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NEWS | Sept. 19, 2023

Longtime Shop 51 electrician builds a lasting legacy

By Ben Hutto, PSNS & IMF Public Affairs

In his 36 years working for Shop 51, Electricians, at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility, Larry Cramer, electrician, has seen a massive amount of change.

Cramer has seen 13 shipyard commanders arrive, lead and pass their mantle on to the next. He has seen shops and codes transform their work as carriers and submarines have become larger and more intricate. He has watched many of his teammates get promoted and eventually retire or leave the shipyard. Whether he was TDY in San Diego to help repair USS George Washington (CVN 73) after a shipboard fire in 2008 or working on the first Ohio-class submarine at PSNS & IMF, Cramer showed up every morning eager to do what was asked of him.

A native of Peoria, Illinois, Cramer joined the Navy to learn a trade and see the world.

“I remember the recruiter giving me a list of jobs,” he said. “I saw ‘electrician’ and thought ‘I know what they do’ and that was it. I figured, if I chose it, I could make a living when I got out. I found out, however, I liked the work.”

That fateful choice would lead him East to Norfolk, Virginia and then to the Pacific Northwest where he left service and began his new life.

Cramer eventually found a job at PSNS & IMF as an electrician in 1987. It’s a job he would spend more than three decades mastering.

Cramer admits when he started at the shipyard he was a very reserved worker who kept to himself and tried to soak in as much knowledge as possible until one of his early mentors gave him a piece of advice that had a profound effect on his career.

"One of my first supervisors said to me ‘You know, Larry, nothing here happens unless you make it happen.’” he explained. “I took that to heart. I forced myself to come out of my shell and engage people. Now, 36 years later, I find my job is spent mostly talking to people. Talking about things like work and how to do things better. It was probably the best lesson I could have learned,”

Over the years, Cramer applied himself and got more training to expand his knowledge set. He took classes outside of work and mined information from the more experienced shipyard employees in his shop.

“You have to love the challenge of this job to really get it,” he explained. I felt like it took ten years to get my feet underneath me and feel comfortable.”

While it may have taken Cramer a decade to feel comfortable, he spent almost two decades helping the workers around him get comfortable in their roles.

“There isn’t a person in our shop that couldn’t go to Larry to get help,” said Chase Oswalt, his supervisor. “He’s just been a resource everyone could count on for years.”

Despite offers of promotion, Cramer remained on the deckplates working a job he loved and passing on knowledge.

“I was told once, ‘Cramer you are a kingmaker. Everyone around you rises, but you just stay the same’ and I thought to myself, I stay the same because I’m where I want to be.”

Cramer’s previous time in the Navy helped him explain to his coworkers why their job is so critical and why he chose to keep doing what he loved.

“You can’t walk out to a submarine at sea and fix a problem,” he said. “Everyone here understands that. Even the kids fresh out of high school with no background, take this work very seriously. It’s something we are all proud of.”

That attitude has allowed Cramer to effect generations of shipyard electricians and their careers. Where others may have been leery of working with newer employees, Cramer always embraced it.

“I liked being around people that were excited,” he said. “In my role, I was everything from a mentor to a counselor to a cheerleader… whatever was called for that day. What that allowed me to do, was see people grow. I’ve seen people come in here and work themselves from apprentice to shift leaders. It was one of the best things about my job.”

After three and half decades of doing “whatever was needed”, Cramer clocked out of his shift for the final time August 31. While an experienced leader is leaving Shop 51, he has left a lasting legacy.

“Larry’s been an integral part of Shop 51 for decades,” said Jesse Matheson, Code 950 Superintendent. “His vast knowledge of the trade and willingness to pass that knowledge on has been invaluable to each and every employee that’s had the privilege to work alongside him.”