Master Shipbuilder Henry Deese Jr. began his career at Newport News Shipbuilding in 1956. Master Shipbuilder Henry Deese Jr. began his career at Newport News Shipbuilding in 1956.

Shipbuilder Celebrates 65 Years at NNS

Published April 27, 2021

Last weekend marked a big milestone for Master Shipbuilder Henry Deese Jr. (E68). Newport News Shipbuilding’s longest-serving current employee, Deese celebrated his 65th work anniversary on April 24.

“It sounds like a long time when you say 65, but it really doesn’t seem that long,” he said.

To put things into perspective, only about 700 of NNS’ more than 25,000 current employees had even been born when Deese began his shipbuilding career in 1956, after a stint in college. “When I came to work here, I had run out of money for school. I was going to work for a while and save some money, but then came along buying a boat and buying a car,” he said.

At NNS, Deese joined his mother, father and two brothers, who all were shipbuilders working various shifts. “Between the five of us, we covered the shipyard,” he said. “Somebody from the Deese family was in here 24 hours a day.”

Early in his career at NNS, Deese worked in what was known as the Atomic Power Division, helping to design Enterprise (CVN 65), the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

“I saw it launched, went on the first trial trip that it made from the shipyard, and I went on the last trip when it came back to the shipyard from Norfolk,” said Deese, who now works in Commodity Engineering.

Reflecting on the past 65 years at NNS, Deese said technology has transformed the way work is done at the shipyard. One of the biggest changes was seeing many of his co-workers begin working from home in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. “I never would’ve dreamed of that happening a few years ago,” he said.

Retirement may be on the horizon. But for now, Deese – who recently celebrated his 59th wedding anniversary – said he still enjoys his work at NNS.

“I feel like I’ve picked up a lot of knowledge, made a lot of friends and been part of history in one way or another because I helped to design the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier,” he said.

Watch a video featuring Deese and other longtime Master Shipbuilders on MyNNS.