I was a Navy Seal.

On September 6, 1980, I may have also been a Top Gun Fighter Pilot, a U-Boat Commander, or a NASA Astronaut. In fact, it is entirely possible I may have been all four. Although I had just begun my senior year at Navy, I had a full arsenal of cover stories with which to mesmerize the ladies. This was also the date of my first excursion to Hood College. Nothing, however, could have prepared me for what happened that night; the night I met Leigh Anne Moomaw.

Sources reported that a Hawaiian theme party was planned for that evening at Hood. Nestled in the rolling hills of Frederick, Maryland, the predominantly female Liberal Arts campus is strategically located only ‘about one six-pack away’ from the Naval Academy. Upon arrival, I took note that all the Hood girls were attractive! Under deep cover, wearing flip-flops, an Aloha shirt, and a Panama hat, I fit in. Inexplicably, I found myself sitting on a wall near the keg. Bobbing my head to the then contemporary and timeless sounds of Queen, Boston and Springsteen, I coolly surveyed the landscape.

There was nothing particularly graceful about her entrance into my life. Running by my strategic position, she grabbed the hat off of my head, and kept on moving.

“Hey! That’s my Grandfather’s!” I yelled.

“Yeah, yeah!” she said with a mild tone of insolence.

“You owe me a dance!” I shouted as my hat, and the girl, disappeared around the corner of the building. 

As a general rule, I like girls who have had too much to drink. I tend to be funnier, better looking, and more charming. I seem to be luckier as well. As fate would have it, Leigh was drinking. It would be a little while before the hat returned. But it did, with the girl. We hit it off immediately. I thought she was a nice girl.

Yep, our romance started the old-fashioned way; drinking and talking story. There may have been some canoodling.

The Hat – 1981
Running to catch a ride back to Annapolis, with hat in hand, I uttered that fateful, sober(ish) declaration; “I’ll call you. I promise!”

Many believed it would never last. The prior weekend, Leigh, in a blood pact with her roommate, had sworn off Naval Academy Midshipmen forever. Her plan was to enjoy her senior year, finish her degree in Early Childhood Education, and get a teaching job in Baltimore.

My lack of second date experience didn’t excite the odds makers as well. Up to that point, just about everything I knew about relationships – I learned from Jimmy Buffett! (Blame it on the 70’s!)

Our second date would be a couple of weeks later. It was a Navy football game. Our plan was to meet in the morning at Dahlgren Hall – the epicenter of all happenings social at the Naval Academy. Leigh ran into a buddy of mine, Bill McGuinness.

“Hey Billy!” she said.

“Hey-hey! Leigh! How are you? What are you doing here?”

“Well,” she started sheepishly, “I’m here to meet Pat McBride.” Leaning toward him she whispers, “I hope I remember what he looks like!”

I am certain Bill’s head almost exploded. On one hand, he had always thought Leigh was a nice girl; on the other hand,” Pat McBride?”

Although trained not to give a comrades position away, Bill ultimately broke down and pointed me out as I walked into Dahlgren. As I approached the smiling freckle-faced cutie in a Kelly Green sun-dress, my heart pounded through my chest, everything was in slow motion. I struggled with what exactly I should say.

Leigh, on the other hand, had a completely different take on her first sober sighting.

“What the $&-@ is he wearing?!” It wouldn’t be long before those Earth Shoes were pulled from the rotation.

The weekends-only romance picked up steam. Within two months, we had announced a marriage was in the works. The news took many by surprise, and nearly all took it with a grain of salt.

Classmate Phil Hedrick commented wistfully, “I thought she was a nice girl…”

Dan Pedersen’s father, upon learning of Leigh’s desire to be a pre-school teacher, quipped, “I guess he’ll be a lifetime case study then, won’t he?”

We married on May 30, 1981. In the thirty years we’ve been wed (all blissful and glorious as I recall), together we have had 23 jobs, 12 cars, 9 addresses, 8 surgeries, 2 children, and one belly button ring. The fateful Panama hat sitting in my office reminds me of that one night I played Navy Seal. Today, the only conversation we have about hats is her nagging me to wear one when I’m golfing.

I still think she’s a nice girl.


May 30, 1981

The Hat - 2011
The Hat – 2011

13 thoughts on “I Thought She was a Nice Girl.

  1. princess! And yes, she had sworn to us that she would NEVER marry a military man. Just one week later she came to a family reunion w/ stars in her eyes. Little did we know what the next 31 years would bring us.. We have enjoyed all those years and hope to enjoy many more with Leigh Pat and family . Love you all!!

  2. I love this story. It’s absolutely perfect that she knew immediately that you would be captured by her charming insouciance!

  3. Email from buddy Bill McGuinness.

    Wow! 30 years…..congrats to you and Leigh. You’re going to laugh about this.

    I’m not big into facebook, but last week a took a look and about two entries down was your “20 days to go to 30” entry. I was going to send something witty back, like “thank God it lasted. I’d hate to think that I could have prevented a disaster!!”. But I didn’t…….figured I had 20 days to think of something whittier. So the next morning I was driving my 15 year old daughter to school and in a quite moment she asks me why I’m smiling. I said “Oh nothing”, but she insisted, “no Dad, what were you thinking about…..you were honestly smiling.” So I told her that I read your entry the night before, explained my version of the story, and was just smiling to myself that I had a minor role in two peoples happiness, and that it really felt good. Seizing the teachable moment, I told her not to overlook brief encounters to do the right thing because it could have a major impact on someone’s life. She said , “Dad, you can’t be serious?” I said “yes I am…..I could have snaked Pat and told Leigh that Pat got tired of waiting and left, offered to be her hero and taken her to the football game ….. and then never met your mom and YOU wouldn’t be here!!” It’s funny how things work out.

    Honestly, CONGRATULATIONS! We always said Hood girls were good girls! Some more than others. Leigh was a good one and obviously good for you!!

    All the Best to you and Leigh and HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!

    Looking forward to seeing you guys at the reunion!

  4. Hi Pat and Leigh,

    I just wanted to drop you a note and tell you how nice it was to meet you and your husband last night. You both were so delightful and you made the game more fun for me. I hope to see you at other Hood events soon.

  5. Great story, Pat!
    The most important decision you make is who you choose to marry. Congratulations on getting it right. Blessings to you both. Edwards

  6. Pat, I loved this! Awesome. I actually went to a Hood dance once, but for the life of me I could not tell you why. Maybe to go see how the other half lived 🙂

  7. Pat, Congratulations! What a great story. Much better than any Youngster cruise stories. She must be a wonderful lady!!

  8. Pat, I just started Facebooking recently. This is the first of your stories I have read. It will most surely not be the last. Wonderfully written. And congratulations!

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