Older than the United States itself, Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) has employed multiple families for generations, each leaving their own legacy at the shipyard. One of these family legacies is still being carried on by Nuclear Quality Division’s (Code 2350) Nuclear Quality Support Specialist Catherine Hobbs; her brother, Rigging and Equipment Operation’s (Code 740) Apprentice Noah Coburn; and her cousin, Code 740’s Refueling Continuous Training and Development (CTD) instructor Charles Campbell.
The family’s history at NNSY goes back to the early 20th century. From 1929 to 1959, their great-grandfather Merritt Albert Bass also worked in the Rigging Group (Code 740). His cousin, Chief Earl Lawrence “Running Deer” Bass of the Nansemond Tribe also worked at NNSY as a machinist at the same time. As Hobbs said, “I consider both Chief Bass and Merritt Bass to be the beginning of our family’s legacy at the shipyard.”
Hobbs’ and Coburn’s father, Richard Coburn, also had a career at NNSY. “My father graduated from the apprenticeship program in 1987, the same year I was born,” Hobbs explained. “He initially worked in Temporary Services (Code 990, Shop 99) as an Air Conditioning Equipment Mechanic, and retired as an administrator for Automated Training Management (ATM) and Electronic Supplemental Training Information Resources (ESTIR).”
Now retired, the senior Coburn remembers his time at the shipyard fondly. “From having a family, to purchasing a home, I realized early that it was a job I could have as a career and I have been tremendously blessed because of it,” he said.
Hobbs followed in her family’s footsteps and started her career at the shipyard following high school. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so my father recommended that I apply to the apprenticeship program,” she explained. “I remembered how closely he worked with his coworkers in the past and I recognized how the shipyard had provided sufficient income to support our families.” With this in mind, she chose to apply. Today, she is a part of NNSY’s new People Development team in addition to her official position.
Regarding his own experience, the younger Coburn added, “Even though we only knew small things about the ins and outs of the shipyard, my family’s legacy definitely influenced me in wanting to work at NNSY. I wanted to be a part of the legacy.”
The family takes pride in the legacy that they are continuing. “At NNSY I have found a second family. I have learned and grown here as a worker, and now as an instructor,” Campbell said. “I am very proud of the generations past and future that I share this legacy with.”
It is not the shipyard itself that fixes and returns ships back to the Fleet, but its people. It is for this reason that NNSY strives to more than just a place that helps people foster a family; it strives to be a home itself.