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NAPLES, Italy — More than 100 people packed the military chapel Thursday to mourn the loss of a sailor described by friends as intelligent, soft-spoken, funny, and “far too modest to think he mattered so much to so many,” recalled friend Petty Officer 1st Class Thomas Erikson.

How wrong Petty Officer 1st Class Gregory William Cooley would have been, Erickson said.

Aside from his numerous good traits, however, it is Cooley’s attention to people that will leave the strongest, lasting impression, Erickson said.

“In a busy world, Greg always had time for people,” Erikson told the mourners who crammed to standing-room only the Capodichino chapel at Naval Support Activity Naples.

Cooley, 28, died Saturday in a vehicle crash as he and two other Americans were returning from a day of shopping and playing in the Italian tourist city of Sorrento. The other sailor, a 2nd class petty officer, remained in critical condition Thursday at an Italian hospital. The injured sailor’s wife, also hurt in the crash, attended Thursday’s memorial service in a wheelchair. Their names are being withheld by the Navy.

Cooley was a submariner and an electronics technician who strived to be a perfectionist at his job, said Navy Capt. Rusty Smith, the deputy commander of Task Force 69, Cooley’s command.

In spite of today’s technology and sophisticated equipment, the Navy still relies heavily on talented sailors such as Cooley to master the “art rather than science” of navigating undersea, Smith said.

“Those who master the art are a national treasure,” Smith said.

Cooley is survived by his mother, Donna Krone, his father, Gregory Cooley Sr., and his sister, Michelle Cooley.


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