For those of you who may not be members of the Skyhawk Association — Boom and I are doing an obit for Worm for the next A4Ever Magazine. Here is my offering.
The Early Worm—A Personal Recollection
Hardly anyone actually knew who Lawrence Leroy Elmore might be, but at least a couple of generations of tactical Naval Aviators and insane formation Skydivers include “Worm” Elmore in their oral tradition of legends. Worm flew west in May of 2013 while doing one of the things he loved doing, which was leaping out of perfectly good airplanes for fun.
Why, Worm? He earned this enduring call sign early on with the Snakes of VA-86, when he availed himself of Thanksgiving Dinner at both Napkin Ring Wardroom One with the Big Dogs and Dirty Shirt Wardroom Two with we great unwashed. This might have gone unnoticed but for the fact that he was astounded not to have any fellow takers. So Worm, short for “Tapeworm” it was.
As a powerless FNG LT(JG) in my first fleet squadron, I watched and learned from slightly senior Worm as he consistently managed to bag good deal flights. Since I occupied numerous SLDO positions, the first thing I learned from him was to get into the Maintenance Department and the test hop business. I couldn’t do anything about not being a fellow hyperthyroid, but I did learn to camp around the Squadron Duty Officer as much as possible for pop up bagging possibilities. Still, I always seemed to camp at Worm’s six in the flight time and trap races, which were the only times he would admit to seeing me there. Since he ended up in the Grand Club of thousand trap aviators, I concede defeat.
But just being around Worm was good for bagging. When I insulted a VF-41 LCDR Double Demon fighter pilot at a cocktail party, Worm arranged a special two versus two ACM hop off the ship that included the insulter and himself. And when VA-86 turned in our perfectly good A-4E’s and went across the hall to attend A-7A NAMO, I stayed in VA-44 as an instructor. Since the Snakes were without airplanes and void for this period, I transported Worm and fellow Snakes around in the TA-4. When their new A-7A’s showed up, I bounced them unmercifully. When I was offered the chance to fly with them, it was Worm, naturally, that I flew with.
Worm was a legendary Landing Signal Officer. Besides flying two full cruises with Worm, I spent many hours back on the platform with he and fellow squadron LSO, Weed, watching them wave. Later on, when I would pop into NAS Cecil on cross countries in my Reserve Crusader, I got to bag time in VA-145’s TA-4’s with Worm. On one occasion, we popped into the pattern at Whitehouse, Cecil’s outlying bounce field. After four passes, I was on final when Worm shook the stick and took the airplane. Down the glide path we came until we were in close. Then, Worm dropped the left wing and headed directly at the LSO cart. At the last moment, he cobbed the power and we proceeded to clean up and leave the pattern. After a very long minute, the LSO’s squeaky voice came up and axed it we knew what heart tasted like…
No matter what Worm seemed to do, he managed to bounce into cockpits. He left the Navy for a stint with TWA, where he managed to get furloughed. Somehow, he found a job as OINC of a VSF detachment back in the Navy, where he stayed until TWA had the good graces to call him back to driving many motors.
And so it went. Others can better tell about flying Marchetti two seaters for fighter pilot wannabees at Air Combat USA. And Worm naturally ended up being the main pilot for the A-4C immaculately restored by a fellow Snake’s company.
Worm did everything with a maximum of joy and enthusiasm. At airshows with the A-4C, he was known as the Eternal Teenager. I am quite sure that his fellow insane Skydiving pals remain in awe at his some 7000 parachute jumps, which included 72 jumps on his 70th birthday.
Worm was also the glue that held we VA-86 squadron mates together through the years. He was always in the middle of organizing our frequent reunions. He did special things like bringing us all together for a surprise birthday party for a squadron wife who was dying of cancer. He made sure that the squadron widows and many of their children were included in the squadron. Worm was always just a phone call away from anyone he felt needed it. We Snake vets will miss him.
Worm’s memorial service would have suited him. His friends from every venue got to tell Worm stories. There was a spot parachutist and a missing man flyover by the Dreamland Squadron. Near teetotaler Worm wouldn’t have minded the bottle that got passed around the circle. And, for the record, Tunita and I tossed our nickels on the grass.
Worm will always be around as long as people tell Worm stories. I think that will be a long time. Certainly as long as we have Blue Skies.