Hank Searls


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Hank Searls

Date of Birth:
August 10, 1922
Date of Death:
February 17, 2017
Gig Harbor, Washington, United States


Henry Hunt Searls, Jr.

August 10, 1922 – February 17, 2017

Henry Hunt (Hank) Searls Jr., 94, retired naval officer and author, died of natural causes on February 17 in Gig Harbor, Washington. His wife of 57 years, Berna Ann (Bunny) Searls, was at his side.

Hank was born in San Francisco, the only child of Dr. Henry Hunt Searls and Lucy Roth Searls. He attended UC Berkley before entering the US Naval Academy where he graduated in the wartime Class of ‘45. During WW II he served as a gunnery officer aboard the battleship USS Washington in the Pacific and later during the Korean War led a combat camera team assigned to Marine units. After retiring from active duty, he joined the Navy Reserve as a pilot, including flying with a stunt team. He retired as a Lt. Commander in 1964 after 20 years of service.

Hank began writing while still serving in the Navy, flying photo-mapping missions over Labrador and Newfoundland. Over the course of his career he published 16 novels, including “The Crowded Sky” and “The Pilgrim Project,” which became major motion pictures. His biography of Joseph Kennedy Jr., “The Lost Prince,” was adapted for television. He wrote the novelizations for “Jaws 2” and “Jaws the Revenge” as well as numerous television scripts including “The New Breed” and “The Fugitive.” Five of his early novels were chosen for the Reader’s Digest Condensed Book Club. He was a member of the Writers Guild of America and the Screenwriters Guild.

Hank was known for his exhaustive research. Researching his 1971 novel, “The Pentagon,” he disguised himself as a Russian general and walked in the front door of the Pentagon, up and down the halls, and back out to a pre-arranged interview with television reporter Connie Chung on Pentagon security. His novel “Kataki” brought him the admiration and friendship of then Vice President George H. W. Bush whose WWII exploits were woven into the novel.

In 1972 Hank sailed with his wife, Bunny, and his son, Hunt, from California to the islands of the South Pacific on their 40-foot ketch the Berna Ann. Three years later they sold their boat in New Zealand and returned to Newport Beach, CA where, inspired by his sailing adventures, he wrote the novels “Overboard” and “Sounding.” Hank’s 1978 novelization of Jaw2 spent 16 weeks on the NY Times paperback best seller list.

Hank and Bunny moved to Gig Harbor, Washington in 1988. His last manuscript, a historical novel set in the American Civil War, has not yet been published.

Hank is survived by his wife Berna Ann Cooper Searls of Gig Harbor, and his children Courtney Searls-Ridge of Seattle, Hunt Searls of Everett and Peter Searls of Bellevue, WA.

Hank’s ashes will be interred at the US Naval Academy at a later date. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to the Center for Whale Research in Friday Harbor, WA.

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About This Tribute

Tribute created by:
Courtney Searls-Ridge
Tribute account type:
Memorial Tribute (Lifetime)

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