve Hunter. “It would have been the first plane he ever owned,” Hunter said from Rochester, Mich., Arnold’s hometown. “It’s partially assembled in his basement.”

Hunter said his nephew retired from the Navy as a commander or lieutenant commander. He worked at the Navy Yard on a team that designed vessels such as the USS Makin Island, a Wasp-class amphibious assault ship used by the Marine Corps. Arnold and his wife, Jolanda, had been married for more than 30 years and they had two grown sons, Eric and Christopher, he said. Hunter said Arnold returned to Michigan for Labor Day to visit his mother, Patricia, 80. “He was a loving son of his mother and his wife, and great father to his kids,” he said. “How can you get up in the morning and go to work and have that happen?”

John Roger Johnson: ‘an honestly great guy’

Logistics analyst John Roger Johnson, 73, was perhaps most notorious for his bear hugs, his daughter said. “Rib-crunchers,” Megan Johnson said with a laugh as she remembered her dad. “You didn’t have to pay for a chiropractor.”

The Derwood, Md., man — the oldest of the victims who would have turned 74 next month — graduated from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Wash. He studied mathematics, but he went into the field of reliability engineering, said Megan Johnson, third-youngest of his four daughters. Most recently, Johnson worked with TWG & Associates.

Johnson was an avid saltwater fisherman but, his daughter said, “could not cook to save his life.” Colleagues have said Johnson would always greet them with a hearty, “Good morning, Buddy. How you doing?” His daughter said that made her smile. “I think the key thing there was his jolly, happy-go-lucky self,” she said. “An honestly great guy.”

Kathleen Gaarde: was planning to retire

Kathleen Gaarde, 63, of Woodbridge, Va., was a financial analyst who supported the organization responsible for the shipyards, her husband, Douglass, wrote. Douglass Gaarde declined to speak, but wrote. “Today my life partner of 42 years (38 of them married) was taken from me, my grown son and daughter, and friends. We were just starting to plan our retirement activities and now none of that matters. It hasn’t fully sunk in yet but I know I already dearly miss her.” Janet Hartsvet of Shoreview, Minn., said her sister-in-law’s children are 26 and 33. Hartsvet says her sister-in-law worked on military contracts.

Mary knight: green beret’s daughter

Information technology specialist Mary Knight, 51, of Reston, Va., was the daughter of a former Green Beret instructor, said Theodore Hisey, who identified himself as a family spokesman. Her father served at the Fort Bragg Army installation and retired in Fayetteville, N.C., Hisey said. Knight’s mother, Liliana, told a Raleigh television station that the shootings were a test of faith. “I hope there is such a thing as heaven,” she told WTVD. “You know, you pray for your family, and sometimes I wonder. I really do.”

vishnu pandit: ‘died doing what he loved’

Marine engineer and naval architect Vishnu Pandit, 61, preferred the nickname Kisan, the Hindi word for “peasant.” It suited the hardworking Indian immigrant, known for his devotion to family, community and his 30-year civilian Navy career.

“He was very dedicated to improving the performance of naval ships and systems,” longtime friend M. Nuns Jain said outside the North Potomac home where Pandit’s family privately mourned. “The only saving grace in this horrible incident is that he died doing what he loved the most in the service of his nation.”

Jain said Pandit, a Mumbai native, earned a bachelor’s degree in marine engineering in 1973 before coming to the United States and receiving a degree in naval architecture from the University of Michigan. He said Pandit had sailed with the U.S. merchant marine. Married to his wife Anjali since 1978, Pandit had two sons and a granddaughter, Jain said. “He was a real family man and he loved dogs,” including their golden retriever, Jain said.

Frank Kohler: ‘king oyster’

Frank Kohler, 50, was a past president of the Rotary Club in Lexington Park, Md. As such, he proudly held the title of “King Oyster” at the annual festival celebrating the region’s signature bivalve the third weekend of each October. “He walks around with a crown and robe and gives out candy,” said Bob Allen, Kohler’s former boss at Lockheed Martin in southern Maryland.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close