Mille Lacs County Times

Posted: 12/15/05

From humble beginnings to Vice Admiral in Coast Guard

By?John Bathgate
Mille Lacs County Times

Former Milaca resident Paul Trimble died on Nov. 16 in Palm Harbor, Fla., at the age of 92.

The Trimble name is familiar to long-time Milaca residents. Newer residents might associate the name with Trimble Park or from the statue at the golf course dedicated to Paulís nephew, Kenny Trimble and his wife Marilyn.

Paul Trimble was born in Agenda, Kan. in 1913. When he was five, his parents, along with his younger brother Keith, moved to Milaca. The family grew to include three sisters, Shirley, Jean and Dorothy.

The Trimbles lived on a farm north of Pease. Because of all the work that needed to be done on the farm, Trimble missed a lot of school, but was still a good student. He also participated in football, baseball and worked on the school newspaper. He was a member of the National Honor Society and graduated near the top of his class in 1931. He was also active in the Methodist church and the Boy Scouts, where he attained the rank of Eagle Scout.

The farm was a chicken hatchery and the two brothers worked long hours helping their mother keep the farm going.

"Our mother raised five kids during the depression," said Jean Janeksela, Trimbleís sister. "It was a hard time and Paul and Keith worked long hours with our mother on the farm."

Seeking further education

Trimble wanted an education and decided the best way to get one was to join the Coast Guard. He hitchhiked down to the cities to take the entrance exam for the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. He passed the exam but needed a $200 entry fee for his acceptance into the academy to become official.

There wasnít any way the Trimble family could raise the $200, so the people of Milaca took up a collection and raised the money for the entry fee. Trimble promised to pay the money back, which he did before finishing his first year of studies.

He was one of four Minnesotans accepted to the academy that year and was one of only two applicants that were accepted nationwide who hadnít attended college.

"He wanted an education and there was no way Mother could afford to pay for an education," said Janeksela.

Trimble graduated with honors from the Coast Guard Academy in 1936.

The same year he married his high school sweetheart from Milaca, Iva McClaren. They were married 44 years and had two children, Sharrol and Jim. Iva passed away in 1979.

He married Marie Waring in 1980 and after his retirement they lived in Florida.

Serving in Coast Guard

After graduation from the academy, Trimble remained in the Coast Guard and spent the next four years assigned to various cutters.

In 1940 he was selected to attend the Harvard School of Business Administration. He was named a George Baker Scholar in 1941 and graduated with distinction in 1942 with a masterís degree in business administration.

After graduation from Harvard, Trimble continued his military career. He was assigned as commanding officer of the patrol frigate USS Hoquiam in the Pacific. He was later assigned as commanding officer of the USS Sausalito in the Pacific and served as commander of Escort Division 27. In the early 1950s he was named commanding officer of the cutter Storis, stationed in Juneau, Alaska.

He continued to move up in rank and was received many campaign and service medals including the National Defense Medal with Bronze Star.

After the war, Trimble was assigned to Coast Guard headquarters, working in the Budget and Cost Analysis Division. He was named Vice President of the American Society of Military Comptrollers in 1958.

In 1958 he was assigned to the CGC Duane and was asked by the Navy to try a high speed destroyer approach for refueling. This entailed approaching the tanker at an angle at a high speed and then at a specified distance back the engines off full. This would slow the destroyer down and throw a wall of water between the two ships. By doing this the destroyer would theoretically get in position quicker for refueling.

Trimble voiced strong opposition to this maneuver because the Duane was an older heavier ship and didnít have the power to reverse engines as well as the newer ships. The Navy insisted and Trimble agreed to it as long as it was put in writing.

The maneuver was attempted and as Trimble predicted, the Duane wasnít able to back off its speed and collided with the tanker. With both ships dead in the water, Trimble received a message from the captain of the tanker and it was noted that he was really mad. When asked what he wanted to tell the tanker captain, Trimble said, "Tell him to brace himself, Iím going to try it again." The captain of the tanker ordered its engines started and steamed away from Trimbleís ship as fast as possible.

Shortly after that incident the Navy abandoned the high speed approach.

"Despite the seriousness of his work, he never lost his sense of humor," said Janeksela. "He was a prankster."

His sister tells of the time when Trimble was at the academy and as a prank was putting Limburger cheese under his roommateís bunk. An upperclassman walked in and asked what he was doing. "Just saying my prayers, sir," was his reply.

Receiving promotion

In 1962 Trimble returned to headquarters as Deputy Chief of Staff. He was promoted to Rear Admiral and was named Chief of Staff in 1964. In 1966 he was promoted to Vice Admiral by President Johnson who named him to the post of Assistant Commandant of the Coast Guard.

President Johnson also made Trimble chairman of the Interagency Task Force to set up plans for the newly created Department of Transportation, for which he was awarded the Legion of Merit Medal in 1967.

Trimble retired from the Coast Guard in 1970 as was awarded a Gold Star in lieu of a second Distinguished Service Medal.

Starting a new career

Instead of retiring, Trimble was hired as President of the Lake Carriersí Association of Cleveland. While in his second career, the Edmund Fitzgerald sank in Lake Superior during a winter storm, killing all 29 crew members. The shipís sinking moved Trimble to improve safety for the Great Lakes fleet by upgrading weather forecasts and encouraging each vessel to carry enough individual survival suits for all crew members.

"We have modern electronic equipment and we get good weather forecasts," Trimble said in a 1981 New York Times interview. "There is no excuse for foundering in heavy weather these days."

While president of the Lake Carriersí Association, he helped establish the Great Lakes Maritime Academy at Traverse City, Mich., improving the productivity of Great Lakes vessels and pushed for construction of 140-foot ice breaking tugs for winter navigation. He retired from his position in 1983.

Trimble never forgot his Milaca roots and visited as often as he was able.

"He very much appreciated his home and family," said Janeksela. "He never forgot his humble beginnings. He was very family orientated."

Trimbleís brother, Keith lived his entire life in Milaca and died in 1991. He was a mail carrier in town and was the fire chief.

Keithís son, Kenny, was the mayor of Milaca for two terms and was active in community events.

Kenny and his wife died exactly two months apart in 1990. Trimble Park is named in their honor.

Vern Koch was in the same class as Trimble and when told he had died said, "He was really a smart guy."

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Mille Lacs County Times
225 2nd Street NW, P.O. Box 9
Milaca, MN 56353
Telephone: 320-983-6111 Fax: 320-983-6112