20 September 2016
More than 35 years after her grandmother christened the nuclear submarine USS Phoenix, Amy Rhodes Marshall smashed a bottle of champagne against the top half of the sub’s sail Tuesday morning, launching a plan to build a memorial to the Phoenix in the city that lent the big boat its name.
Betty Rhodes, the wife of longtime Arizona Congressman John Rhodes, was the sub’s original sponsor in December 1979 as the Los Angeles submarine was readied for its first trip. The sub was part of the U.S. Navy’s Cold War-era buildup and sailed the Atlantic for much of its history. It was decommissioned in 1998 and moved to a Navy yard in Bremerton, Wash.
Early in its history, the Phoenix was informally adopted by the city of Phoenix and in the years after it left the seas, attempts were made to bring parts of the sub to Phoenix for a memorial. One group, under the "Save our Sail" banner, worked more than 15 years on plans to honor the sub. The Navy finally agreed and the parts — the sub’s "sail," or conning tower, its diving planes and rudder, 65 tons in all — arrived at the Papago Park Military Reservation last month. The sail was cut in half for the trip, but could be reassembled later.
The city set aside a plot near the Veterans Home at Steele Indian School Park for a memorial and the site was dedicated in March. Backers will now finalize a design and start to raise money to pay for the memorial.
As she prepared to christen the sub's sail, Marshall noted that her grandmother was one of the sweetest, gentlest people she knew, "so it was a little ironic that she took such pride in her role as sponsor of this warship."