Paul Grimes
Paul Grimes

Paul Grimes

AFRH-W Resident Highlight – Paul Grimes

By PK Knor | AFRH-W Resident

Do you know anyone who has a glacier in the Antarctic named for them? Well, read on and you will!

Paul D. Grimes was born on February 14, 1926 in Arcola, Virginia, just 30 miles west of AFRH-W. He was one of eight children born to Edgar and Emma Grimes. Paul’s early school years took place in a one-room school house until the seventh grade. Upon high school graduation, during WWII, Paul volunteered for the Navy.

He attended basic training in Bainbridge, Maryland and was assigned as an anti-aircraft gunner on a merchant ship. These ships were grouped into convoys of 80-90 ships headed toward allied ports in Europe, the North Atlantic, Iceland, and Russia! He saw a lot of action from enemy submarines and aircraft. The final six months of his first enlistment sent him to the Bikini Atoll, in the Marshall Islands where ships were tested for their resilience to atomic bombs!! Part of his job was to board the ship afterwards and then sink it in the ocean!

After his first enlistment, Paul stayed out of the Navy for about 18 months, then reenlisted with the Seabees. Since his father had been in construction and road building, and he was familiar with this. He felt this would be a good fit, and it was! With the Seabees, Paul traveled to Greenland, Australia, Asia, Africa, Europe and Antarctica literally all over the world building runways, bridges and military camps!

Paul spent 2–18 month tours in Antarctica! Here he was in charge of the construction of air fields, which had to be relocated every time the sea ice melted during the daylight seasons. Due to his supervision of the construction crews during the relocation of Williams Air Field at McMurdo Sound, in the closing months of U.S. Navy operation “deep freeze 1965,” the Antarctic name advisory committee named the “Grimes Glacier” after master chief petty officer equipment man Paul D. Grimes.

Paul was also assigned to accompany a U.S. engineer to the South Pole to measure the depth of the ice! He had to drill a 4in x 35ft deep hole in the ice. Into this they put explosives, set them off and used a seismograph to measure the vibrations to determine the depth of the ice. It was measured to be 8,720 feet!

One day in the Antarctic, Paul and a fellow Seabee (Bill Cullity) saw an overloaded freighter break away from its moorings and start drifting out to sea. Paul and Bill grabbed a 2” line attached to a steel cable, rowed out to the ship, boarded it and attached the cable so that it could be hauled back into port. For this feat they were awarded the Navy and Marine Corp Medal.

Paul was in the Navy for 24 years and his last assignment, eight months of shore duty in Washington DC, made him realize it was time to retire, which he did as an E-9 master chief petty officer.

Paul moved his wife Ruth (aka Ralphie) and three children Diane, Steve, and Tammy to Blacksburg, Virginia where he attended Virginia Tech. Paul had met “Ralphie” in elementary school but her family moved away. Fifteen years later, and after his initial Navy tour, they met again at a roller skating rink and that was the beginning of their lifelong love which lasted 53 years.

During and after college, Paul worked for Anderson and Associates in earth work as a heavy equipment manager and retired from there 35 years later.

Paul moved to AFRH-W in 2008 which he considers a wise decision. He had volunteered at the auto hobby shop, helping residents with their vehicles, which he enjoyed.

His children live in Virginia Beach, Virginia and Savannah, Georgia. He doesn’t get to see them as often as he would like, but they have given him two grandchildren and one great-grandchild! His family makes him very happy!