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University of North Carolina
Naval ROTC Alumni Association

Captain David Powell Dawson

United States Marine Corps

4 December 1964 - 6 May 1995

Memorial CelebrationFirst Congregational Church
Rockport, Massachusetts
May 13, 1995

Dave died accidentally on Saturday, May 6, 1995, after reaching the summit of Du Four Spitze of Monte Rosa at Zermatt, Switzerland. In the process of winding up his special assignment as an Olmstead Scholar doing graduate study in international relations at the University of Konstanz, Germany, he was preparing to report to Camp Pendleton in California. He is survived by his parents, Donald and Patricia (Powell) Dawson of Rockport, Massachusetts, brother Paul Dawson of Wilmington, Massachusetts, and sister Andrea Lynn Dawson of Rockport and Rochester, New York.

He was born at Pontiac, Michigan, on December 4, 1964. In 1980, his family moved to Concord, Massachusetts, where he graduated from the Concord-Carlisle High School with an academic gold medal in 1982 and was awarded a four-year U.S. Navy NROTC scholarship. He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was in the Freshman Honors Program, was on the dean's list every semester, and received the Josephus Daniels Scholarship Award for the senior midshipman with the highest grade average in academic subjects.

Lifetime of striving ends on mountain climbing trip

By Gienna Shaw

ROCKPORT -- David Dawson had accomplished everything he'd set out to do -- up until the day he died on a mountain in Zermatt, Switzerland. The 30-year-old Marine was returning from the summit of the second-highest mountain in the Alps on May 6 when he slipped into a crevice and was killed. The son of Donald and Patricia (Powell) Dawson of Marmion Way, he also leaves his brother, Paul Dawson and his sister, Andrea Lynn Dawson. More than 150 people attended a memorial celebration at the First Congregational Church on May 13.

David Dawson was always reaching for perfection, always striving for success, as his distinguished academic and military career indicated. "He was into life. And whatever he did, he wanted to do it right," said his mother. He graduated from high school with an academic gold medal and was awarded a four year Navy ROTC scholarship. At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he made the dean's list every semester and was the senior midshipman with the highest grade average. Upon graduating in 1986, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps and awarded the physics department prize and a memorial Marine sword for outstanding leadership. From 1986 until 1992 he was assigned to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. His last appointment there was as platoon commander and his most cherished award was the honorary paddle he received from the Marines in that group.

Dawson was in Germany on a two-year military scholarship at the University of Constance. Part of his duties under the Olmsted Scholar program was to meet and understand the German people, their language and their culture. One of the ways he did that was to join a ski group at the university. Dawson had twice before attempted a long ski trip through the Alps along the Haute Route, which leads from Chamonix, France, to Zermatt, Switzerland. But on those first two trips he had to turn back because of poor weather conditions. He wrote to his parents describing the thwarted attempts and his disappointment. Oh his third attempt he made the long trip staying in huts along the way. He reached the summit of Dugordspitze on Monte Rosa, described by a German friend who accompanied him as the "roof of the world" and sat silent, awed by the panorama before him. Dawson attained a dream that day. On the way back down the 4,600-meter mountain, heading toward Zermatt, he was killed.

"He could have been killed on (Route) 128. He could have been killed crossing the street. It happens all the time. We feel that he was so enthusiastic about life. And he got everything out of his 30 years of life that anybody could possibly fit in, and he had a wonderful life," his mother, Patricia Dawson said. "I think the quality of life is as important as the length of it," the Marmion Way resident said.

David Dawson was highly skilled. He had mountain climbing training in California and Norway as a Marine. To climb this mountain was a challenge above and beyond anything he had ever experienced, but he was equipped to face it, the friends he made in Germany said.

"David wanted to improve his skills to the top degree...He wanted to become highly skilled and he was highly skilled at the time of his death," Patricia Dawson said. "He was still single and there were certain things that he wanted to do in life. We understand that and we are glad he had a wonderful last week of his life... They had a glorious week... He succeeded at this route, and the group of four (who took the trip) all wrote and said he had all of the skills and all of the equipment he needed to do the job, and that he was an expert," she said. "It was just an accident that so far cannot be explained."

Marines from all over the country came to honor him at the May 13 memorial service. And the people of Rockport opened their homes to many of them. "It was overwhelming the support that we've had since this happened," Patricia Dawson said. "Rockport is a wonderful place to live because there are so many caring people. It's been very overwhelming... We've been here only five years. It's not as though we've been here forever... People just call and show up and are there when you need them. It was really heartwarming," she said.

And the Marines seemed to have made an impression on the town. The Dawsons said some who were hesitant about military types were won over. "They showed themselves off to good advantage on Cape Ann over the weekend...people were impressed with them, I think," said Patricia Dawson.

"David was a very loyal Marine and a loyal American and he was proud to be a Marine officer," his mother said.

Gloucester Daily Times

Monday, May 22, 1995

Wonderful man touched so many

Several hundred people packed themselves into the First Congregational Church in Rockport on May 13 for memorial services for a young man killed just a week before while skiing down a mountain in Switzerland.

I suspect many in that number went to lend their moral support to the family of David Dawson, age 30. However, the moral support came to us, the bystanders, as we witnessed a marvelous outpouring of feelings - a real celebration of a life.

All around us we see mediocrity. Parents and children who are so bereft of responsibility or any semblance of respect. Children who are so lacking in imagination that they give boredom as an excuse for vandalism and worse. Parents who will not or can not give their children the example and leadership that they need. And parents and children so completely ignorant, perhaps disdainful, of any moral compass that they might follow.

However, in this church we saw one after another of America's finest young people (and one of Germany's too) get up and give eloquent words about a young man they felt stood above them all.

David Dawson was an officer in the United States Marine Corps. In his brief life he had excelled in everything. Smart, superior achiever, wonderfully athletic. First in every class, ran 15 miles a day. At the time of his death he was completing a two year scholarship in Germany as an Olmstead Scholar. He was also a splendid leader, demanding almost as much from his men as he demanded from himself, and getting that performance willingly.

The Marines who stood up to give their views of David were both officers and enlisted. Certainly many of them came from homes every bit as filled with problems as the homes of people in Gloucester and Rockport. But each one of these young men was so filled with a feeling of personal direction and personal responsibility that it gave me a feeling of warmth and admiration.

These Marines, an Air Force officer, and a German civilian all told their stories about a man who had worked an studied with them, had fun with them, and had led some of them into combat in the Persian Gulf. It was plain to see that each of these people was a leader him/herself.

Such an outpouring of excellence, from wonderful spirited people about one they all felt outshone them all, yet was humble and caring.

The climax of this memorial celebration came when the celebrant asked if there were others who wished to say a word about David. A Marine master sergeant got up and delivered an eloquent extemporaneous eulogy. There are so many splendid, bright young officers in the services, but not all of them meet exacting demands of the fine men and women whom they lead. The enlisted Marines whom David led are part of the Corps' best. They are the men trained to swim longer and harder, run faster, shoot straighter and possess enormous endurance, because they are the ones who must go ashore to conduct initial reconnaissance of a landing site.

Finally, a young African-American Marine captain got up. He called David his friend and brother. When so often all we hear between black and white people is suspicion and hatred, it is so gratifying to see how much farther young people in our military services have gotten, moving past all of that.

The captain after just a few words said he'd like to say his "good-bye" to Dave in another way, and he then he began to sing, in the beautiful manner of a Negro spiritual, "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." On the final chorus, this leader of men, in front of an almost completely white audience, led everyone in a tearful and joyous "Hallelujah!"

We can almost be saddened that such an admirable young man never got to live out a full life. But we can all take wonderful encouragement in our own lives that such a man touched so many, in such a positive, magnificent way.

If you have additional information or material (anecdotes, photos, etc.) about this alumnus, please contact our secretary.


For information, please contact:  secretary@uncnrotcaa.org

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