Fall 1997The 1997 reunion in Orlando turned out to be a real emotional roller coaster for me. It started on quite a peak when I saw the reservation list at the Ramada contained the names of eight guys whom I served with and had not seen in 42-45 years. It also indicated the largest attendance of any Sitkin reunion and some big brass because the names of two skippers were on it. As I mapped out our route, I noticed that it was going to take us through Hartselle, AL which I remembered from my search work to be the home of Bill Singleton so I went to my phone program to find any Singleton in the town who could possibly tell me about the whereabouts of Bill as I had made several calls to try to find him since 1992. Sure enough - there were two listings for Singleton in Hartselle. The one I reached turned out to be his sister-in-law and she brought the first valley to the trip with the news that Bill had passed away from cancer two years ago.
Finding several nice pieces of depression glass during a leisurely two and a half day drive down through KY, TN, MS, and AL brought the spirits back up again. Then I walk into the lobby of the hotel to be greeted with the word "They took Don Meals to the hospital last night". I was able to come back from that downer a few minutes later when I learned from Norma’s call back home that our youngest daughter had given birth to our first grandson during the night. But that good news was followed by the word that both of the former skippers had to cancel out of the reunion. The next 24 hours were brightened up with the visits with all the shipmates, both old acquaintances from the 50’s and some new people I had not served with. I was particularly gratified to see Ed Harrison and Tom Miner (whom we had found only a couple months prior to the reunion). The others whom I had served with who were attending their first reunions were Garcie Roberts, Herb Cason, Andy Fullmer, Hillard Peterson, James Peters, Martin Pietryak and Millard Spurlock. Other first timers included Plankie Joe Festa, Tex Araguz, Cliff Baldwin, Charles Hart, Robert Jencks, Bob Niederer, Fred Kiesel, Leandro Rios, John Rudnicki, and Jack Stoeffler. The "regulars" included Pete Acciaioli, Dick Albrecht, Pat Augeri, Mike Beardsley, Norm Beaudry, Herb Bradly, Bob Cameron, Walter Carlson, Sam Carolluzzi, Adelmo Costantini, Joe Cuneo, Chuck Davis, Pat Ferrullo, Carl Franke, Tony Fusco, Eldon Geiger, Mike Hodnichak, Nick Huzinec, Domenick Indelicato, John Kelly, Paul Marsan, Sam Martin, Don Meals, George Mitchell, Hugh Olsen, Sal Recine, Al Ryerson, Tom Schlundt, Walter Shaeffer, John Snyder, Joe Theisen, Neil Xenos and our very gracious host for the weekend, John Shadgett.
The next, and last, downer came during our business meeting following the banquet on Saturday night. I knew, as soon as I saw that the hotel would not allow us a microphone, that we were going to have problems with our meeting because it’s impossible for over 100 people to hear all that they need to in such an open area. The presentation by a representative of a cruise line wanting our next reunion didn’t go over very well, partly because the people couldn’t hear her very well and they apparently didn’t like the part that they could hear as the group voted unanimously the next day to drop the idea. Then the meeting almost completely disintegrated when one of the men took the floor to chastise me for the results of the previous meeting in New London. Since he was not present at that meeting he did not have his facts straight and chose to attack me in front of the group instead of coming to me privately to discuss his complaints. The meeting broke up after that incident without anything having been settled except the election of Nick Huzinec to succeed Lou Grandelis as vice president. For those who have not heard, we lost another fine man when cancer ended Lou’s reunions with us - at least for the time being. I don’t know of anyone who got more enjoyment out of these yearly get-togethers and he will be missed by his "Sitkin family". Our condolences go out to Jan on her great loss. Also, for the record, Bill Halacy lost his long battle with cancer this year and I learned at the reunion that Don Pfeiffer had passed away.
We managed to hold another meeting the next afternoon at which time the group voted to meet in Pigeon Forge, TN next fall (3rd weekend in Sept.) We don’t have the details worked out yet but will get them out in a spring newsletter. From some literature I received the other day, I would say that if you liked Branson, you will like this place. They may not have as many big name stars performing as in Branson, but all the rest of the amenities are similar. Also, Tom Schlundt volunteered to get some details from Las Vegas as a possible site for our 1999 reunion.
We read a letter to the group from Cdr. Lapean, the last skipper the ship had. It contained an anecdote about "the ghost of George" which involved several incidents in those last years. Could this be related to the sailor whom I was told about recently who died from a fall into an open hold during the late fifties? Can someone from that era shed some light on this bizarre sea story? I may come across the answer myself because the men authorized me to purchase the 1957-1966 microfilm tapes which will give us the complete roster of the ship from commissioning to de-commissioning. I have already placed the order and will spend many hours this fall squinting at the screen of a microfiche reader to extract the names of the rest of the crew.
I want to say thanks to Ted and all of you who have offered words of encouragement for what I enjoy doing. I admit that it has been predominately the early 50’s so far but, as I’ve said before, it must grow into the 60’s and 70’s if it is to continue because our group is not going to be here forever. I would like very much to see the group, using people such as Paul Marsan and Pat Ferrullo as seed, and adding the likes of Mike Weeks, Tony Peet, Bill Dirkmaat and others who might be interested, to get involved and keep it going for many years to come.
I used a new source in my search effort recently when I asked the Ohio State alumni people if they could help me find supply officer Glenn Jones. He was very proud to claim he was a Buckeye when he was playing cards with us in the supply office late at night so I thought he would have maintained contact with the alumni association. They called him and he called me or I would never have found him since there are several hundred people in my phone program with that name. When I found Ken Kimble that same night, it left Ed Garms as the only DK during my four years who has not been found. By the way, since fraternizing with EMs was forbidden, I guess I should black out this paragraph in the copy going to Capt. Gage.
The group voted to leave the annual dues at $10, so, if you would like to become a member, please send your dues to Adelmo Costantini who will remain as treasurer. He also has some Great Sitkin "Always Ready" pins available for $5. I will be placing another order for Sitkin caps later, so let me know if you want one. They will cost about $6, including postage.
While waiting receipt of the 57-66 microfilm, I have been occupying some of my spare time running the names of late-60’s early-70’s people through my newer phone program and making some more phone calls. So far the new finds include: Ltjg. Jeffrey Howe, Keith Bufford, Bailey Burritt, Gary Cowfer, George Cardinale, Carl Erbaugh, Russell Field, Roland Curtis, A. J. Kirkreit, Norman Dick, Vincent Guytan, Tim Leising, John Defillippo, Dennis Lenherr, Melvin Maine, Paul Mallin, Curtiss Marg, Ron Marto, Lynn Lovenguth, Thomas Ollom, Eric Piechotka, Arthur McAteer, Harry Lukens, Ltjg Peter Mullett, Lt John Ries (he provided me with the address of Lt Eugene McNeill), as well as learning of the passing of GMC Harmon Lewis several years ago and the hunting accident death of Edgar Perdue in 1976. I also had calling help from Ed Harrison who made calls to locate Don Hansen and Leo Smith from the late 40’s as well as the recent passing of James Keller. If any of you would like to get the addresses or phone numbers of any of these people, give me a buzz and I will provide you with an up-to-date address list That list now contains 582 names and our honor roll of deceased shipmates now contains 75 names. I am going to include return address labels on this mailing because I got several returned from a previous mailing as "invalid" addresses when I put a return address on them.
Please notify me of any address changes so that we don’t have mail going to the dead letter office.
I enjoyed a stop by visit from Ben and Shirley Jarisch this summer on their way from Texas to Indianapolis. Also, when I learned that Tex Araguz was going to be in St. Louis visiting relatives, I made arrangements to get together for a get acquainted visit . It’s a good thing I did as our paths crossed at the reunion only long enough for a handshake. Due partly to the confusion mentioned earlier , I did not even get a chance to talk with several other newcomers and, for that, I apologize.
On our way up I-75 on the way home, we hit another peak when we found the top to a very rare depression butter dish at a mall in Chattanooga. We had seen the bottom to it in Hazel, KY on our way down. As anxious as we were to get home to see the new baby, we had to change our route home to go back through Hazel and were much relieved to see that the dish was still there.
After arriving back home, we learned that PJ had managed to get Don home without any more hospital stops along the way and that he had finally passed the kidney stone. But that news also brought word that a catscan had indicated PJ was going to need surgery. Those two have certainly had more than their share of health problems recently and our prayers go out to both of them.
That about wraps up the details of the up and down events of the past two months. May the upcoming holiday season bring only good times to all of you and I’ll be back in touch in the spring with details about next year’s reunion.