William Ward Lasley Sr. ’47

William Ward Lasley, Sr., 96, died February 2, 2024, in the room in which he was born on West Davis Street in Burlington, NC, on October 13, 1927.  His parents, Ralph Kerr Lasley and Jennie (Trix) Howe Ward, were also Burlington natives from 1887 and 1898.  He was valedictorian of the Burlington High School class of 1944, as his father was in 1906.  He attended Davidson College for 3 academic years before 3 days at Fort Bragg for the Army pre-induction physical convinced him the Navy could not be worse.  A member of Beta Theta Pi, he was manager of the Thompson boarding house for a year while playing football and basketball, and sprinting and long jump.  

He graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1950, lettering in Track.  He commanded the minehunter USS Bunting, Division 83 of 4 minesweepers, and the USS Belle Grove, LSD-2 in ’68-9, for which he was awarded the Bronze Star for operations in the Mekong Delta.  At the Office of Naval Research, he was an early project manager of deep submersible ALVIN.  

During the Arab-Israeli Six Day War in 1967, the Navy sent his four wooden-hulled, poorly-armed minesweepers to keep a non-provocative eye on the Soviet Mediterranean Fleet in the Aegean Sea.  He reported back, “Have Soviet Fleet surrounded, when do I attack?”   

As Advisor to the CNO for Mine Warfare, he and a civilian PhD performed the initial planning for the successful mining of North Vietnamese harbors in 1972, helping to end our participation in that war.  Retiring as a Captain in 1980, he continued to live in Alexandria, VA, taking his wife’s seat on its Symphony Board, until returning to Burlington in 2013.

His wife, the former Mary Webb Graham of Oxford, NC, a descendant of Gen. Wm. Davidson’s brother, predeceased him in 1984, and his son-in-law Mark Johnson in 2011.  Survivors include daughter Rebecca Graham Lasley of HIgh Point, NC, son W.W. (Bill & Liz) Lasley Jr. and granddaughter Mary of Woodbury, Connecticut, and son Ralph Augustus Lasley ’82 of Burlington.