John Curtis Clary III

May 4, 1947April 2, 2018
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Captain John Curtis Clary III,70, died peacefully in his Snohomish, WA home on April 2, 2018after a long battle with lung cancer. John was a longtime resident of the PNW, but a true Texan at heart.

John was born on May 4, 1947, in Dallas, TX to parents John Curtis Clary, Jr and Dorothy Heath Clary. He was raised in Oak Cliff, graduating from W. H. Adamson in 1965. He married Cynthia (Cindy) Elsberg in 1971. John graduated from Texas A & M University with Bachelors in Marine Biology in 1976 and a Masters in Biology in 1983.

John served 3 years of active duty with USMC (Vietnam) 1967-1969, and 28 years active duty with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Commissioned Officer Corps, including two sea assignments as Commanding Officer (CO) of NOAA Ships Chapman and Miller Freeman, and a final shore assignment as CO of the Pacific Marine Center. He retired from NOAA Corps in 2006, at which time he assumed the civilian position of Logistics Officer at NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center until his final retirement on July 31, 2016.

John is survived by his loving wife, Cindy; his daughter and son-in-law Meredith and Richard Weller, daughter Morgan Clary; his grandchildren Teaghan and Tristen Weller; and his siblings James Clary, David Clary, Dana Sullivan, and Mary Ann Clary.


  • James Clary
  • David Clary
  • Ray Sullivan
  • Richard Weller
  • Jim Elsberg
  • Dwight Griffin
  • Robert Chamberlin
  • Paul Vieau
  • Teaghan Weller, Honorary
  • Tristan Weller , Honorary


  • Visitation Friday, April 6, 2018
  • Graveside Service Saturday, April 7, 2018
  • Reception Saturday, April 7, 2018

John Curtis Clary III

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Art Francis

July 30, 2018

John and I were in NOAA together and my best remembrance of John was his persona of leadership. His booming voice, his unwavering decision making and his commitment to his crew was know and appreciated by all. I remember meeting up with him in port once in Alaska, having a drink with him and listening of the trials of the MF in the Bering sea. He gave me some great advice on how to manage life at sea that I have always appreciated. I wish John, his family and all fair winds and following seas. He has one of a kind RIP John.
Art Francis,
LtCdr Ret, NOAA

Daniel Cheng

May 15, 2018

Time flies, and I'm late... just heard via the NC grape vine that John passed away. Today, is the among the saddest days in my ridiculous life. As all had stated, John was a giant and touched so many lives, mine included. Everyday we all "grow up a bit more" and my thanks to JC for helping me grow up a wee bit more, while serving under him on the Freeman.

John, should I be lucky enough, some day I hope to be back with you on your side of the bar....Sincerely Dan Cheng

John Husum

April 15, 2018

Cindy, Jim, Karen, David, Dana and Mary Ann,
I feel a deep loss myself at John’s passing. The few times I was able to get together with him were always reasons for celebration. I really enjoyed those moments, cigars and rum drinks. Deeply impressive was his career as a mariner; too bad I didn’t hear too many sea stories from him but I’m sure he had a few.
Sending you all hugs from the Husum family in Texas. Love you guys mucho.
Farewell John; May you see the face of God.

John Husum

Michael Francisco

April 8, 2018

Captain John Clary was my commanding officer during 1996 aboard the Miller Freeman, at a time when the NOAA Corps was slated for elimination by the Clinton administration. The ship was known for being difficult sea duty, and many officers resigned rather than go to sea on the Miller Freeman. If not for John I would never have persisted through those dark times. He understood that you work with who and what you get to accomplish the mission, but more that that he was someone you would follow to the bitter end. My time on the Miller Freeman (or "Sally," as John called her) became a source of pride, and I am still proud to have served under John Clary on that ship, at that time. He was a leader who built leaders; a captain among captains. An officer and a gentleman and a fine human being. His legacy lives on and I will never forget.

Nick Prahl

April 8, 2018

John worked for me as CO of the "Pacific Marine Center" during my tour as Director of the Marine Operations Center. I had not known John prior to those five years, but we became good friends and I depended on his counsel and advice on a regular basis. He became my right hand man.

As many of you have noted in your comments, John represented the best qualities of a NOAA Corps Officer: honor, integrity, and especially leadership. He set the standard for those he worked for, for those he worked with, and for those who worked for him.

To Cindy and family my deepest condolences. I know this will be a difficult time for you all.

John was simply the best of the best.

Todd Bridgeman

April 7, 2018

A true leader, mentor, and friend, Captain Clary you will be missed. I first met John during my first sea assignment aboard the Mighty Mother Freeman, when he arrived as the vessel's new CO. It was like throwing a switch, overnight the crew and ship were better thanks to his leadership.

I remember he’d be in his cabin listening to the A&M football game on the radio and periodically call me (a fellow Aggie) on the bridge, tell me the score and hang up. I loved that and loved the fact that the CO thought enough of a lowly Ensign up on watch to make those calls. Working with him during that sea tour, and throughout my career, he taught me a lot about true leadership, respect, and remembering to enjoy life. One of the best sounds in the world was when in response to some comment or situation he’d let loose one of his deep “unrestricted” laughs… they could light up the darkest Alaskan night. Fair winds CO.

michael gallagher

April 7, 2018

Thank you for everything, boss. I will miss you a lot. Remember the Sashin trip .......

Janet Duffy-Anderson

April 7, 2018

It was my privilege to work with Captain Clary for over 15 years. John was a mentor, friend, and colleague. He will be remembered always for his ready smile and open door. Thank you, John, for your friendship and guidance.

Capt Jack McAdam

April 7, 2018

As a civilian Officer, I had a lot of respect for John and I think he felt the same way about me. I attended his retirement party at PMC and his family gave him scrapbooks so he could save all his memory scraps collected over the years. I hope he got a chance to complete the project. It's something I need to do. When we heard the sad news my wife and I toasted him that evening at dinner. I wish we lived closer but we don't. I just looked through all the pictures and fondly remember John's smile and laughter. We hoisted many a pint and a few cigars trying to improve NOAA or maybe, just ourselves.

Fairwinds and following seas Captain Clary.

Amilynn Adams

April 6, 2018

There’s not much I can say that probably hasn’t already been said or felt by those who already shared their memories. Captain Clary was one of the great figures of the NOAA Corps. A pillar of leadership, the embodiment of our core values (before we even had any!) and an amazing mentor and tremendous human being. I’ll miss our conversations about our love of Ford trucks. I’m sad to see you’ve crossed the bar, but I’m forever thankful that I knew you. Enjoy Fiddler’s Green Captain. You’ve earned it.