Fred Shurlock Underwood, CAPT (USN, Ret) (RIP)

Fred Shurlock Underwood, CAPT (USN, Ret) passed away on February 19, 2023 of natural causes surrounded by family in Jarrell, TX. He was 89 years old. Born October 8, 1933 in Tulsa, OK the son of Wayne Shurlock Underwood and Erma Holmquist Underwood, he lived most of his childhood in the small towns of Van and Mexia, TX. Graduating from Midland HS, Midland, TX, Fred received an appointment to the United States Naval Academy, Twenty Second Company, where he played Soccer during his First Class year, graduating in 1955.

While at the United States Naval Academy, he met the love of his life, Maude, while visiting Philly for the Army Navy Football Game, and they married in 1956. Together they lived the Navy life, traveling and moving frequently. During his 28 years of Naval service Fred’s tour of duties included the USS Heermann (‘55-’57 Newport, RI), USS Mullinnix (’58 Boston, MA), USS Pinnacle (‘59-’60 Charleston, SC), Naval Postgraduate School, receiving a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering (‘60-’63 Monterey, CA), USS Luce (‘63-’64 Mayport, FL), Norfolk Naval Shipyard (‘64-’67 Norfolk, VA), ComServPac Staff (‘67-’68 Pearl Harbor, HI), US Naval Ship Repair Facility Guam (‘68-’71 Guam, MI) Defense Management School (’71), NavSec (’72-’76 Hyattsville, MD), NavSea (’75-’80 Arlington, VA), Indian Head Naval Ordnance Station (‘80-’83 Indian Head, MD).

Among his memorable Navy accomplishments was the crossing of the equator on 06 July 1958, when he was initiated into the Solemn Mysteries of the Ancient Order of the Deep; the opportunity to be the Captain of the Naval Honor Guard at Prince Rainier’s wedding to Grace Kelly, where he received the Monaco Bronze Medal; passing his Professional Engineering in the Electrical Field Exam in 1969; receiving the Navy Commendation Medal for his work while at Naval Shore Electronics Engineering Activity while on Guam. More importantly, he was in the original design team for the Aegis Nuclear Cruiser while at NavSec and moved on to see the Aegis Cruiser to full development while at NavSea, a rare feat indeed. Lastly, he served as the Base Commander at the Naval Ordnance Station, where he enjoyed the atmosphere and joked “that all is good as long as it was not BOOMING”.

After Fred’s retirement from the Navy, he and Maude moved to Appomattox, VA. They loved the rural location enjoying the land, the animals, the environment and especially the friendly neighbors which were all dear to their hearts. Fred and Maude became involved in local groups and activities, including the Ruritans, the Depot Dramatics and both the Memorial United Methodist Church choir as well as the handbell choir. Feeling a call to service again, Fred became a member of the Appomattox County Electoral Board (‘95-‘13) and spent time making sure that the elections held were fair and free from controversy.

After Maude’s passing, Fred returned to the Lone Star State, choosing to live in the Army Residence Community in San Antonio, a retirement community of retired Officers from all services, allowing him to be close to his children. He enjoyed spending his days helping others via the Computer Club with general Q & A, as well as presentations on how to use computers for everyday conveniences such as shopping and dictation. He also taught classes coaching other residents in writing their memoirs. Continuing his joy of music, Fred joined the chapel choir, and the Seniors of Note performing group, where he was applauded for his comedic song performances.

Fred’s desire was not to be famous, but to be memorable. His goal each day was to make someone smile. His laughter was infectious and his hugs were legendary. He had a genuine interest in people, and enjoyed making new friends. He loved music and his favorite food was ice cream.

Fred is preceded in death by both parents, as well as his wife Maude Moore Underwood and his sister Ruth LeNelle Cittadin. He is survived by his four children, CDR Max Wayne Underwood, (USN, ret) and his wife Jane (San Antonio): Nancy Leigh Honeycutt and her husband Kyle (Raleigh, NC); Tacy Lyn Armstrong and her husband Rob (Georgetown, TX): Rebekah Sue Valenzuela and her husband Joe (Jarrell, TX), seven grandchildren: Don Underwood, Richard Underwood, Kathleen Davis, Kristine Whalen, Joe Valenzuela II, Zoey Armstrong, Amy Armstrong along with 13 Great Grandchildren, his two sisters, Elizabeth Mixon and Louise Nunes, and numerous nieces and nephews.

Fred’s family and friends will be celebrating his life, Saturday March 25 from 11-2pm. For information regarding location please contact the family at

In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to the United Services Organization.

My Memories of Midland

Written by Fred Underwood (MHS Class 51′)

My memories of Midland began in July 1949.  We were living in Mexia, TX.  Dad came home and announced that we would be moving to Midland.  The Pure Oil Co had a long-term contract to sell all its oil at a price that had been overtaken by inflation.  I spent my first two weeks of my junior year at Mexia High School.  In geometry class, we did nothing but memorize the twelve theorems upon which all proofs were based.  This effort became germain my first day in Mrs. Phillipus’ geometry class at Midland High School.

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Part Two- My Memories of Midland (1949 – 1950)

Written by: Fred Underwood

We had moved into an apartment in the old BOQ at Terminal.  I think that Mom took me to school the next day.  The only thing that I remember from that day was meeting Coach Red Rutledge in the Principal’s office and again in my typing class (the most useful course I took in High School).  I had been in the typing class for maybe two months, and during my time trials, I was typing about 35 words per minute.  You should note that for each error, we took five keystrokes off of our score.  At about this time, Coach Rutledge told us that he was changing the scoring rules.  From that date forth, for each error, we had to subtract five words (25 keystrokes).  On the next trial, I did the equivalent of taking 25 words a minute off a blank sheet of paper.  I got a lot better as time went by.

Our physics teacher, Coach Patterson, took us out to a country road.  We had at least one stopwatch.  We got out, and Coach Patterson drove one mile down the road.  He got out of the car and got our attention by waving at us.  When we were all ready, he fired the shotgun.  We started the stopwatch when we saw the smoke come out of the barrel and stopped it when we heard the bang.  We had measured the speed of sound.

By changing schools, David Laverty, Guy Vanderpool, and I had lost one year of football eligibility.  Therefore we practiced and played with the Junior Varsity team during the 1949 season.

On the 8th of October 1949, I became 16 years old and eligible for a Texas Drivers license.  I went to the courthouse the first Saturday after my birthday.  I aced the written exam, and then we started the driving test.  I managed to get through the entire test, and the examiner told me that I had failed for many minor reasons.  The next Saturday, the examiner and I got into the car and began the test.  At the first corner, he said: “Turn Right.”  I did, at the next corner and the next, and the next, he repeated: “Turn Right.”  When we got to our starting point, he said: “Park.”  He said: “you failed the test because you failed to yield the right of way on the first turn.”  I wanted to spend some time in town sop Mom dropped me off, and I had to hitch-hike back to Terminal.  A group of us were in the city park on west Wall Street.  About 2:30 PM, I decided it was time for me to start my trip home to Terminal.  About the third car, I thumbed stopped.  I noticed something peculiar going on as he stopped.  His window had opened, and his left arm was outside hanging down in the sign for stopping.  It was the officer who had examined me that morning.  For the next ten miles, he did everything right by the book.  The following Saturday, I received my license without any comments.

I don’t recall anything else of significance for the rest of the school year.

During the summer, I got a job at the Washateria.  I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. I did what I was told to do, nothing more, nothing less.  After two weeks, I was told don’t bother to come back.  Apparently, it was easier to do what they wanted me to do than to spend all day supervising my every action.  I didn’t know that I had learned a powerful message until many years later. 

Midland Memories Part 3

Written by Fred Underwood

During the summer between my Junior and Senior year, two events of note happened.  First, we moved from Terminal to a house we rented at 1100 West Illinois.  When I walked out the front door and kept on walking across the street, I found myself on the walkway to the main entrance to Midland High School.  Across the street to the right of our house was the Youth Center.  To me, it was an ideal location.  I enjoyed school so much that I was the first one to school almost every day.  The second event was that I became sweet on a young lady who could sing like a diva.  To spend more time with her, I joined the Youth Choir at the First Medothist Church.  The Minister of Music insisted that I sing tenor instead of the melody.  When I got it right, I fell in love with harmony.  A song was put in my heart, and I didn’t care which one it was.  Just so you know my status, when I sang, I perceived that I sounded like Jim Neighbors.  When I heard my voice recorded, I realized that everyone else was hearing Gomer Pyle.

Football season started immediately.  Our ineligibility year was over, so Gus Baker, David Laverty, Guy Vanderpool, and Fred Underwood became members of the practice team preparing the Varsity for the games.  Coach Tugboat Jones and his single-wing offense did very well.  In District play, we lost to Odessa and soundly beat Lubbock  Lubbock then beat Odessa.  We were all set to be in a three-way tie for District Champions.  All we had to do was to earn a win over little Lamesa (the district doormat).  Alas, we lost 14 to 12.  As I recall it, after the end of football season, the sweet young thing that put a song in my heart dumped me for a basketball player.  I still thank her for putting that song in my heart.  She now lives in Albuquerque

I took every math course the school offered and all the science courses except biology.  I thoroughly enjoyed my two years living in Midland.  After graduation, I went to the U.S. Naval Academy and retired 32 years later.  By that time, I had no connections left in Midland.  So we retired in Appomattox, Va.