David Leigh McConagha

by Suzy Millar Miller


     I recently read that David (Dave) McConagha passed away in Maryland. He was one of Reynoldsburg’s proud U.S. Naval veterans. Dave was born in Columbus to Ralph and Martha McConagha. He graduated from RHS in 1959 where he played on the varsity basketball team. Dave was the class secretary and voted “Most Studious” his senior year. Dave’s Reynolian caption read: “He’s smart as a whip, yet not a square, when you want him to help he’s always there, ambition is to be successful, basketball, favorite celebrity is Yogi Bear, 5 or 6 year-old Chryslers, Honor Society.”

     In the “Letter from the Future, May 30, 1969”, a yearbook feature where a classmate wrote a fantasy letter from 10 years in the future, Judy Molnar wrote this about Dave: “At the reunion dinner table we began to talk about the lead Russia has in their space travel research. Dave McConagha was the principal speaker, for he is quite an expert on that subject. He is working at Cape Canaveral as an engineer. At the present time he is working on the intercontinental ballistic missile. We all agreed that with Dave on the job, Russia’s going to have a tough fight to stay ahead.”

     Dave married Jeanette Elena Myers (RHS 1960) in August, 1962 while he was working a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics from The Ohio State University. Dave attended Muskingham College before he transferred to OSU. Jeanette was a varsity cheerleader at RHS. The caption in the 1960 Reynolian for Jeannette read: “Where she gets her energy, no one knows, she’s an expert at dropping pianos on toes, ambition to be an OSU cheerleader, shrimp cocktail, water skiing, 9,999.” 

     In a fictitious paper called “The Future Times” section of the yearbook dated October 30, 1980 which foretold where the RHS class of 1960 would be in 20 years at a 1980 homecoming. Jeannette’s “future” was written as: “The festivities began when Miss Jeannette Myers of the Metropolitan Opera sang the Star-Spangled Banner.” In Jeannette’s “Last Will and Testament of the Class of 1960” Jeannette wrote: “I, Jeannette Myers, bequeath my ability to move pianos to anyone who’s foolish enough to try.” Jeannette went on to become a nurse and has sung with an International award winning Sweet Adelines chorus for many years.

     Dave and Jeannette had four children: Heather (McConagha)  MacNaughton  (husband, Deacon), Pat McConagha (wife, Kay), Deidre (McConagha) Austen (husband, Ed), and Marty McConagha (wife, Shannon). They also have eight grandchildren. Dave was the brother of Linda Kelly (husband, Lew), Nancy Tishkoff (husband, Stuart) and Susan Donaldson (husband, Lynn).

      According to Dave’s obituary: “In 1964, David embarked on a 27-year naval career with more than 25 years of flight experience with the A-3B and EA-6B aircraft. His career included teaching mathematics at the U.S. Naval Academy Preparatory School at the Naval Training Center in Bainbridge and flight training in Pensacola, FL and NAS Whidbey in Washington State. As a young navigator, David flew photographic reconnaissance and combat missions with VAP 61 in Vietnam from 1967 to 1969. David later served as a Naval ROTC instructor at Dartmouth College while earning a Master’s degree in Operations Research/Systems Analysis. David’s career continued with stations at NAS Norfolk with the electronic warfare squadron VAQ 138 and commanding officer of VAQ 132. His squadron’s deployments included tours on the aircraft carriers Saratoga and Dwight D. Eisenhower. During his tenure at NAS Whidbey, David attended and graduated from the Naval War College in Newport, RI. 

      “In 1983, David was transferred to the Pentagon where he held successive positions in the offices of the Chief of Naval Operations and the Director for Operations, Joint Staff. David was directly involved with policy, requirements, and operational control of U.S. military forces. Upon retirement from the Navy in 1991, David continued to serve our country as the Director, Office of Weapons Surety, for the U.S. Department of Energy. His responsibilities included nuclear weapons safety, security, and coordination with the Department of Defense. In the international arena, David contributed to both the North Atlantic Treaty Organization nuclear weapons safety and security programs, and cooperative surety efforts with the United Kingdom. He traveled frequently to the republics of the former Soviet Union to assist in the safe, secure dismantlement of their nuclear weapons. David retired from the Department of Energy in 1997.

     “David was a member of the VFW Fleet Reserve Association, Military Officers Association, and a lifetime member of the Vietnam Veterans of America. Along with other commendations, he was awarded the Defense Superior Service Medal (with gold star), multiple Navy Air Medals and Strike/Flight Awards, Navy Unit Commendation (with one bronze star), Navy Expeditionary Medal, Vietnam Service Medal (with one silver star), Sea Service Deployment Ribbon (with one bronze star), Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, Meritorious Unit Commendation (with one bronze star), and the Meritorious Service Medal.

     “David served several tenures as Senior Warden at Grace Episcopal Church in Brunswick, MD. In retirement, David became an active member of the American Legion, Post 166 in Ocean City, MD. David was a long-time member of the Barbershop Harmony Society, and was recognized as Barbershopper-of-the-Year when singing with the Catoctones in Frederick, MD. He later spent countless happy hours rehearsing and performing with The Chorus of the Chesapeake and singing baritone in several quartets. David’s retirement afforded him time to boat on the Susquehanna River, volunteer at the USNTC Museum in Bainbridge, MD, and visit Ireland to explore first-hand the genealogy he had spent so much time researching. David also was an avid attendee at sports and school events for his grandchildren. Some of David’s favorite days were filled with Ocean City trips in his convertible, listening to Willie Nelson and Patsy Cline, with his dog, Eli, by his side.

      “A service was held at Emmanuel Episcopal Church, 303 N. Main Street, Bel Air, MD on March 30, 2019.’ “

      It seems like the class futures in the Reynolians of both Dave and Jeannette were pretty accurate. Jeannette continues to sing and Dave did have something to do with Russia and security. Sometimes our former classmates make predictions we never would imagine to come true.