At the U.S. Naval Academy, John McCain and his Omaha buddy Chuck Larson were academic opposites — but they became lifelong friends and now will lie side by side.
In his final book, “The Restless Wave,” the legendary U.S. senator and former prisoner of war who died Saturday of brain cancer wrote touchingly of their joint final resting place. It’s at the U.S. Naval Academy cemetery along the Severn River in Annapolis, Maryland.
After enjoying a last look at the beauty around his home in Sedona, Arizona, McCain wrote, he would “take my leave, bound for a place near my old friend Chuck Larson on the Severn — back where it began.”
Retired four-star Adm. Charles R. Larson, a graduate of Omaha North High School who twice served as superintendent of the Naval Academy, died of leukemia at age 77 in 2014. McCain attended the funeral.
They first met as plebes in their freshman year at Annapolis and became roommates and, McCain often said, “the closest of friends.” At graduation in 1958, they couldn’t know what lay ahead.
“They both had storied careers of public service,” said Omaha City Councilman Pete Festersen, a nephew of Larson. “They had a very special connection that lasted a lifetime.”
In 1998, at a change-of-command ceremony when Larson retired as academy superintendent, McCain told the audience that they had graduated as Navy ensigns exactly 40 years earlier to the day.
“As brigade commander and president of our class,” McCain said, “Chuck was marked for greatness.”
As a top student, Larson received his diploma and a handshake from President Dwight Eisenhower. McCain graduated fifth from the bottom of the class.
McCain and Larson earned aviator wings by 1960, but Larson soon went into the submarine service. By 1969, the Omahan was serving as naval aide to President Richard Nixon.
By that time, McCain quipped, “I was on extended leave in Southeast Asia, having accomplished no greater feat than intercepting a surface-to-air missile with my airplane.”
McCain, the son and grandson of Navy admirals, spent 5½ years as America’s most famous prisoner of war. He was released with others in 1973.
Larson, at 43, became the second-youngest admiral in the history of the Navy. He later became commander in chief of all U.S. forces in the Pacific, the largest unified military command in the world.
Festersen — whose mother, Sigrid Festersen of Omaha, was the admiral’s sister — said he first met McCain at the 1998 retirement ceremony, two years before his first try at the presidency.
A Democrat, the Omaha councilman said he respected Republican McCain for many reasons, including his willingness to work with those across the political aisle.
“I was honored to have met him,” Festersen said. “He spoke his mind, and he always put country first. Sen. McCain was a national hero.”
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This photo provided by the Library of Congress shows John McCain, (front, right) with his squadron in 1965.
John McCain is administered to in a Hanoi, Vietnam, hospital as a prisoner of war in the fall of 1967. McCain spent 20 years in the Navy, a quarter of it in a Vietnamese prisoner of war camp after his jet was shot down over Hanoi during a bombing mission Oct. 26, 1967. The Navy pilot nearly gave up during his captivity but his memory of books and movies helped him survive.
This still from video obtained exclusively by Associated Press Television News shows Republican presidential candidate and then-prisoner of war John McCain after stepping off a bus as he and other POWs were released by the North Vietnamese in Hanoi on March 14, 1973. The frame is part of footage found in the archives of Swedish broadcaster SVT.
John S. McCain is escorted by Lt. Cmdr. Jay Coupe Jr., public relations officer, March 14, 1973, to Hanoi's Gia Lam Airport after the POW was released.
LCDR John S. Mccain III smilingly limps down a ramp upon his arrival Wednesday, March 14, 1973, from Hanoi.
Lt. Commander John S. McCain III, a POW for over five years, waves to well wishers March 18, 1973, after arriving at Jacksonville Naval Air Station in Florida. At left is his wife, and son Doug. McCain is the son of Adm. John S. McCain Jr, who commanded the U.S. Forces in the Pacific until his retirement.
John McCain is greeted by President Richard Nixon, left, in Washington, May 25, 1973. McCain spent more than five years in a Vietnamese prisoner of war camp before he was released in March of 1973. (AP Photo/Harvey Georges)
U.S. Navy Commander John S. McCain 3rd, a guest of the South Vietnamese government, visits an orphanage that cares for youngsters fathered by American G.I.s. in Saigon, Vietnam, on Oct. 30, 1974. McCain, a son of the admiral who commanded U.S. forces in the Pacific at the height of the Vietnam War, was shot down over Hanoi and spent several years as a POW.
U.S. Navy Commander John S. McCain 3rd, a guest of the South Vietnamese government, visits the Holt orphanage in Saigon, Vietnam, on Oct. 30, 1974. The institution cares for many youngsters fathered by American G.I.s.
Former California Gov. Ronald Reagan, center, actor Michael Landon, second from right, and the governor's wife Nancy, third from left, greet former POWs during a reunion party in Los Angeles on May 28, 1978. The party featured entertainers from film and television. U.S. Navy Commander John McCain is at right.
U.S. Rep. John McCain III, R-Ariz., holds a photo of a marker in Hanoi at Truc Bach Lake where he parachuted after being shot down as a Navy pilot in the Vietnam War. McCain, who was a POW for five and one half years in Hanoi, is in Bangkok, Thailand, on Feb. 18, 1985, en route to Hanoi to visit this site.
U. S. Sen John McCain shown in 1986. (AP Photo)
Gen. P.X. Kelley, commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps gestures while talking with Sen. John S. McCain III (R-Ariz.) prior to a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill, Feb. 5, 1987. The committee was holding hearings on the Defense Department's fiscal 1988 and 1989 budgets. (AP Photo/Lana Harris)
Sen. John S. McCain (R-Ariz.), at podium, joined a group of GOP congressmen, left to right, Jim Kolbe, Jay Rhodes and Jon Kyl, in asking Gov. Evan Mecham to resign his office, Jan. 16, 1988, at the state capital in Phoenix. The GOP group said the legal and political turmoil surrounding Mecham has virtually paralyzed the state. (AP Photo/Rob Schumacher)
Sen. John McCain of Arizona makes a point during his address to the Republican National Convention on Monday, Aug. 16, 1988, in New Orleans.
Congressman John Murtha (D-Pa.) and Sen. John S. McCain (R-Ariz.), along with other members of the official observer delegation sent by Washington arriving in Howard Air Base, Panama, May 6, 1989. They will be monitoring the national elections when Panamanians choose a new president. (AP Photo/John Hopper)
Senator John McCain, center, (R-AZ) speaking with a soldier from the Panamanian Defense Forces Sunday, May 7, 1989 in Panama City after he voted. McCain is a member of the official observer delegation sent from Washington for the country's presidential election. The Opposition has continued to accuse the government of electoral fraud. With them is an unidentified U.S. Embassy official. (AP Photo/Matias Recart)
Sen. John Glenn, (D-Ohio), left, and Sen. John McCain, (R-Ariz.), smile on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 1990 during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. A special counsel for the Senate Ethics Committee recommends dismissal of the cases against the two senators’ involvement in the “Keating Five” investigation. (AP Photo/John Duricka)
U.S. Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio), left, listens to a reporter's questions as fellow Sen. John S. McCain III (R-Ariz.), center, and Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) look on during a news conference at Dhahran Air Base, Saudi Arabia, March 17, 1991. Glenn said he opposes sending U.S. troops into Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein. (AP Photo/David Longstreath)
U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., testifies in a Los Angeles courtroom Friday, Oct. 26, 1991 during the trial of former Lincoln savings and Loan head Charles Keating. McCain said Keating called him a "wimp" and turned red-faced in anger when McCain refused to negotiate with thrift regulations on Keating's behalf. (AP Photo/Nick ut)
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on POW-MIA Affairs, left, gives Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a member of the committee, his pilot's helmet on Capitol Hill in Washington, Dec. 2, 1992. Kerry gave the helmet to McCain after retrieving it from the Vietnamese on a recent trip to Hanoi to investigate the POW/MIA issue. McCain was held prisoner in Vietnam during the war. (AP Photo/U.S. Senate)
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., left, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs, listens to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a former POW in Vietnam, during a hearing of the committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Dec. 1, 1992. The committee released classified testimony detailing the Pentagon's intelligence gathering efforts in Vietnam. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)
In this June 24, 1992 file photo, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., holds up an article from the Washington Times on Capitol Hill during a hearing of the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs. In 1990s, McCain shouldered the wrenching issue, the long effort to account for American soldiers still missing from the war and to normalize relations with Vietnam. (AP Photo/John Duricka, File)
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., left, member of the Senate Select Committee on POW-MIA Affairs, talks with Sen. Howard Baker of Tennessee, former White House Chief of Staff in the Reagan Administration, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Aug. 12, 1992. James Cannon, center, was Baker's deputy in 1987. In back is attorney Fred Thompson of the Watergate hearings era. (AP Photo/Marcy Nighswander)
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., speaks during the Republican National Convention Thursday, August 20, 1992, at the Houston Astrodome. McCain praised President George H.W. Bush as a visionary and a war hero. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., along with other Republican senators, meets reporters on Capitol Hill Wednesday Oct. 27, 1993 to discuss President Bill Clinton's health care reform package. Earlier, President Clinton delivered his plan to Congress during an address in statuary Hall on Capitol Hill. (AP Photo/John Duricka)
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., left, speaks to the media Thursday, March 23, 1995, in Capitol Hill as Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas listens, after the Senate passed a line-item veto bill making it easier for Presidents to kill Congress spending programs, ceding much of its historical power over the nation's purse to the White House. "You are going to see a much more fiscally disciplined congress," said McCain. Republicans hailed the 69-29 vote as another victory in their multi-pronged effort to trim government as part of the "Contract with America" signed by GOP House candidates in 1994. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
U.S. Senator John McCain, center, on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 1996 embraces Mai Van On, the man who saved him in 1967 after his bomber was shot down over Hanoi during the Vietnam War. On pulled McCain's broken body from Hanoi's Truc Bach lake despite a jeering crowd that would sooner have let the American aviator die. (AP Photo/Hong Sam)
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., followed by Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D. arrive for an anti-tobacco rally on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, May 20, 1998. Halfway to what was supposed to be its fateful final vote this week, the Senate's massive tobacco bill is stalled by lawmakers' bickering. (AP Photo/Dennis Cook)
Co-recipients of the 1999 Profile in Courage Award, U.S. Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., left, and Russell Feingold, D-Wis., shake hands during ceremonies at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston on Monday, May 24, 1999. McCain and Feingold shared the award for their bipartisan effort to reform campaign financing.
Republican presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain addresses a campaign rally, Thursday, Sept. 30, 1999, in downtown Tempe, Ariz. This is McCain's first campaign stop in Arizona since officially launching his presidential campaign earlier that week. (AP Photo/Mike Fiala)
Republican presidential hopefuls Sen. John McCain of Arizona, right, and Texas Gov. George W. Bush, talk following the GOP presidential debate, Monday, Dec. 13, 1999, in Des Moines, Iowa, as moderator Tom Brokaw looks on. (AP Photo/Eric Draper)
Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and his wife Cindy, smile as confetti falls on them at the end of their 114th New Hampshire town hall meeting with voters at the Peterborough Town House in Peterborough, N.H., Sunday afternoon Jan 30, 2000. Peterborough was the sight of McCain's first town hall meeting in April 1999. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, of Arizona, left, looks at Texas Gov. George W. Bush during the Republican presidential debate sponsored by the South Carolina Business and Industry Political Education Committee, in Columbia, S.C., Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2000. McCain challenged Bush for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000 and won a surprise victory in New Hampshire after traveling the state on the "Straight Talk Express," hosting more than 100 town halls along the way.
Sen. John McCain, of Ariz., backdropped by the Arizona big sky atop airport mesa, announces with his wife Cindy that he is suspending his bid for the GOP presidential nomination, Thursday, March 9, 2000, in Sedona, Ariz.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., left, and Sen. Russell Feingold, right, D-Wis., walk with Doris "Granny D" Haddock, 91, center, to news conferences about campaign finance reform on Capitol Hill, Monday, March 19, 2001, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kenneth Lambert)
U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., waves to the crowd prior to Game 7 of the World Series between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the New York Yankees Sunday, Nov. 4, 2001, at Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., left, and New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani chat during Game 6 of the World Series between the New York Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks Saturday, Nov. 3, 2001, at Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Senator John McCain (R-Az) meets U.S. Army soldiers during a visit at Bagram airbase, some 60 km. north of Kabul, Afghanistan Monday, Jan. 7, 2002. A delegation of nine U.S. senators visited the base. (AP Photo/Enric Marti)
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., right, join hundreds of other members of Congress in placing U.S. flags at the edge of Ground Zero, Friday, Sept. 6, 2002, in New York. Amid extraordinary security, several hundred U.S. lawmakers traveled by train to New York Friday for a special joint session of Congress, and the commemorative event at Ground Zero, to mark the upcoming first anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. (AP Photo/Win McNamee, Pool)
President Bush, who summoned about 100 supportive lawmakers to the White House to join him, signs into law, Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2002, the newly passed resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq. Bush used his speech at the ceremony to press the U.N. to adopt a new resolution compelling Iraq to submit to unconditional weapons inspections. Standing with Bush are from left, Sen John Warner, R-Va, Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz, Rep. Robert Andrews, D-NJ, and Rep. Roy Blunt, R- Mo. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., speaks at a memorial service for former Arizona Cardinals Pat Tillman in San Jose, Calif., Monday, May 3, 2004. Tillman, a member of the Army's elite Ranger unit since 2002, died in Afghanistan April 22 in a firefight near the Pakistan border. (AP Photo/Gene Lower, Pool)
President Bush, left, is introduced by Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., right, at the Pensacola Civic Center for a campaign rally Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2004, in Pensacola, Florida. McCain supported Bush's re-election bid despite a bitter 2000 presidential primary between the two men.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., left, and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, take part in the official dedication of the Center for the Intrepid, a $50 million high-tech rehabilitation center designed to serve the growing number of soldiers who return from war as amputees or with severe burns, at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Monday, Jan. 29, 2007. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., left, and Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. greet on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2007, prior to testifying before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee a hearing on global warming. (AP Photo/Dennis Cook)
Republican presidential contenders line up on stage before the first Republican presidential primary debate of the 2008 election at the Ronald Reagan Library, Thursday, May 3, 2007, in Simi Valley, California. From left are: Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, Jim Gilmore, former governor of Virginia, Mitt Romney, former Massachusetts governor, Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas., Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Co., Tommy Thompson, former secretary of Health and Human Services, Rudy Giuliani, former New York City mayor and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
Republican presidential hopeful, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., left, exchanges a point with Republican presidential hopeful, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, during the CNN YouTube Republican party presidential debate Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2007 at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Republican presidential hopeful former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Republican presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Republican presidential hopeful former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani are seen before the Des Moines Register Republican Presidential Debate in Johnston, Iowa, Wednesday, Dec.12, 2007. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)