John E. Sirmalis

Date of Passing:

April 2, 2024

In loving memory of John E. Sirmalis, born in Providence, RI on December 11, 1934 to Emanuel J Sirmalis and Ada (Guerra) Sirmalis. John was a devoted husband, beloved brother, cherished father, adored grandfather and great grandfather, who passed away peacefully surrounded by family. A remarkable man whose intellect, love and adventurous spirit touched the lives of all who knew him. Beyond his distinguished naval career, John was a loving family man who found joy in the simple pleasures of life. He was a beacon of strength and wisdom to his children and grandchildren, imparting valuable life lessons and nurturing a deep sense of love and respect within his family. From technology to outdoor adventures, John embraced every moment with enthusiasm and zest. He enjoyed working on cars, traveling, ice hockey, skiing, slot car racing, remote control vehicles of all sorts, camping, and so much more. His curiosity and innovative spirit fueled his passion for technology, making him a true pioneer in his field. John’s wit, humor, and humility endeared him to all who knew him. He was a hero to his family, a source of inspiration, and a friend to many. John will be deeply missed by his beloved wife, Elaine (Tetreault) Sirmalis, his devoted children Kenneth J. Sirmalis, Jean A. Castello, Sally A. Camara, and Tod E. Sirmalis and their loving spouses; his cherished grandchildren Ryan, Jaimie, Tod, Eric, Casie, Leah, Drew, Benjamin, Hannah; and his adored great-grandchildren Charlotte, Jaxon, Levi and Kinsley; and among all those who had the privilege of knowing him. He was preceded in death by his late sister Elaine Grenon. Though he may be gone, his legacy of love, dedication, and unwavering commitment to family and country will continue to inspire and guide us forever.

John was a true intellectual, with a thirst for knowledge that knew no bounds. His keen mind and insatiable curiosity led him to be an accomplished innovative leader and mentor. During a 55 year career with the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, and predecessor organizations, Dr. John Sirmalis was the catalyst for an impressive array of engineering and research, development, test and evaluation achievements. He has been acknowledged as the Navy‘s foremost authority on undersea weapon systems due to his expertise in S&T management, weapons systems, development, acquisition, and in-service support. Dr. Sirmalis stressed the importance of the Warfare Center leading the Navy into the future through innovative and visionary concepts. Under his guidance a significant series of accomplishments were produced in many fields, including weapons, UUV’s, CM’s, sonar, combat control systems, periscopes, and launchers. He currently holds seven patents issued between 1999 and 2018 on underwater arrays, a planar phased array mast, several on unmanned vehicles and a missile damage assessment approach.

Dr. Sirmalis began his engineering career in 1957 as a Mechanical Engineer at the Naval Undersea Ordinance Station. He was appointed a member of the Federal Government’s Senior Executive Service in 1979. In 1986, Dr. Sirmalis became Associate Technical Director for Submarine Warfare Systems. He held that position until 1992 when he was appointed Executive Director of NUWC Division Newport. In 1995, Dr. Sirmalis was named Technical Director of NUWC. He retired from government service in 2002 and subsequently joined Rite Solutions as a Senior, Technical Consultant. Dr. Sirmalis has received numerous awards, including the Distinguished Executive Presidential Rank Award, the Meritorious Executive Presidential Rank Award (twice), the Navy Distinguished Civilian Service Award, the National Defense Industrial Association VADM, the Charles B Martell Award, the David Bushnell Award, the Federal Executive Institute Alumni Association’s Federal Executive of the Year Award and the deciBel Award.

He is a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and is a registered Professional Engineer in Rhode Island. He was a senior advisor to NEXUS, Inc. and was on the Executive Advisory Board MAST Events Ltd. John was also on the Board of Directors of the Undersea Science and Engineering Foundation, a volunteer group dedicated to stimulating interest in the undersea sciences in youths, and assisting retiring military in entering this field.

Dr. Sirmalis earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1956 and Master of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1958, both from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1975 he received a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Rhode Island.
Although he worked hard every day, he always made time to play.

John’s Celebration of Life will be held on Tuesday April 9, 2024 in the W. RAYMOND WATSON FUNERAL HOME, 350 Willett Avenue, Riverside at 10:30 a.m. Burial will follow in Prince’s Hill Cemetery, County Road, Barrington.

Calling hours will be held on Monday April 8, 2024 from 4-7 p.m. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the The Children’s Heart Foundation, 5 Revere Drive, Suite 200, Northbrook, Il 60062-1500 in memory of John E. Sirmalis.

Online Condolences


  1. I am so sorry to learn of Dr. Somalis passing.He was a wonderful, kind and brilliant man.My deepest sympathy to Elaine and the entire family.

  2. We (Elaine, Ken, Jean, Sally & Tod) want to thank you all for you kind words and the support you’ve shown our family through this very difficult time. Our dad was a truly amazing person and dad and we miss him dearly.

  3. My deepest condolences. Many of my associates through NUSC/NUWC have already described his leadership, friendship and technical knowledge much better than I ever could. I would only like to say that to those of us who knew him, he was, and still is, a benchmark in leadership that we all strived to equal, but never quite meet the standards that he set…

  4. My deepest condolences to the Sirmalis family. Dr. Sirmalis was an outstanding scientist, manager and director. The Naval Undersea Warfare Center and its predecessors were very fortunate to have his leadership. He initiated many projects that were well ahead of their time, such as the Unmanned Underwater Vehicle MANTIS. His integrity and courage were inspirational for all those who worked for him. He leaves a legacy of major contributions to the United States Navy.

  5. My most sincere sympathies to the entire Sirmalis family. Dr. Sirmalis ( I could never call him John out of my deep respect ) touched so many lives, including mine, in a profoundly positive way. I looked up to him as a role model for much of my career. He truly was a great man.

  6. My sincere sympathies to the Sirmalis family. My work at NUWC started in the early 1980s working in basic and applied research. Dr. Sirmalis was keenly interested in the scientific challenges of our research topics and was an enthusiastic counselor when we encountered programmatic issues. His intellect, understanding, helpfulness and advice were always appreciated. He also had a clear appreciation and insight into the problems and solutions inherent in directing our large governmental organization. His leadership stands as a high bar for aspiring organizational leaders.

  7. I had the opportunity to to work for and with John for many many years. I will value my experiences for ever.
    He will be greatly missed.

  8. Dr. Sirmalis was an extraordinary individual, a remarkable leader, and a trailblazer. His visionary outlook consistently surpassed even the most ambitious dreams, with his visions becoming realities that greatly benefit our Navy and country. He tirelessly identified the potential within individuals, equipping and empowering them to strive for excellence. His legacy will endure through his deeply cherished family and all those whose lives he touched. I am deeply grateful his friendship, guidance, and impact on my professional journey and personal growth. Thank you, Dr. Sirmalis.

  9. John became a good friend as we worked many hours to execute an important program. He personally selected me over others to manage the program. This was key to my professional career. I am very thankful to have known John and his family. They have my wife’s and my condolences.

  10. Dr. Sirmalis became a good friend as we worked many hours to execute an important program. He personally selected me over others to manage the program. This was key to my professional career. I am very thankful to have known John and his family. They have my wife’s and my condolences.

  11. To John’s family,
    I remember John growing up on Thatcher Street in Rumford. He was older than most on the street but he was always fun and kind to be around. We all had great respect for him then, as he was witty, fun, and very smart. I have heard of his many accomplishments throughout his career and reading his life story they are truly remarkable. May he rest in peace. My sympathies to all who knew and loved him.
    Myrna J. (Keenan) Hagenburg

  12. My sincerest condolences to the Sirmalis family. Dr. Sirmalis inspired a generation of scientists and engineers. His innovation, determination and leadership helped the Navy keep our country safe. A true visionary, teacher and communicator.

  13. My Condolences to the entire Sirmalis Family.
    John was of all things and innovator and leader who challenged us all to do better than we thought we could in a manner that made you want to do better for our Navy. Any program of program of record was something that needed to have a strong S&T component to challenge and improve it. He was a patient and giving mentor to many and his intellect and humor is a loss for all of us.

    The only thing John loved and talked about more than work was his love for his family, in that he was a mentor to many as well, his engagement with his family and especially his grandkids and his love of any new toy/car/technology/sports that he could participate with them always made him animated in telling the story and ended with a smile.

    He was one of a kind and will be missed by all.

  14. My sincere condolences to the entire Sirmalis family. I am heartbroken over his loss. He was a huge influence in my career and life and made me a better person. I will never forget him. His tribute was spot on of the man who he was. He will truly be missed. I am honored that I had a chance to work and know him.

  15. Our deepest sympathy is sent to all of Dr. Sirmalis’s family. May your memories carry you through this difficult time, and may he Rest in eternal peac🕊

  16. Kenny & Beth and the entire Sirmalis Family, We are so sorry for your loss. May your many memories sustain you in your time of grief.

  17. My sincere condolences to the Sirmalis family. John was a leader and an advocate for advancing technology and ensuring our national security. His legacy will continue. It was my honor to work for him and later to serve with him on the board of the Undersea Science and Engineering Foundation, where he shared his knowledge and experiences with students who were becoming the next generation of scientists and engineers.

  18. My sincerest sympathy to the Sirmalis family. There are those truly special people who come into your life and make an indelible mark… they lift you up and make you better. John did that for so many, including me. I am blessed to call him a friend, and I am forever grateful. I feel his loss and will miss him. I hope you all find peace and comfort in all the wonderful memories of him. May God bless.

  19. My deepest condolences to the entire family. Dr. Sirmalis imparted a significant footprint on NUWC and inspired so many scientists and engineers to do their best. I am grateful to have been a part of his life, to embrace his vision and succeed at every turn. He is one of a kind!

  20. Dr. John inspired us through his ravenous appetite for new technology, his innovation toward new approaches, and his insistence on building intergenerational teams to advance naval capability. It is truly heartening to see new hires he first challenged now leading the lab’s research efforts as well as leading major US Navy and Intelligence Community programs. Here was a giant of a patriot who, when you were beavering away at a difficult problem, knew just when to visit the team, remind us of the importance of the work, thank everyone, and then pose his favorite question- Are you having fun? His way of knowing all his effort would carry on, in service of our country. Thank you John!

  21. My condolences to Elaine and her family.john was a very well respected man. I will miss his kindness and humor❤️

  22. Sorry for your loss he was a great man. Deepest Sympathy to all the family. He will be missed dearly. 🙏🙏

  23. Our deepest condolences to the Sirmalis family. We have been neighbors for many many years and our children grew up together. John was certainly outstanding in his profession and a great family man. We are so sorry for your loss, Elaine, Jean, Sally, Todd and Kenny.

  24. Our deepest sympathy to the Sirmalis family, having been known to as neighbors for many many years while watching his children grow up along with ours. John was certainly an outstanding professional and a great family man. So sorry for your loss Elaine, Jean, Sally, Todd and Kenny.

  25. Elaine, our sincere condolences to you and your family. John is at peace with our Lord and no longer suffering.

  26. I was fortunate enough to have the privilege to have worked for John. His intellect and innovative visions were key to ensuring that our nation maintained undersea superiority and his mentoring of the workforce enabled all of us be more effective contributors in our jobs. My deepest sympathy to all the family.

  27. Our deepest sympathy to all the Sirmalis family. He enjoyed both his professional life but most of all his family and friends. We are so sorry for your loss.
    Andy and Kathy Rosener

  28. An accomplished leader, he inspired many, including me, to work to invent a better future. My condolences to his family and other friends.

  29. Sally and Family, My deepest sympathy. I am so sorry for your loss. I have such fond memories of working with your dad back in the NUSC Days. I wish you and your family peace and comfort during this difficult time.

  30. Worked for Mr. Sirmalis fir a number of years at NUWC; as i did his wonderful daughter Sally and worked with Kenny as well.

    My heart breaks for this family at this loss of a wonderful man.

    Prayers for the family and friends, as well as his many colleagues who will miss him.

  31. Elaine, Sally ,Tod and family , my deepest sympathy and condolences for your loss. I have so very many fond memories working alongside and especially for John. A dear friend, mentor and supervisor who was the epitome of excellence in everything he did. I was blessed to have had the opportunity to work and learn under his tutelage. He made our Navy stronger through his passion for innovation and excellence.

  32. Our deepest sympathy for Mrs. Sirmalis and family for the loss of John , A very kind and friendly man

  33. My condolences to the bereaved. May the soul of the departed continue to rest in perfect peace. Amen

  34. I have never met Dr. Sirmalis; however, this tribute to his life shows what an accomplished man and father he still is in the hearts and lives of his family. May they find peace and hope and resolve when they are reminded of him. I am glad to be one of the few enjoying work at Rite Solutions and appreciate that he found fulfilment there. May the joy that abides be with us all at this time.

  35. I have fond memories of John as a rival coach in the old BYHA. He was always fun and a wealth of knowledge. Prayers of healing to the family as I know what a giant pillar he was. God bless

  36. Sally and Family, Paul and I would like to express our sincere condolences, it was always such a pleasure when we would see his smiling and cheerful face around the workplace. He was a man who many looked up to and a true kind hearted man.

  37. A true visionary and great leader. His push for technical excellence and intellectual motivation was unrivaled.

  38. This is a beautiful and fitting tribute to a wonderful man and true innovator. I am so blessed to have had the chance to work with him, learn from him, and get to know his wonderful family. The Navy was so lucky to benefit from his intellect and passion for all of those years!

  39. My sincere condolences to Mrs. Sirmalis, Ken, Jean, Sally, Tod and the rest of the Sirmalis family. I am sorry for your loss. Mr. Sirmalis was a good man and will be missed by those who knew him. God bless you all and may he rest in peace.

  40. My deepest sympathy to. Mrs Sirmalis, Tod and all the family.

  41. Deepest sympathy to Mrs Sirmalis, Jean, Sally, Todd, and Kenny. I have great memories growing up and spending time at your house. Your dad was a great man.

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