Louisville City Councilman Hank Dalton owes a lot to the United States Naval Academy.

It's where he launched his nearly 30-year career as a naval officer.

He met his wife there when she participated in a foreign affairs conference he directed during his senior year.

And after his grandson, Chase, graduated from the 169-year-old institution in a ceremony held Friday morning, it is also the place where three consecutive generations of Daltons received their educations.

"Neither my son nor his son planned over a long period of time to go to the Naval Academy. Each of us arrived at the decision on different paths," Dalton said last week as he and his wife, Penny, prepared to travel to Annapolis, Md., for their grandson's graduation. "It wasn't like we were planning to have a three-generation graduation exercise."

Dalton is Louisville's mayor pro tem and is serving his second term representing the city's Ward III, which makes up the southeastern third of town.

Originally from Tucson, Arizona, Dalton graduated from the Naval Academy in 1963. He was stationed in Long Beach, California, Norfolk, Virginia and Washington D.C. among other places over the next 28 years, holding positions including that of commander of a destroyer squadron and chief of staff for Naval forces Europe, before retiring as a captain in 1991.

By the time he came to Colorado to perform nuclear clean-up work as part of the U.S. Department of Energy, Dalton's son, Marc Dalton, had himself been to the Naval Academy and set off on a career as an officer that continues today.

A class of 1987 academy graduate, Marc Dalton, 49, now serves as the executive assistant to Admiral Bill Gortney, the commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command. Marc Dalton was selected earlier this year to serve as an admiral himself, but has not yet received his next assignment to fulfill his promotion, he said.

"We're absolutely thrilled for him," Hank Dalton said of his son's prestigious promotion. "It's just a demonstration of what I have been saying for years: He's 10 times the naval officer I was."

Marc Dalton said he had already been accepted to Harvard, Johns Hopkins University and the University of California, Berkeley when a discussion with his high school guidance counselor convinced him the Naval Academy was the right course for him.

Though his father wasn't the primary influence in his decision to become a naval officer, dad has been a resource.

"It's nice to have someone right off the bat that you can ask questions of," Marc Dalton said.

Now, Chase Dalton, 22, will have two accomplished naval officers to call on for advice as he prepares for his first assignment, just as he did over the past four years at the academy.

"It's not specific instances but it's great to be able to ask them general questions about leadership and that's really what I think will be helpful to me," the youngest Dalton said of being from a line of Navy men.

"I have a feeling they will be even more useful when I get out to the fleet," he added. "The average graduating ensign doesn't have access to senior officers that have done it all."

Chase Dalton is following his father's footsteps in that he will begin his career as an ensign in the surface warfare field with a nuclear option, meaning he is qualified to work with the nuclear reactors that power some of the Navy's most powerful vessels. After earning a high ranking within his graduating class, the 22-year-old was among the first to chose his ship, selecting the highly advanced destroyer, the USS Spruance out of San Diego.

He said he plans to stop in Louisville to visit grandpa and grandma for a night in June on his way to his officer training course, and eventually his ship.

Hank Dalton this week said he was very proud of his grandson for the hard work he put in over the past four years.

"It's always an achievement to graduate from the Naval Academy," he said. "Roughly a quarter of your classmates disappear."

Marc Dalton said his son has done a "great job" and whatever Chase chooses to do after he fulfils his obligations to the Navy will be fine with his dad.

In the meantime, the Daltons will go on being a family shaped by the Navy but not defined by it.

"We don't gather aboard ship for family reunions or anything like that," Marc Dalton said. "But we've got a lot of similar experiences, just like any family."

Contact Camera Staff Writer Joe Rubino at 303-473-1328 or rubinoj@dailycamera.com