Ronald C. Wilgenbusch

ronald wilgenbusch
Rear Admiral Ronald Charles Wilgenbusch, USN(ret) died peacefully at home on February 25, 2022 at age 83 surrounded by his family. A Funeral Mass will be held at St. Mark’s Catholic Church in Vienna, Virginia on March 9, 2022 at 11:00 am. Interment will be at a later date at Arlington National Cemetery.

Ronald Wilgenbusch attended Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, where he graduated in 1960 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in History, and later went on to earn his Masters in Communication Management in June, 1973 at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA.

While still in High School, he enlisted as a Seaman Apprentice in the U.S. Naval Reserve on February 6, 1956. On June 8, 1960 he was commissioned an ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve, and was augmented into the active duty Navy in August 1962. He honorably served for 36 years as a Surface Line Officer and Materiel Professional, with a specialty in communications and was assigned to various duty stations across the world on shore and at sea, totaling 7 ships and 5 shore stations. His commands included USS LUCID (MSO-458,) USS JOHN HANCOCK (DD-981,) Naval Communications Station Rota, and Naval Communications Area Master Station Mediterranean Naples. He was awarded two Navy Achievement Medals with Combat “V” and a Combat Action Ribbon for service in Vietnam. Ronald retired from naval service as Program Director, Information Transfer System (PD-50) Space Warfare Systems Command in August, 1991.

Ronald was born in Dubuque, Iowa on September 15, 1938 to Charles and Ann Duehr Wilgenbusch. He married Judith Ann Devaney on December 28, 1963 at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Dubuque, Iowa. They were blessed with, and together raised, four children. His shining example of commitment to God, family and country, his oversized love, exacting way of doing things, and his incredible commitment to taking the best care of his beloved family will guide all who knew him.

Ronald was a devout Catholic and long-time member of St. Mark parish, giving generously of his time in a variety of volunteer roles, including as an usher and member of the liturgical art committee, building the processional candles, candle stands for the main church and chapel, and plaques to highlight stations of the cross. Ronald also assisted the church when needed with various repairs and maintenance.

As a Fourth Degree member of the Knight of Columbus, Ronald served his parish, local KC Council and community in a number of impactful ways. He and Judy organized and worked the St. Patrick day and Octoberfest dinners for their parish, organized groups to help at Christ House in Alexandria, VA where they fed the poor, and served his local KC Council, St. Maria in Vienna, VA as Grand Knight and faithful member.

Ronald was an immensely talented woodworking hobbyist, enthusiastic supporter of the performing arts, opera in particular, baseball fan, and avid reader. In retirement, he enjoyed traveling the world with his beloved wife, Judy. A talented chef, Ron enjoyed preparing meals and surrounding himself with family and friends, typically with a Spanish paella feast learned from lifelong friends made during 3 wonderful years stationed in southern Spain. These feasts were always accompanied with delicious Spanish wines.

He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Judith, children Pamela Wilgenbusch Fridley and husband Richard, Shaunagh Wilgenbusch Browning and husband Scott, James Wilgenbusch and wife Heather, Craig Wilgenbusch, 7 grandchildren, and 7 great grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations to the Wolf Trap Foundation in memory of RADM Ronald C. Wilgenbusch and St. Mark Church. Donations to St. Mark can be made by sending a check to St. Mark Catholic Church 9970 Vale Rd. Vienna, VA 22181, noting Capital Improvement Fund. Information on how to donate to Wolf Trap Foundation can be found on the following website:

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  1. Judy, I didn’t know. SO SORRY for Ron’s loss on the earthly plane – but you know you’ll see him again. Bless you Judy and your family, bless you.

    • Judy, I was shocked to hear about Ron’s passing. He and you were so good to me when Larry died and it was so appreciated. I know there are MANY who are there for you now. You were such a loved couple and so fun and full of life and adventure. Hugs!

  2. Forty-three years ago, I reported for duty to commission the new Spruance class destroyer JOHN HANCOCK (DD-981). The Commanding Officer was a certain CDR Ronald C. Wilgenbusch. Under his leadership, we brought the ship to life, successfully building a cohesive crew and fulfilling all missions the Navy gave us. After our tours we maintained an association and friendship that has endured all these years. Ron was our Captain, a mentor, my shipmate and most importantly Ron and Judy were our friends. We miss you Ron. Rest in Peace. Jeff Wagner

  3. Dear Judy and family, I am so sorry to learn of the death of Ron. May he Rest in Peace. What a wonderful man and member of the Clarke University Board of Trustees. He offered me great advice on matters in student life from his Naval experience. He often compared the two institutions. I appreciated his insights. I always enjoyed his stories about family and travel with Judy. He was so proud of his children and grandchildren. May you find comfort in the memories of good times. Kate Zanger Vice President for Student Life Clarke University Dubuque, Iowa

  4. Ron inspired me on many levels, and the biggest impacts were his faith and desire to “give back.” I cherish the memories of serving meals at Christ House with Ron and Judy heading it up…and the fellowship that followed at Hard Times Cafe immediately afterwards. Judy, I won’t be able to join the services this week, but please know Donna and I are sending you and your family our prayers and we’ll be with you in spirit. RIP Ron…

  5. I worked for Ron at Spawar. He was a great boss. He, John Toner , Tom Sutton and I used to meet every day on PD50 financial matters. Tom and John have also crossed over, so they can discuss how many times we met. Respectfully, David Sivillo P.S. He was favorite ADM.

  6. Mary and Andy Thompson send our sincere condolences to the Wilgenbusch Family on the passing of Admiral Wilgenbusch. We both served with the Admiral in NAVELEX/SPAWAR and remember him as professional, energetic, and passionate to his profession. Bryce (Andy) Thompson CAPT USN (Ret) and Mary K. Thompson Civil Service, GS-15

  7. I served under him while onboard USS John Hancock 1979-1982. I remember he got mad at me cuz I kept putting his message traffic back in his inbox after he read it. Every time he read it, he just layed the stack there on the table in the comm shack and never said what to do with it. So I kept putting it back in his box until he got mad cuz of duplication msgs. I told him I did cuz he never said what to do with it. He looked at me and said burn it and walked off….we laugh bout it later….I was RM3 back then. Retired ITC now….

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