On March 25, 2020, Captain Kenneth T. “Cannonball” Marion, U.S. Navy (Ret) quietly passed away at his home in Coronado, surrounded by his loving family.
Ken was a native of West Orange, New Jersey, and a 1971 graduate of Villanova University. After graduation he entered the U.S. Navy through the Aviation Officer Candidate program and upon completion of flight training earned his Wings of Gold in October 1972.
Ken’s early Navy assignments include Search and Rescue pilot flying the H-1 at Naval Air Station, Alameda, California, and western Pacific deployments with HSL 37 “Easyrider” aviation detachments, based at Naval Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii. A plankowner of HSL 37, Ken flew the SH-2F Seasprite from the flight decks of the nuclear guided missile cruiser USS Truxton (CGN 35) and frigate USS Whipple (FF 1062).
Remaining in Hawaii, Ken served in a Joint Duty assignment on the staff of the Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Command, providing daily intelligence briefings to the Commander during the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and throughout the Iranian hostage crisis.
Ken returned to HSL 37 for his department head tour, serving as squadron Operations Officer and Detachment THREE Officer-in-Charge aboard the destroyer USS Fife (DD 991). Ken next attended the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, California, and earned a Master of Science degree in Information Systems Technology.
Selected for squadron command, in June 1987, Ken served as Commanding Officer of the world famous HSL 35 “Magicians.” Under Ken’s command, HSL 35 was recognized for operational excellence, earning the Battle Efficiency “E”, the CNO Safety Award, and the Navy Unit Commendation.
After squadron command, Ken deployed as Operations Officer aboard USS New Orleans (LPH 11) during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and served as the final Commanding Officer of HSL 31, the West Coast SH-2F Fleet Replacement Squadron in San Diego.
Returning to Hawaii in 1993, Ken served as Fleet Warfare Officer on the staff of the Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet. There, he played a key role in winning approval for arming LAMPS helicopters with forward firing ordnance. In January 1995, he served in major command as Commodore of the Navy’s largest type-wing, Helicopter Anti-Submarine Wing (Light), U.S. Pacific Fleet. During this tour, the wing deployed the Navy’s first Hellfire and forward looking infrared-equipped armed helicopter detachment.
Ken’s last tour of duty was in command of the Fleet Area Control and Surveillance Facility (FACSFAC) San Diego. Ken retired from the Navy in March 2001. During his Navy service Ken earned the Legion of Merit (three awards), Defense Meritorious Service medal, Navy Meritorious Service medal (three awards), in addition to various other Navy medals, campaign and unit awards.
Ken’s post-Navy career included jobs as Vice President for Strategic Planning at North Island Credit Union, and civil service at his former wing, redesignated as Helicopter Maritime Strike Wing Pacific. Ken managed squadron transitions from the SH-60B Seahawk helicopter to the MH-60R, and the introduction of carrier airwing based squadrons in the HSM community.
Ken, a model naval officer and superb naval aviator, was known as mentor and friend to countless naval officers whose careers he nurtured and advanced, and as a kind spirit and quick wit. An outstanding golfer, Ken was Coronado Golf Club Senior Club Champion in 2009 and Club Champion in 2011. Always the consummate gentleman, Ken loved playing with golfers of all levels and abilities and did so with style and grace. When Ken played golf with someone, his only concern was that they have an enjoyable time.
Ken waged a fierce fight against an extremely aggressive cancer, and as always, was more concerned about others than himself. Painfully aware of just how many people suffered from the same illness, he once said,“ So many of the patients are young adults and even kids who are dealing with problems far greater than mine. And the one thing they all seem to have in common is that when you make eye contact with them, they smile and, if they can, they talk to you. The irony is your expectations are completely flipped…it’s not depressing at all; instead it is uplifting and inspirational.”
Ken and Linda, his loving and devoted spouse, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary Dec. 7, 2019. Every year this unique day prompted friends from around the world to call and message to honor this day that “lives in Infamy.” Their marriage was a true love story and served as an inspiration to others.
Ken is survived by his wife Linda; son Ken (Janine) Marion Jr and his daughter Jennifer Marion (Michael) Engstrom; and two beloved grandsons Luke and Liam. A memorial will be held in late summer or early fall when friends and family are able to gather in memory of this remarkable man. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.