Everett B. Reed, 90, builder and veteran

December 09, 2004|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Everett Burgess Reed, a former homebuilder and Baltimore County housing inspector who was decorated for gallantry after his Navy minesweeper was torpedoed by a German U-boat during World War II, died of Alzheimer's disease Dec. 2 at Oak Crest Village in Parkville. He was 90.

Mr. Reed was born in Manchester and graduated in 1932 from Manchester High School. He worked as a carpenter until enlisting in the Navy three months before Pearl Harbor.

He was assigned as a carpenter's mate aboard the USS Skill, operating in the Mediterranean to prepare for the invasion of North Africa and with patrol and convoy missions.

The Skill was attacked twice -- damaged by a bomb during a German air raid while anchored at Palermo, Italy, and later sunk by what was believed to be a German U-boat's torpedo with the loss of most of its crew.

Mr. Reed, in charge of repairs, rallied his men after the first attack, in which a bomb destroyed a whaleboat tied to the starboard side and blew a hole in the ship's steel plates. The crew patched the gaping hole, enabling the ship to reach Algiers for permanent repairs.

The ship and its crew of 103 participated in the invasions of North Africa, Sicily, Palermo and Salerno, and was steaming in the Gulf of Salerno, near the island of Capri, when it was sunk by a torpedo Sept. 25, 1943.

The Skill's forward magazine exploded with such force that crew members were thrown into the water and the ship was split in two. The bow section sank in 10 minutes, the aft section 20 minutes later.

Despite his injuries, Mr. Reed and two others tried to get the injured topside from below decks and to throw life jackets to those struggling in the sea.

"There was a man who was injured and couldn't swim. Dad put him under his arm and back-stroked to a nearby ship," said a son, Paul T. Reed of Parkton.

All of the ship's officers died, and the 32 surviving crew member all were wounded.

Mr. Reed was awarded two Purple Hearts and the Silver Star -- the latter for "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action." The citation read:

"Reed labored tirelessly to assist in the rescue of numerous severely wounded crewmen who were trapped by fire in various compartments and engineroom spaces. He then risked his life to swim to the assistance of a drowning man and succeeded in bringing him to safety through a sea of burning oil.

"Reed's unselfish efforts on behalf of his shipmates and his great personal valor in the face of grave peril contributed to the probable saving of many lives."

After returning to Baltimore, he established Reed Construction Co. with his father and for the next 20 years built houses in Carroll and Baltimore counties. After closing it in 1967, he worked until 1980 as a Baltimore County building inspector.

He enjoyed building fine furniture, and making stained-glass lamps and jewelry boxes for family members and friends in the basement of his Loch Raven Village home of 40 years. Since the early 1990s, he had lived at Oak Crest in Parkville.

He was a former member of the Kiwanis Club of Loch Raven and life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Services were Monday.

Also surviving are his wife of 57 years, the former Dorine Filiberti; two other sons, James D. Reed of Tucson, Ariz., and Robert L. Reed of Frederick; a daughter, Ann E. Reed of Loch Raven Village; two grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

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