People in Your Neighborhood: Long Gray Line runs in the family for La Jolla West Point cadet

Charles Hartford, West Point Class of 1989, and his daughter Kate, West Point Class of 2024.

Editor’s note: La Jolla Light’s “People in Your Neighborhood” series shines a spotlight on notable locals we wish we knew more about. If you know someone you’d like us to profile, email or call (858) 875-5950.

La Jolla High School senior Kate Hartford has accepted an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and will leave her family’s Windansea home in June to begin basic training.

Hartford is the third generation of her family to join the Long Gray Line. Her father, Charles Hartford, graduated from West Point in 1989 and moved to La Jolla after retiring from the Army in 2009. Kate’s grandfather Jerry Cecil (Charles’ father-in-law), who lives in Kentucky, graduated in 1966 and earned a Distinguished Service Cross for heroism in Vietnam in 1967.

PEOPLE IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD: Many La Jollans know Charles Hartford for the financial advice he provides them as a member of Merrill Lynch’s wealth-management team.

All three spoke with the Light about their experiences with West Point and what they anticipate for Kate as she embarks on her journey.

Q: Jerry, what stands out about your West Point experience in the 1960s?

A: “A combination of inclination and the opportunity to work for my own tuition. The whole notion of serving your country early in life appealed to me because I had relatives that had done that.”

Q: Kate, what was it about West Point that appealed to you?

A: “There is an emphasis on character taught to the cadets there. That really stood out to me. ... I visited and was able to see what an impact [being there] had on them, how much it shaped them.”

Q: Charles, how do you feel about Kate’s acceptance to West Point?

A: “I’m extremely proud of her. A lot of the discussions we’ve had is how [the desire to go to West Point] has to come from within the young man or woman who has the heart for service. To see my daughter [aspire] to that level of service on a national level is humbling.”

Jerry Cecil, Kate Hartford's grandfather, is pictured during his West Point years in the 1960s.

Q: Jerry, what makes Kate ready for West Point?

A: “I think about how qualified she is. I’ve worked with admissions as an alumnus for 34 years and I see these young people; I’m always amazed. Kate’s a hard-working young lady, a great student and all those in-betweens. She really fits the bill in terms of what we’re looking at for West Point: kids that have put themselves out there, kids that have performed well. She qualified herself on her own; she’s got what it takes: determination, perseverance, a very supportive family and siblings. She’s prepared herself to succeed there.”

Q: Kate, what has helped you prepare for the experience?

A: “Hearing from other cadets who are there now or went through it recently has been so helpful. They’ve given advice about what to bring, what mind-set to have going into it all. Also, having the support of my family going through it all has been so special.”

Kate noted that she has three brothers, ages 19, 15 and 12. Charles said the eldest of his sons is on a golf and academic scholarship at a university in Florida.

Q: Charles, what advice have you given Kate now that she’s accepted the West Point assignment?

A: “It’s 47 months to really change the trajectory of your life. My advice has been around being ready. You cannot survive there without relying on other people. Embrace all the lessons, be mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally ready, because they will be quick to identify and isolate weaknesses, not because they want to grind you down but because they want you to develop that ‘whole person’ character.”

Q: Jerry, what do you hope for Kate to get out of her years at West Point?

A: “I just hope Kate has a good experience. She’s a bright, savvy girl, skilled and articulate, [with] no problems. I want her to have an enriching experience. I hope that it meets her expectations.”

Kate Hartford and her grandfather Jerry Cecil, who graduated from West Point in 1966 and the following year earned a Distinguished Service Cross for heroism in Vietnam.

Q: Kate, when you’re not focused on West Point, what are you into?

A: “I’ve always played a lot of sports. I grew up swimming competitively, and in high school I played field hockey, water polo and joined the swim team. I also started club rugby, which has been my favorite so far.”

Kate’s mother, Rebecca Hartford, said Kate was recruited to play women’s rugby at West Point after attending a rugby summer camp at the college in 2019.

Q: Charles, was West Point something you intended for Kate when she was younger?

A: “We never saw this coming. It wasn’t an intentional course. It’s been a family journey as much as it’s been Kate’s. Seeing her go through all the steps and meet all the milestones, the entire family has really embraced it. That’s the part that’s been really special to us.”

Q: Kate, where do you hope West Point takes you?

A: “I’m not sure what I want to do just yet in the Army, but I think whatever it has in store for me will be an amazing experience.” ◆