Master Chief and Valet Ricardo Sanvictores of North Port, Fla. had two jobs during his 44 year Naval career. He was Adm. John S. McCain Jr.’s steward for 14 years. After the admiral retired he was invited to join the White House staff as cook, butler and valet. He served seven presidents for 30 yeas from Nixon to Bush Two.
In the U.S. Navy, if you’re of Philippine descent you have a good chance of becoming a steward or valet to a senior government employee. That’s what happened to Sanvictores.
His MO (Military Occupation) on his last discharge is listed as: “White House Staff Mess, Washington, D.C.” When he got out of boot camp in 1960 he was listed as a “Steward” and detailed to work as one of the admiral’s three male stewards.
“We did everything for Adm. McCain. We cleaned his house, made his meals and took care of his clothes,” the 75-year-old retired Navy-man recalled 55 years later. “In those days McCain was a two-star admiral in charge of the Navy’s Amphibious Base at Little Creek, Va. where Navy SEALS are trained for combat.”
Before the admiral retired he received four stars, like his father before him, and served as Commander United States Pacific Command. The two McCains, senior and junior, were the only two father and son four-star admirals to ever serve in the U.S. Navy.
However, their grandson and son, John S. McCain III, was more well-known to the public than either of the admirals. The youngest of the three McCains served as a Naval aviator during the Vietnam War. He was shot down over North Vietnam, captured by the enemy and put on television as a hostage of some importance because of who his father and grandfather were.
Later, after the war, he made a successful run for U.S.senator from Arizona. Eventually he ran against President Barack Obama for president and lost.
Sanvictores spent a lot of time flying around the world with Adm. McCain Jr. serving as his steward. He did a little of everything for the admiral.
“What I remember most while serving him was when he received word from the Navy that his son has been shot down over Vietnam,” he said. “At that time the admiral didn’t know if his son was dead or alive.”
After McCain retired from the Navy, Sanvictores was asked if he would like to serve on the White House staff. He accepted.
“Initially I started out in the President’s mess peeling potatoes,” Sanvictores recalled.”
It was the last six months of the Nixon Administration’s disastrous presidency where he was dismissed from his presidential post.
“Because I was the new White House staffer, I really didn’t know what was going on with the President in the White House at the time,” he said. “After Nixon left the White House I was sent to San Clemente (his home in the mountains of California overlooking the Pacific Ocean). I worked there for two weeks on two occasions and then returned to the White House staff.”
President Gerald Ford, Nixon’s vice president, was his replacement.
“President Ford was easygoing and he liked everybody. When he came in I was assigned to be his valet in the White House, He was a down-to-earth sort of guy,” Sanvictores said.
“President Carter replaced Ford and I was a valet for him, too, he said. “Mostly, he kept to himself and he was working on presidential stuff all the time.
“Carter served one term and President Ronald Reagan took his place. He was outgoing and joked a lot with people.
“I was Reagan’s valet while he was in the White House. I went to China with him. I got to walk on the Great Wall of China while our we were over there,” Sanvictores explained.
President Bill Clinton followed Reagan into the White House.
“Every once and a while President Clinton would take time to talk to his White House staff. There were 54 of us on the staff, 90 percent of us were Filipino,” he said.
What Sanvictores remembers most about President George Herbert Walker Bush is, “He used to invite the White House staff to play horseshoes with him. He loved playing horseshoes.”
He only served George W., Bush-Two, for a couple of years before retiring in 2004 after 44 years in the Navy.
“I’ve received phone calls from George W. when he’s in Boca Grande vacationing to come over and visit him on the beach. I go over and see him when he calls,” Sanvictores said.
He and his wife, Carmen, moved to their home in North Port shortly after Sanvictores retired from the service. They have three grown children: Ricardo Jr., Richard and Sarah.
Name: Ricardo Javier Sanvictores
D.O.B: 16 April 1938
Hometown: Taytay, Rizal, Philippines
Currently: North Port, Fla.
Entered Service: 20 Sept. 1960
Rank: Master Chief
Unit: The White House
Commendations: Presidential Service Badge, Meritorious Unit Commendation, 2nd Joint Service Commendation medal w/Oak Leaf Cluster, Armed Forces Expeditionary medal, National Defense Service medal, Navy Unit Commendation, Navy Achievement medal
This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Monday, March 3, 2014 and is republished with permission.
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