Father and daughter hugged on stage at graduation day, 1981. She had continued in his footsteps: deputy brigade commander (the No. 2 midshipman), 12th in her class.
And, like him, she went off to flight school, where she too broke barriers, becoming the first female pilot deployed to the Indian Ocean. Like her father, she spent many months abroad or at sea, far from her family.
Afew months after Wendy graduated, Lawrence left the Naval Academy and spent a year as commander of the Third Fleet in Hawaii, which led to one of the Navy's top slots: chief of naval personnel. By 1985, Lawrence was scheduled to become a four-star admiral. Rumors had him in line for the top job, chief of naval operations.
But he had started feeling tired, getting distracted. The man who once flew twice the speed of sound now felt everything moving at half speed.
He'd leave home by 6 a.m., come home from work at 8 p.m., eat a warmed-up dinner in the kitchen with a plate in his lap. "Sometimes he was so tired I'd physically have to help him up the stairs," Diane says. "And even help him get undressed."
Lawrence's aide called to say, "I think the admiral's sick." Diane felt he desperately needed a break, and forced him to visit friends in New Hampshire. They met at a restaurant where Lawrence was too tired to order, and asked Diane to order for him. When they arrived at the cottage, he became agitated, couldn't relax, couldn't sleep.
"I can't stay up here," he said. They left the next morning.
A few days later, Diane took him to Bethesda Naval Hospital. He stayed a week, tried to go back to work, but was readmitted days later. He was suffering from depression.
Forced under Navy rules to retire, Lawrence sunk deeper. Friends tried to pull him out of it. Perot donated money to establish a leadership program at the Naval Academy, and made Lawrence its first chairman. He also paid for him to see specialists in the nation's top clinics.
It didn't help. Lawrence never trusted his doctors, one of whom he said "needed the help more than I did."
For the next four years, he suffered in a prison he says was worse than the Hanoi Hilton. Doctors never found a cause for his condition, at least not one that satisfied him. His own theory is that after a quarter-century going full speed, he flamed out.
Finally in 1989, he began crawling out of the hole. He wrote magazine and newspaper articles, led an aviation association, lectured on his POW experience. He went back to Nashville and co-wrote a book about the military and the press.
He and Diane were by then living in Crownsville, on a bluff above the Severn River. In 1990, Wendy was assigned to teach at the academy. She came back to live with them again.
Wendy had steered her career toward milestones -- becoming a pilot, getting a master's degree at MIT -- that would improve her chances of becoming an astronaut. NASA finally asked her to visit Houston for a battery of tests, a more modest version of what her father had endured. In March 1992, she was selected to be a space shuttle mission specialist.
Three years later, Lawrence sat in the bleachers at Cape Canaveral, Fla., looking at the cloudy night skies and worrying that the launch of Endeavor, the 99th human space mission, would be canceled because of the weather.
But at 11:30 p.m., the enormous digital countdown clock began ticking. T-minus two hours and counting. The shuttle glowed a mile away, bathed in floodlights.
He and Diane and other family members held hands. "We realized we were sitting there where the Challenger families had sat," he says. "I knew what could happen."
Minutes before liftoff, the clouds cleared, the shuttle lumbered away and Lawrence cried, hardly able to believe his little girl was aboard.
In October 1995, at 65, Lawrence entered Bethesda Naval Hospital again -- this time to correct his old nemesis, the heart murmur.
A normal aortic valve has three leaves, like a clover. Lawrence's had two, so the valve never shut completely with each beat of his heart. Doctors told him it would some day wear out. They suggested a mechanical valve. With that, he could play tennis and jog into old age.
He expected to be home in days. A day after the surgery, he was scheduled to move out of intensive care. Diane sat in a waiting room while they prepared Lawrence's new room. But 20 minutes passed, then an hour. She knew something was wrong. The doctor finally came out: "Mrs. Lawrence, the admiral's sick. He's had a stroke."
"I knew right away what that meant," says Diane, who had treated stroke victims as a physical therapist. "And I couldn't believe, after all the things that happened to him, here's another thing."
A piece of plaque had broken off from where the valve had been attached, and was pumped through the blood stream to the right side of Lawrence's brain. His heart stopped twice. He went into a coma. His kidneys failed. A ventilator breathed for him.
Diane told family members to come. She warned them to expect a funeral.