ALEXANDRIA, Va. —
Gerald Read’s neighbors here often spotted him walking the rescue dogs that he and his wife took in and treated like children. He loved those dogs, along with his perfectly tended garden and his three granddaughters, who had come for a backyard cookout on Labor Day.
But Tuesday, Read’s neighbor, Carole Willis, shook with sobs as she remembered him as a quiet, kind man who helped her with household tasks and fed the neighborhood squirrels. Read, 58, died along with 11 others Monday in the shootings at the Washington Navy Yard, killed just as they were beginning their workweek inside what had seemed a carefully guarded complex not far from the Capitol.
“He was just the most dependable, nonquestioning person,” she said of Read, an information-assurance specialist with the Navy Sea Systems Command. “Just, ‘No problem.’ ”
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The nine men and three women who died in the shootings were civilians and contractors; at least some of them were eating breakfast in the cafeteria of Building 197 when the gunman, Aaron Alexis, perched above an atrium and fired down on them. Friends and relatives remembered them Tuesday as loyal parents and children, hard workers, sports and nature lovers — people who found pleasure in simple things.
Kenneth Proctor, 46, would fix a car for anyone, just for the fun of it. He adored his bright yellow Mustang, and his two sons, Kenneth Jr., 17, and Kendull, 15. He remained “best friends” with Evelyn Charlene Newman after their divorce in January, Newman said.
Proctor, who worked as a civilian utilities foreman at the Navy yard, met Newman 25 years ago, when they were both young and flirtatious. Newman was won over by “his charm and persistence,” she said. They married in 1994.
“His kids, they were everything to him. He was a very loving, caring father,” Newman said. In his spare time, Proctor visited racetracks and hung out with his many friends and his sons at places like Buffalo Wild Wings and TGI Fridays. But what stood out for his ex-wife was his compassion. “He was always being there for me,” she said, “even after the divorce.”
Kathleen Gaarde, of Woodbridge, Va., was a “caring daughter, fantastic mother, wife (of 38 years) and best friend for 43 years,” her husband, Doug Gaarde, said in a statement.
She worked as a financial analyst at the Navy yard, according to The Associated Press, and the couple had an adult son and daughter.
“She loved her animals and was a bluebird counter for the local refuge,” Doug Gaarde said in his statement. “She also loved hockey and the Washington Capitals and was a season-ticket holder for over 25 years.”
Kathleen Gaarde was a frequent presence at the Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Woodbridge, said Amanda Daisey, the assistant refuge manager, coming weekly in the spring and summer to monitor nesting bluebirds.
Frank Kohler, 50, of Tall Timbers, Md., was “a Steelers fan, a golfer, a great family man, a Christian and a great friend,” according to a Facebook post by a friend and former colleague, Bob Allen. He left behind a wife and two daughters who recently graduated from King’s Christian Academy in Callaway, Md., where school officials told students about his death Tuesday.
Richard Ridgell, of Westminster, Md., was a 17-year veteran of the Maryland State Police, working there until 2000 and leaving as a corporal, said Sgt. Marc Black, a spokesman for the state police.
Ridgell, 52, was working as a security guard at the Navy yard, his family told a local television station in Baltimore in an interview. He had two daughters, according to his Facebook page, where a photograph showed him posing with a girls’ baseball team as they hold trophies.
Martin Bodrog, 54, of Annandale, Va., taught preschool on Sundays at Immanuel Bible Church, according to a statement from his family. A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, he was a surface warfare officer in the Navy, with expertise in amphibious operations. But later in life, Christian outreach to local high-school students and hockey games featuring his beloved Boston Bruins were among his passions. It was common to see him out with his dog, in his “trademark Boston Bruins jersey” and shorts — even in the worst winter weather. Also common was the sight of Bodrog “helping shovel all the driveways of his elderly neighbors,” according to a statement.
After he retired, Bodrog worked for the Navy as a senior analyst, overseeing the design and procurement of ships. He is survived by his wife of 25 years, Melanie, and three daughters.
Arthur Daniels, 51, was a father of five and grandfather of nine. He was installing furniture at the Navy yard Monday as an employee of District Furniture Repair in Arlington County, Va.
Daniels’ children were “his joy,” his niece, Lovely Golden of Greenville, N.C., said in a phone interview. Although Golden had lost touch in recent years, she remembered Daniels as “a loving and caring guy, understanding and compassionate,” who was constantly smiling. One of Daniels’ children, a 14-year-old boy, was shot to death on a Washington street while walking home in 2009, The Washington Post reported.
Sylvia Frasier, 53, of Charles County, Md., had worked at Naval Sea Systems Command as an information-assurance manager since 2000, according to a LinkedIn profile.
Michael Arnold, 59, of Lorton, Va., retired from the Navy as a commander or lieutenant commander and had previously been stationed at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, according to The Associated Press. He worked at the Navy yard on a team that designed vessels like the amphibious assault ship Makin Island, used by the Marine Corps.
Mary Francis DeLorenzo-Knight, 51, of Reston, Va., had just gotten a promotion at work and attended the wedding of one of her two daughters, according to The Fayetteville Observer in Fayetteville, N.C., where DeLorenzo-Knight used to live. She worked as an information-technology specialist at the Navy yard and as an adjunct professor at Northern Virginia Community College, The Observer reported.
Vishnu Pandit, 61, of North Potomac, Md., was the kind of man who watched out for his neighbors: watering plants, offering to watch a baby, even checking in when he noticed a garage door left open too long.
“They were like family,” said one neighbor, who asked not to be named.
Neighbors Tuesday recalled Pandit as a man whose ready smile and affection for his golden retriever stood out even to those who did not know him. Pandit and his wife, Anjali, had become grandparents last month. He was a marine engineer and naval architect, according to The Associated Press.
John Robert Johnson would have turned 74 next month but had little thought of retiring.
“He loved to work and has always worked,” daughter Megan Johnson, 42, said in an email. “He loved the interaction with the people and wanted to keep on working.”
Johnson worked for TWD & Associates, a technology company, where he first specialized in environmental assessment for mine-hunting systems, and later as support for Naval Sea Systems Command, according to a statement on the company’s website.
He had lived in the same house, in Derwood, Md., for more than 40 years, but he also loved going to Nags Head, N.C., for the beach and the fishing.
Known as JJ to his friends, he had four adult daughters and 10 grandchildren. He was also stepfather to four children. Eight and a half years ago he married his wife, Judy.
Johnson’s birthday was a family celebration every year. North Carolina’s Outer Banks, where he took his girls as children, is now a refuge for the entire family.
“He loved being there, especially with his grandkids,” Megan Johnson said.
His 11th grandchild is due in November.