By Steve Sears
36-year Chester resident, Bill Asdal, speaks to his daughters’ service in the United States Navy.
“When they started doing this, it just bends your knees, because for them, they’re 18 years old and they’re going to commit the next thirteen years. It’s four for school, five for active duty, and four for recallable reserves if need be. And they all did postgraduate education which extended that service. So, you look at that and you see this innocent, brilliant kid with all these opportunities at their doorstep, and they choose to serve. That’s pretty humbling.’
Daughters Ashley (34), Lindsey (32), Annie (31), Kirsten (29), and Charlotte (26) all attended the Naval Academy Summer Seminar, and all but one entered the United States Navy. Annie attended Duke University and now is a real estate agent, and is married to Dr. Jordan Leumas of Grady Hospital, Atlanta. Lieutenant Commander Ashley, who is married to Lieutenant Chris O’Keefe (USNA ’11 Naval Intelligence Officer), served as a Surface Warfare Officer with multiple deployments from 2009 to 2020 and now runs the Raritan Inn Bed & Breakfast in Califon. Daughter number two, Lieutenant Commander Lindsey, who has also had multiple deployments, serves as a P-8 Pilot / Instructor, and husband, Lieutenant Commander Abraham Beates, is serving in the Navy Reserves. Kirsten, a Lieutenant Commander, currently serves as a Surface Warfare Officer Pearl Harbor, Pentagon, and is dating a submarine officer. Youngest daughter, Lieutenant Charlotte, is also still serving, she with the USS Lassen, and she is married to Lieutenant Scotty Davids, who is a Romeo Helo Pilot in Florida.
All five daughters attended West Morris Mendham High School.
“All the girls went to summer seminar,” says Asdal. “In your junior year of high school, you apply, and you get to spend a week there between junior and senior year. In the summer, they were on three sessions. Since they got as heavily involved and went in as they did, I have volunteered now since ‘05, I work with their admissions department (for the Naval Academy) doing candidate guidance. So, they assigned me twelve high schools in New Jersey, and I do the college fairs and manage about two dozen kids every year and interview them.”
Per Asdal, when the girls are together, their service doesn’t often come up in conversation. He says, “The focus is on family. Everything we do is a healthy look back and a very bright look forward.”
Asdal’s father served in the Navy in WWII and did some fascinating work for them, developing a sonar for torpedo guidance. “It was a big deal,” Asdal says. “His uniformed photo has hung in our home for 75 years.” Perhaps it was an inspiration for the girls, but most of all Asdal feels service itself is part of our American culture, and all five daughters live it. “It’s just there. It’s just inherited,” he says. “Service is part of our culture. We all want to serve, and whether we serve at the firehouse, whether we serve on the PTA, whether we serve local government, or we serve on a broader level at the county, state, national, in the military, they’re all fine. It’s for America. I think we find that one of the compelling overarching values in our culture.”
“I get a lot of notes and cards and emails from them,” says Asdal, who is also at the ready to pick up the phone regularly when each daughter calls, and also his son-in-laws. “I do think that it is an obligation to keep a family tight, to keep an open dialogue.”
The girls’ mom, Marcia, is the Chester Township Mayor. “I am proud of all my daughters’ accomplishments, their self-confidence and their selflessness; they are amazing role models!”
“One of the codes that is embraced by all service members is the giving up of oneself for the good of the team and the mission,” the Mayor says. “Not everybody works directly on national security and has a job where life or limb is at stake, but every citizen can honor the sacrifice of service members and help their neighborhood and others. I hope their example inspires others! They are an inspiration to me.”