“I was in Portsmouth with some friends when my father took the call from the Navy,” Fisette said. “When they first called (on April 10), they just told him they’d lost contact with the sub.”
Shortly after the worst fears became reality. On Thursday, April 11, Chief of Naval Operation Adm. George W. Anderson announced “with deep regret” that the boat and all aboard — 16 officers, 96 enlisted men and 21 civilians — had indeed been lost.
Fisette was devastated, and the loss is still profound.
“You never get over it,” she said. “I had my family all around to support me here in Salisbury. And in those days, all of Salisbury Beach was like a family. Everyone who knew him, loved Bob. He was a good husband and a good father.”
Bob and Ruth Charron had settled in Newburyport, had friends and family close by in Lawrence and Haverhill, who helped her, she said, as well as comfort from others suffering her same fate.
“Two days after it happened, Mrs. Steinel and her father came to visit me,” Charron said. “It was a very nice thing for her to do, and I’ve always been very appreciative of that.”
Mary Steinel-Andriotakis was 5 when her father was lost at sea. Robert Edwin Steinel II was 3 and named after his dad, youngest sister Barbara was just a toddler, and Fisette would give birth to her late son Paul, seven months after his dad’s death.
Remarried now to Robert Fisette, an Air Force veteran, Fisette said she’s fortunate to have found another military man who honors the memory of her first husband and became a wonderful father to the children he left behind.
Charron never remarried, saying her faith saw her through the tragedy. And, she added, her late husband had a hand in it.