In 1962, John LaPlante came home from Pensacola, Fla., just after graduating from the Naval Academy to a winter freezing Chicago Christmas. Bonnie his sister, would also head back home from Ursuline College in Ohio for the holidays bringing along her best friend. This holiday would be unlike any other for LaPlante. For LaPlante would meet his sister's college roommate Phyllis DeBartolo for the first time.
"I know this sounds like a clich, but when Phyllis and I first met, it was love at first sight," LaPlante said. "And after 48 years of marriage, two wonderful kids and five beautiful grandchildren, there has been a secret to all this."
LaPlante, continued, by saying, "The secret, I married a loving, strong self-sufficient and self-relying woman who maintained our family while I was in the military."
Shortly after his marriage, LaPlante was shipped to sea for active duty during the Vietnam War, while his wife returned home to her parents in Poland, to have their first child. Returning to the states three months later, LaPlante would finally hold his first born.
LaPlante was very steadfast to say, "Many families from here in Poland experienced the same things as I, not able to hold their kids, tucking them in bed at night, and attend sporting events -- the list goes of things that were missed by men and women who served in the military". LaPlante said. "Because we served all wives and their children sacrificed to and extended families and friends, just in different ways."
After 40 years of military service, 25 of which were at sea, LaPlante would retire from the Navy in 1996 as vice admiral after having served on the joint staff in the Pentagon as the principal logistic officer for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. LaPlante had also served on nine ships, on which four he served as commander, including two during the Vietnam War. The operative duties assigned to Admiral LaPlante while commanding four ships are highly unusual in the military, he said. LaPlante also served as the commander of amphibious task force from 1990-91, which comprised 43 ships and maneuvered 34,000 military men and women.
His expertise led LaPlante to write numerous articles for "Navy Institute Proceedings," "Naval War College Review" and "Joint Force Quarterly." The admiral is also mentioned in several books concerning his involvement in the Gulf War.
For five years, LaPlante worked for the Associated Studies Military Analysis Institute for Defense Analyses.
Today, LaPlante works at McKinley Elementary school where he tutors 10- and 11-year-old students with special needs. Phyllis has earned her master's degree in business while stationed in Hawaii and operated her own company for a time. These days, Phyllis said she loves being a grandmother, golfing, quilting, and playing mah jongg.