On May 26, 2023, Lieutenant Commander Karl Olin Shipps (ret.), of New Carrolton, MD, passed away due to complications with his heart. Karl was a good and hardworking man who loved his family, served the Lord and his country, and dreamed of and worked toward a more just and righteous human existence.
Karl was born on February 17, 1955 in Germany, where his father was stationed with the U.S. Air Force Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron. In 1973, he graduated from Durango High School (Colorado), where he was valedictorian, and enrolled in Rice University on a full scholarship through the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program. In 1977, he graduated from Rice with degrees in physics and history. A committed student with a keen intellect, Karl was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa academic honor society. He would later study nuclear physics at the University of Hamburg (Germany) through the U.S. Navy’s Olmsted Scholar program, and earn a master’s degree in engineering from Johns Hopkins University. Karl had a long career of service to the United States, first through the U.S. Navy, and later with the Department of Defense. Early in his military tenure, Karl served on nuclear submarines; he then worked on U.S. submarine operations at the Pentagon and the Washington Navy Yard.
Outside of work, Karl consistently found ways to contribute to his community – by volunteering with Special Olympics, by serving as an usher at St. Mary’s Catholic Church (Landover Hills, MD), by participating in the Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt Democratic Club (Greenbelt, MD), to list a few examples. Karl was a space enthusiast; he revered astronauts and loved stargazing through his telescope. Karl was also a talented writer. He composed songs and poems that deftly captured humor, absurdity, and humanity in situations as diverse as Clinton-era Base Realignment and Closure priorities; the patron saint selection process of his wife’s second-grade Confraternity of Christian Doctrine class; or congressional redistricting battles in Texas. While his writing often made people laugh, it also demonstrated Karl’s tremendous capacity for analytical thought about a range of complex issues.
From 1981 until his death, Karl was a devoted husband to his wife, Anne. Together, they had three children, Joan, Ruth, and Grace. Karl adored his family, and shared with them his Catholic faith, his hope for American democracy, his integrity and compassion, his patience, his humility, his intellectualism and curiosity, his wit and humor, and his commitment to community. In recent years, Karl delighted in spending time with his young grandchildren, Ophelia and Alice. In addition to his wife, children, and grandchildren, Karl is survived by three siblings: Tom, Mary-Ellen, and Frank (Bede).
Karl’s memorial service will take place at St. Dominic’s Catholic Church (630 E St. SW, Washington, D.C.) on Saturday, June 3, at 2:00 p.m. A light reception will follow. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that remembrances be made in the form of contributions to the Arc of Prince George’s County (Largo, MD); the organization supports the development and livelihoods of people with disabilities.