Photos by Josie Koler
The news doesn’t come as a surprise to those who follow the lives of our military men and women. Just a few months back, Jim Scholl, our current city manager and former Commander of NAS Key West from 2003 – 2006, commissioned his son Kent at Officer Candidate School.
This week the current Commander Officer, Captain Steve Holmes was relieved by Captain Patrick Lefere. Lefere’s oldest son is also headed from Michigan State University to Newport, Rhode Island. As the Key West Weekly has learned there are some similarities to keeping order in the home and order on base.
“He is very much the leader.”
Captain Lefere’s wife, Wendy is quick to point out her husband’s parenting style. Mrs. Lefere, from Jackson, Michigan, is an art teacher and describes her role in the family as the nurturer who loves being surrounded by teenagers.
“I like their music. I like to do fun things with them. But, Patrick is a wonderful father and he’s taught me how to be a better parent.”
After a sweltering ceremony at the air station where he assumed command of the premier pilot training facility, Captain Lefere, divulged on being a dad. He’s a father to four and points out being a parent is what taught him to be an engaged leader.
“Raising them gave me the skills to talk to people and handle situations. I always thought I am lucky to have four kids and be running a squadron.”
Lefere’s tactics didn’t come from the military and flow to the family unit as they did for Scholl, who jokes about what he used to say to his kids, Kent and Katie.
Scholl said, “We’d tell’em, ‘Hey, there’s D-for-discipline and P-for-privilege.’ They learned.”
Scholl and his wife Jolene moved to Key West when their children were in high school. Currently, Katie is studying abroad and working on a double major at University of Florida. Kent is in Flight School in Pensacola after being commissioned as an officer.
Lefere’s son, Justin, is also headed to Newport, Rhode Island believes because of his dad’s positions, he matured pretty quickly and is ready to handle more responsibility.
“Really all I’ve known is traveling all over and moving around. It was tough growing up and my dad would be on deployment for six months at a time. I didn’t have as many privileges as my younger brothers and helped my mom take care of the house. I have memories of him coming back from deployment and doing the flyover. Those were the best!”
Besides Justin, there’s Jessica. Justin describes his only sister as “laid-back”.
His younger brothers, Paul and Sean are notorious for being the opposite.
“We call them the terrible duo,” Justin laughs. “They are each other’s best friend and cause a raucous all the time. They are a handful for my mother.”
Because Jessica is the lone daughter, she has a special one-on-one relationship with her dad; which, he pointed out publicly during his commissioning.
“It’s the whole ‘only daughter thing’ when you have a house full of kids. If you talk to any of the boys, they’ll tell you, ‘yeah, she’s special because she’s the only girl.’ I’m focused on making sure she has faith and belief in herself and the ability to make good decisions in life. It’s the focus for all of my kids actually.”
Captain Lefere was about 24-years old when he started his family, and doesn’t have a problem recalling the defining moment in his life.
“Becoming a dad the first time is just about this incredible joy. In the delivery room when the first-born comes out, tears come to your eye, your heart’s racing, you’re concerned about the health of your child. You’re concerned about the health of your wife. Once you realize he’s ok, and she’s ok; that’s when all the pride wells up inside you and you just cry.”
So, as he relieves Captain Holmes, Lefere credits his ability to handle our young sailors stationed in Key West with his ability to handle his brood. He says he’ll start this assignment by diving into all the recreational activities the islands have to offer.
“We’re going to figure out boating, fishing, and diving,” Captain Lefere assured the crowd of dignitaries and special guests. “I’m excited about getting my kids active in everything down here!”
Commander, Navy Region Southeast Rear Adm. Townsend Alexander gives a speech during the NAS Key West change of command ceremony in which Capt. Patrick A. Lefere, second from left, relieved Capt. Steven W. Holmes, left. U.S. Navy. Photo by Trice Denny
Captain Lefere with his wife Wendy, who says her husband isn’t just a military leader, but a leader at home. The couple is focused on making sure their four children grow up to have integrity and a sense of humanity.
Current City Manager Jim Scholl with Katie and Kent when they were toddlers. Scholl served as Commanding Officer of Naval Air Station Key West from 2003 – 2006.
The new Commanding Officer of Naval Air Station Key West with his wife, Wendy and their family. “I couldn’t be more proud,” says Lefere. “Being a parent actually makes you a pretty good leader. This really falls back to my lessons learned raising them.”