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Obituary (VA): Gordan Van Hook '51

Posted on 03/28/2018

Gordan Van Hook  (October 10, 1927 - March 21, 2018)

CDR Gordan Van Hook, USN Retired, passed away peacefully on March 21st in Suffolk, Virginia with family at his side. He was ninety years old, and kept his mischievous sense of humor until his last days. He lived a full life energized by flying, sailing, and leading, built upon a foundation of deep love for his family and a commitment to his naval career and country.

Gordan was born on October 15, 1927 to Rear Admiral Clifford Evans Van Hook and Helen Evans Van Hook. He loved the fact that he had been born in Rio De Janeiro, where his father was stationed with the U.S. Naval Mission to Brazil. He used his memory of Portuguese to navigate other romance languages. He often described his rapid coming of age learning to fly the Scout/Observation Seagull cruiser launched airplane and others. His study of aircraft enabled him to identify the incoming raid of the Japanese on Pearl Harbor to his mother’s disbelief. Gordan took great pride that he earned his pilot’s license as a teenager long before he obtained his driver’s license. After being evacuated from Hawaii, and living in the Panama Canal District, he attended Severn School in Maryland and graduated from the Naval Academy in 1951. A few months later, Gordan married Leila Scott Dunn of Washington D.C. and Coronado, California. Gordan and Leila, with their four children, led the adventurous life of a Navy family living in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Charleston, Panama City, Washington, Newport, Coronado, and London.

Gordan’s exemplary naval career included serving on a destroyer during the Korean War; in a destroyer squadron for the Bay of Pigs invasion; commanding two ships, the minesweeper USS Grackle and the destroyer USS Wilkinson; as well as serving as executive officer of two other ships, including USS Norfolk; and service on several seagoing staffs. Additionally, he served ashore in various billets in Washington; Newport, where he attended the Naval War College; and London, where he served as Assistant Naval Attaché to the American Embassy and was presented to Queen Elizabeth. He was also a combat veteran of Korea and Vietnam.

After a 21-year Naval career, Gordan joined Texaco’s Marine Department and served at corporate headquarters in New York City. The following year, the family moved to Port Arthur, Texas where Gordan served as superintendent of fleet operations for Texaco’s U.S. Fleet. In 1980, he was promoted to Marine Superintendent, managing Texaco’s west coast fleet of tankers in Long Beach, California. He retired from Texaco in 1986. After an extended tour of Europe, Leila and Gordan settled in Newport, Rhode Island where he participated in a variety of sailing pursuits including Newport to Bermuda races, seven years as chief instructor for Sail Newport and in various activities with the New York Yacht Club. After nearly fifty years of marriage, Gordan’s beloved Leila passed away in 1999. Gordan married Polly Canning of Newport, Rhode Island in 2003. Sadly Polly passed away in 2013. In the last years of his life, Gordan lived in Virginia near his children.

Gordan believed in his children making the most of their abilities particularly through advanced education. Gordan is survived by his four children: Professor and author Leila Bailey Van Hook, Ph.D of Blacksburg, VA; CAPT Gordan Evans Van Hook, USN Retired of Suffolk, VA; music teacher Helen Sorenson of Brooklyn, NY, and CDR Tina Swallow, USN Retired of Annandale, VA,; and eight grandchildren, one great grandchild, and his beloved cat Pumkin. To Gordan’s great pride, two of his grandsons currently serve as naval officers on ships in the US Navy.

Sturtevant Funeral Home & Crematory
Bennetts Creek Chapel
2690 Bridge Road (Rte. 17)
Suffolk, Virginia   23435
Phone: (757) 483-4392