Huntsman Alumni Magazine

Spring 2010

Huntsman alumnus honored for heroics, leadership and service

Keith Abbott

Photo Courtesy of Keith Abbott

The last recollection I have is a mountain of water coming right at me,” Keith Abbott said. “The next thing I knew, I was fighting the waves.”

There were 302 people aboard the USS Monaghan when it was hit by the Cobra Typhoon and sank off the Philippine coast in December 1944. Mr. Abbott was one of only seven survivors.

Mr. Abbott said he was able to grab a large rope from the debris of the ship and pull himself on to a makeshift raft to ride out the 100-foot waves.

“Each wave in itself was my battle,” Mr. Abbott said. “The first 48 hours I had nothing to think about really except being able to stay a hold of that float,” Mr. Abbott said.

“Each wave in itself was my battle.”
- Keith Abbott

After the storms calmed on his third and final day adrift, the waves were down to around six feet. Mr. Abbott recalled the sight of sharks swimming around his raft.

Although Mr. Abbott said he doesn’t remember what happened when he was rescued, people have told him that when the ship came, they had to pull him on board because he had suffered from exhaustion.

USS Monaghan

USS Monaghan (Photo Courtesy of United States Coastguard)

Young Keith Abbott

Photo Courtesy of Keith Abbott

Mr. Abbott said he was lucky his injuries weren’t more severe.

“I just had a little dehydration, a little banged up, but nothing very serious.”

Following the war, Mr. Abbott attended Utah State on the G.I. Bill and graduated in 1950 with a degree in business administration. After graduation, he moved to Southern California, where he has served as city manager for the city of Whittier. He served on the board of directors of Southern California Bank and on the board of directors of the Los Angeles College of Chiropractic.

In 2009, Mr. Abbott was awarded an Alumni Merit Citation from the USU Alumni Association.

“Throughout his life, Keith has been involved in numerous positions of leadership,” the citation reads. “He has also been involved as an Aggie, encouraging young people to attend Utah State University. For his heroics and his lifetime of service, the Utah State University Alumni Association proudly presents Keith Abbott with this Alumni Merit Citation.”

Mr. Abbott has continued to serve his community for the past 30 years on numerous city and state boards and organizations.

“I don’t think he will ever actually retire,” said Paula Abbott, his wife.

Mr. Abbott agrees: “I just had my 86th birthday in November, but I still feel like a kid.”