CAPT Steven J. Dunlap, USN (Ret.)
REVEILLE, REVEILLE, REVEILLE all hands on deck for the passing of Captain Steven James Dunlap, USN Retired. The son of Rodney Merrill and Helen McQuillan Dunlap, Steve died at 81 years old, peacefully at home with his family. Rod worked for the federal government so Steve’s childhood with sisters Eileen and Pamela spanned Minnesota and New Mexico, before finally settling in Alexandria, Virginia. Though its precise origin is lost to history, Rod Dunlap began a family tradition when he gave this standard response to Steve’s childhood requests: “You’ll get it some Tuesday.”
In 1964, Steve met Patricia Leigh Riley on a blind date. He was pole-axed by the tall, blue-eyed beauty with black hair. However [comma] he showed off just a bit too much and Pat thought he was obnoxious. Luckily, Steve got another shot the next night and this time he stayed cool. They fell in love on that second date and Steve spent the next ten months happy as a pig in stuff, driving from Blacksburg to Williamsburg and back at a “high rate of fuel consumption.”
Steve and Pat married December 26, 1964, just days before Steve’s first tour with the U.S. Navy. Steve had graduated Virginia Polytechnic & State University into the Vietnam War draft. Either Uncle Sam was going to determine his path, or he was. He picked the Navy. After Officer Candidate School in 1965, Steve commissioned as a Lieutenant. Thus began Steve and Pat’s Navy adventure-years.
They lived in Parma, Ohio, Pensacola, Florida, Brunswick, Georgia (twice), Imperial Beach, California and Simi Valley, California. Steve served two tours in Vietnam as a Naval Flight Officer for the E2 Hawkeye radar planes on the USS Coral Sea and the USS Constellation. During his first Pacific tour, Steve eagerly saved money. He was planning for some Tuesday when he’d have enough to buy that Sanyo minifridge he had spotted in Japan. Having a minifridge in his berth meant options at chow time. Fifty-seven years later, a few hours before he died, Steve’s children and grandchildren sat with him and rooted for the Hokies, drinking icy cold Miller High Life from that Sanyo fridge. Too bad the Hokies lost that day. Pop loved the champagne of beers, and that fridge has been keeping it cold since 1967. Now the heirs are wondering who will get it.
In 1975, as Steve reached a decade of active-duty Navy service, Pat said, “Honey, I’m going home to Virginia with the kids, and I hope you come too.” Steve laughed and started job hunting knowing that some Tuesday he would get a great new job while keeping his flight wings in the Navy Reserve. By this time, Steve and Pat had three children: Steven, Jr., Darlin’ Daughter Tricia, and Matt. Having a third baby forced them to get creative with names. In 1976, the family left Simi Valley for Derwood, Maryland, driving cross-country in a Ford F-150 cab-over-camper. Mom and Dad rode in the cab. The kids and the dogs rode in the camper. God only knows what they were up to back there, but Mom and Dad had a fine time. Pleas of “Daaad, when are we gonna stop!!!???” always generated the same reply, “some Tuesday!”
After two years in Maryland and always dreaming of getting home to Virginia some Tuesday, Steve and Pat built a home in Montclair. Pat, a daughter of Colonial Williamsburg, had her heart set on an authentic Colonial-era home. Steve always wanted what Pat wanted and for months he haunted every salvage yard in Virginia. But Steve was not about to pay asking price for anything, especially not architectural salvage. His patience paid off when four old homes nearby were slated for the wrecking ball. What a good deal! Free architectural salvage was a much better score than discounted Entenmann’s Danish from the “used bread store”. From those old houses, Steve scored a dozen five-panel doors. Throughout the chilly early spring of 1979, the family drove from Derwood to Dumfries almost every weekend so Steve could transform the old doors into beautiful, heavy wainscot for the new family room. The Dunlaps camped in the cold, unfinished, unheated house. But, hey, it was free! “Such a good deal, you can’t afford not to buy it”. Finally, after dodging the bank’s attempt to yank his 10% interest rate (that was a bargain back then), in the summer of 1979, the five Dunlaps were in fat city when they moved into 4701 Harmony Place not far from beautiful downtown Triangle.
For the next eighteen years, the Dunlap home on Harmony Place served as a magnet for extended family. Pat taught school and filled the forested backyard with native trees, shrubs, and perennials. Steve commuted to Crystal City and spent a weekend every month in Norfolk, fulfilling his Reservist duties. The Dunlaps hosted countless backyard cook-outs, blue-tarp-slip-and-slide contests, badminton games, and croquet tournaments. Spitting watermelon seeds from the back-porch steps generated fierce competition. The uphill trudge home from West Beach in a wet bathing suit was a rite of passage for the Dunlap kids and their cousins.
By the mid-90’s, with the kids grown and gone, Steve and Pat started eyeing their future. Once again, the Navy came along and changed the trajectory of their life. A Beltway Bandit defense contractor, Steve’s breadwinning relied on the Navy’s E-2 Hawkeye program. Having flown in the Hawkeye, Steve knew the plane, making him a highly desirable expert for his civilian employers. In 1997, Steve and Pat begrudgingly moved to Southern Maryland, following the Navy’s Hawkeye program to the Patuxent River Naval Air Station. At heart a Virginian, Steve briefly contemplated telling the Navy to pound sand, but then he realized that Southern Maryland is a boating paradise. Always an optimist, Steve saw his opportunity and started lobbying Pat for a boat. It took a while, but finally some Tuesday arrived, and Steve brought a Chris Craft cruiser home to the slip in their backyard. There was only one possible name for Dad’s new toy: the Some Tuesday. Over the next twenty years, as grandchildren Annie, Joe, Hank, and Carter joined the Dunlap clan, the Some Tuesday served up countless family adventures on the waterways of Southern Maryland.
In 2015, Steve and Pat moved to Brandermill Woods and Steve instantly became the go-to tech guy on campus. He helped people with newfangled iPhones, unresponsive laptops, and locked-up internet routers. Steve was a selfie beast and loved posting happy news on Facebook and Instagram. Always on call for his new neighbors, before long they elected him president of the residents’ council. Steve loved woodworking. He charmed the Brandermill Woods Foundation into expanding the craft shop and used his bargain hunting skills to score a new band saw. If you would like to honor Steve’s life and legacy, the Dunlaps ask that you donate to the Brandermill Woods Foundation and request the funds be used to support the Steven J. Dunlap Memorial Craft Shop. In addition to his many adoring fans, Steve left behind his beloved wife of 57 years, Pat Dunlap, his two sisters Eileen Ricks and Pamela Patterson, three children (Steven Dunlap Jr., Tricia Dunlap, and Matthew Dunlap), and four grandchildren (Annie Overton, Joseph Radigan, Henry “Hank” Dunlap, and Carter Dunlap). All will celebrate Steve’s fantastic life and enduring legacy at the Brandermill Woods Clubhouse. After cremation, the family will scatter Steve’s remains from the stern of Steve Jr.’s boat (the Some Tuesday) and at Tricia’s Some Tuesday farm in West Virginia. Dear Old Dad, we will miss you and honor you all the days of our life. Until some Tuesday when we are all together again.
We are deeply grateful for the help and support received from everyone at Brandermill Woods, and from James River Hospice, and Jemita Bell of Care Advantage.