The Vice Admiral from Milaca, Minnesota

Author’s Note: I originally published this Small Town Top College article in 2016. In an attempt to make the information from the STTC blog more accessible, I’m moving to Medium.

I wanted to share this story that a college friend of mine sent over a few days ago. It details the path of his great-grandfather, Vice Admiral Paul E. Trimble, from his beginnings in a tiny town in Minnesota, through his college years at the USCGA and Harvard, to his eventual promotion to being the #2 ranked person in the United States Coast Guard. I find a lot of inspiration in this story because it shows how great small towns can be in supporting those who want to accomplish amazing things.


Vice Admiral Paul E. Trimble (Milaca High School, 1931) was born in Agenda, Kansas. When Paul was 5, the family moved to Minnesota. In high school he was a member of NHS, was an Eagle Scout, and played sports. He didn’t talk about himself often, but one story that never got old in the retelling was his participation in the outcome of the Milaca v Princeton basketball game. With only seconds to go, Paul threw up a Hail Mary shot just before the final buzzer. The buzzer rang, but the ball went in, winning the game for Milaca by one point. College for Paul was another long shot…

Because tuition money for college was out of the question, his only option was to attend a military academy. He had to delay applying for the academy for one year in order to take additional math courses. During this time he dug ditches to help with finances at home. Finally prepared, Paul hitchhiked to the Coast Guard Academy test site and was only one of two Minnesotans who passed the exam.

Paul graduated from the CG Academy in 1936, and, on graduation day, married his Milaca high school sweetheart, Iva McClaren (class of 1933). He was subsequently sent by the Coast Guard to Harvard Business School, graduating in 1941, receiving an MBA with Distinction. During his career he served on several ships in the Atlantic and Pacific and also in the Bering Sea in Alaska. He also had several shore assignments in Boston and in Washington D.C. In 1964 he was promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral and in 1966 was appointed Vice Commandant (# 2 man) in the Coast Guard. After his retirement from the CG in 1970, Paul became President of Lake Carriers’ Association in Cleveland, Ohio, where he remained for 13 years. During that time Iva died and Paul married Marie Schwenk Waring. Paul died in 2005 at the age of 92, leaving 2 children, 4 grandchildren, and 14 great grandchildren and his second wife, Marie.

This induction is a tribute not only to Paul, but to his strong, optimistic mother, Velma, who, as a single mom during the Great Depression, brought up a close knit family of five children, the youngest with special needs. Not surprisingly, they grew up to be well adjusted, productive members of society. He was forever grateful to the town of Milaca for believing in him.

The enclosed article says much about the man, the family, and the generous townspeople of Milaca.

Credit: Minneapolis Tribune

The above article was written for Vice Admiral Trimble’s induction into the Town of Milaca Museum’s Hall of Fame.

Thank you to Joe H. and Jean J. for the story.



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