WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Rear Adm. Fran McKee, the first female line officer in the Navy to be promoted to flag rank, died March 3 after suffering a stroke. She was 75.
A native of Florence, Ala., she was commissioned an ensign on Dec. 4, 1950, and progressed through the ranks to rear admiral (lower half) on June 1, 1976, as director of Naval Education Development. She earned a second star as director of Human Resource Management in November 1978, before retiring on June 1, 1981, after 30 years of service.
"It was quite an accomplishment for her to make admiral back then," said long-time friend and retired Navy Capt. Barbara Nyce. "It wasn't as accepted then as it is today. She was a very poised and confident person. She touched a lot of people and had a wonderful zest for life."
Those who served with her agree.
"Adm. McKee will always live in the hearts of those who knew her, were inspired by her, profited from her leadership and enjoyed the pleasure of her company," said retired Navy Capt. Carolyn Prevatte. "For many of us who came after, Fran McKee was a heroine, trailblazer, woman of dignity and integrity, a role model, and a great individual of warmth and humor to whom we owe a great debt."
McKee served in a variety of stateside assignments including: instructor at Naval Schools Command; mobilization and classification officer at Naval Air Reserve Training Command; officer-in-charge, Naval Women Officers School; head, Special Inquiries and Publications at Bureau of Naval Personnel (BUPERS); and commanding officer of a Naval Security Group Activity. Outstanding proficiency in these assignments resulted in the Legion of Merit with Gold Star and the Meritorious Service Medal.
Graduating with a degree in chemistry from the University of Alabama in 1950, McKee went on to graduate from Naval Line Officers School, Naval Postgraduate School, Naval War College, and received a master's degree from George Washington University, Washington, D.C., in International Affairs in 1970.
"She was a wonderful woman, so warm, smart and human," added retired Rear Adm. Louise C. Wilmot. "We have the fondest memories of her, including her initiation into the Alabama Hall of Fame."
Funeral services for McKee will be held April 8, at 12:30 p.m. (local) in the chapel of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Annandale, Va., followed by a burial service with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery at 3:00 p.m. Immediately following the ceremony, a reception will be held in the Women's Memorial at Arlington.
For information on women in the Navy, go to http://www.navy.mil and select "Women in the Navy" from the site index.