By Glennis Fellas
Oregon native 80 year-old Ellis Skidmore cuts quite a swath in his 50-year-old military tuxedo or any other of his many uniforms.
Standing proud and tall he commands a striking entrance; however he admits his wife Elaine, who he calls "Cutie Pie," has had to let out a few seams here and there. To complete his formal dress he wears a jade ring and cuff links he got in Hong Kong over 50 years ago.
His eyes tease as he speaks in a formal manner relishing the memories of his long, distinguished military career that began after he graduated from Redmond high school in 1939.
"I like high school in Redmond," chuckles Skidmore. "If a senior's grades added up to five or less, we didn't have to take a final exam on that subject to graduate. I was one of four who didn't take any exams."
He enlisted in the Navy's San Diego boot camp for six years on April 9, 1940. As Seaman Apprentice E-1 he drew $21 per month. His career expanded across the world. In July 1940 he transferred to Aviation Radio School, North Island, San Diego and from there advanced to E-2 Seaman 2/C. That fall he was transferred to VP-44, 6-plane P2Y2 seaplane squadron at Sand Point, Seattle, scrubbing bilges.
After several more transfers he found himself in the Fleet Air Wing Four Gunnery School in July of 1941, aerial gunnery over the Pacific. In 1942 he was in Pearl Harbor to Midway as his squadron pre-positioned for upcoming battle. He flew 102 hours and was shot at twice during the battle.
Skidmore received gold wings as enlisted naval Chief Aviation Pilot June 14, 1943. After three tours in Korea he was transferred to General Line School, Monterey, Calif., in 1953. The next year he was promoted to Lieutenant Commander.
Since he had no previous college education before he entered the military and it was required of officer he transferred to Oregon State University and graduated after two years, with four years of academic credits.
It was then he met his wife Elaine through a car dealer there and they have raised three children in their long marriage. A small smile creeps over his face when he talks about his "Cutie Pie."
As the Executive Officer and Navigator of the USS Ingersoll in 1956 he toured in the Fiji Islands, Australia, Japan, Formosa, and Hong Kong. In 1958 he transferred to Commander Naval Forces Philippines, Manila as Asst. Force Communications Officer and was promoted to Commander.
His last assignment was Commander Pacific Missile Range, Pt. Mugu, Calif., as range communication operations officer.
Skidmore retired in October of 1962 from the military, and he and his wife went into the insurance business for several years.
For 27 years he went fishing and hunting for bear, moose and mountain goats in British Columbia with family and friends. One of his mountain goat trophies made a world record. Over half the trophy mounts at the Big R in Redmond belong to Skidmore's collection.
"I would rather see them there than in our home," puts in his shy, soft spoken wife.
He hunts now, but closer to home bagging his elk and mule deer.
The couple owns acreage out of town where they grow rotating crops to feed elk and mule deer. Skidmore does the planting and the elk and deer do the harvesting.
The Skidmores are world travelers and say that one of their most memorable trips was their home-stays in New Zealand and Australia. Their stays included everything from cattle ranches to a kiwi fruit processing plant.
When asked about the Sept. 11 terrorist attack he said, "I wouldn't have believed it could happen. Unbelievable. Unbelievable."
Skidmore is quick to talk about his military experience and his patriotism shows through in all of his trips down memory lane. He attends military reunions all over the United States.