Another Sitkin reunion is in the history books - along with the accomplishments of a local sports hero who, in case you missed it, smacked a bunch of ‘taters’ this summer. Excuse my pessimism, but, except for the people who showed up, I was not very happy with this get-together. It got started off on the wrong foot when I got a call just before leaving telling me that Joe Theisen had to change his plans due to the sudden death of his brother in MN. Those of you who have been to most of these get-togethers know that it would take several bos’n mates and a few cannon cockers to replace Joe at any reunion. Another call informed me that my buddy Eldon Geiger would be missing for the first time due to two trips to the hospital. He had to have a large aortic aneurysm repaired before they could do colon cancer surgery on him. And Don Meals had a late cancellation due to a serious illness in the family. Our condolences go out to Joe and we look forward to your being back with us next year. And, of course, our prayers go out to Eldon for a complete recovery.
Several glitches in the plans caused other problems which raised my blood pressure. The trolleys which were supposed to pick us up to take us to our banquet on Saturday evening did not show up. By the time we were able to arrange alternative transportation, we had to eat fried catfish which had set on the serving line for over an hour. Believe me - our midwestern "seafood’ is not very good under those conditions. When I went to pay the bill on Monday as I was checking out, I ran into some unexpected charges for service(?) and a bartender which ran the bill over what I had collected from the crew. I tried to negotiate with the River Terrace people after I got home but they refused to do anything about it except to offer hush money in the form of a free visit for me in the future. I assured them that that was NOT an option. I can only recommend that our group and any other military reunions I come in contact with pick some other site for their reunions. Gatlinburg is only the first place in our six reunions that I feel like I have been involved with a tourist trap. Maybe the atmosphere would have been different if we had not been competing with the 50,000 ‘55 Chevys which were there trying to use the same narrow streets. There was no microphone supplied even though I made several mentions during the planning phone calls to "be sure we have a mike". My room bill had a $3.20 charge for a calling card call that did not go through, which did not set well with me.
Several of our people got tied up for hours in traffic due to a fatal accident on I-75 as they were coming in on Friday. This caused them to miss going with the group to the Dixie Stampede for supper.
That about gets the bad stuff out of the way so let’s get on with the better news. First of all, the group did vote to meet next in Las Vegas on Sep. 10-12 at the Imperial Palace hotel. The reservation number is 1-800-800-2981 and be sure to say that you are with the USS Great Sitkin reunion. The rate is $59 on Fri-Sat and $49 on all other days. Tom Schlundt has been chosen to serve as reunion chairman for this one. He will be checking into additional activities as the year goes along and I will try to have more details for you in the spring newsletter. We are looking into a possible Greyline tour out to Hoover Dam and other sites in the area.
Our group in Gatlinburg included 14 first-timers and that fact helped me get past the bad parts. They were: Fred Applegate DC3 68-72, Dennis Crews PC3 63-65, Ernest Ellis HMC Plankie-46, James Georgi ETN3 66-67, Lewis Hayes SN 63-65, Edmond Jaskolksie F1c Plankie-46, Wayne Keech SN 71-73, Ed Keegan SN 59-62, Edward Kerstiens CSC 58-60, Gene McNeill LTJG 64-66, Gene Stewart BM3 48-49, Terry Taber SN 70-73, Bob Trudeau RM3 55-56, and Richard Zawodniak S1c 46-49. The rest of the roster included: Dick Albrecht QM1 48-54, Ron Berg GMM3 53-55, Herb Bradly RD3 52-55, Bob Cameron QM1 47-53, Walter Carlson DC3 52-54, Sam Carolluzzi SN Plankie-46, Adelmo Costantini LTJG 53-54, Joe Cuneo YN3 49-52, Bill Dirkmaat BM3 65-68, Bill Donath EMFN 53-54, Pat Ferrullo SMC 68-72, Joe Festa F1c Plankie-46, Carl Franke SKSN 51-53, Andy Fullmer SN 52-53, Tom Harding BM1 55-56, Mike Hodnichak ME3 53-55, Nick Huzinec CS2 55-56, Domenick Indelicato EMFN 51-55, Ben Jarisch FA 55-56, John Kelly SN 51-55, George Mitchell GMM3 51-53, Hillard Peterson SN 53-54, Martin Pietryak SN 51-54, Garcie Roberts SN 48-53, Al Ryerson DK1 50-52, James Sands FN 53-56, Tom Schlundt PN3 54-56, John Snyder ENS 48-49, Gavin Spangler BM2 50-54, Neil Xenos RD3, 53-54 and yours truly. As usual, when there are details to be taken care of all weekend, I did not have as much time for visiting with very many of the guys as I would have liked. I was particularly gratified to see Dennis Crews drive up from GA with that wheelchair fastened to the drivers’ side door of his car. He is obviously doing more with his life than some of us who are much more able-bodied. I asked Lewis Hayes to open our meeting with an invocation and I would like to make this a regular job for him if that Baptist church down in SC can spare his services one weekend each year. I did get to spend some time with "de-plankie" Wayne Keech. He is the first attendee to have participated in that ceremony and gave me a small plaque from the piece of bridge planking which was given to each of the last crew. I also recieved some Sitkin memorabilia from Terry Taber who left shortly before they decomissioned her. I received a painting of the ship made in Naples in 1957 from LT. James Johnston out in CO which I will be carrying along to all future reunions. Thanks to all who have contributed things from the ship’s past. Boy, wouldn’t I like to get my hands on the ship’s bell!
The group voted to leave the annual dues at $10 per year. If you would like to assist in our effort to keep the Sitkin afloat, you may send your dues to Adelmo Costantini at 67 Edgecliff Terrace, Yonkers NY 10705. Also, in an effort to avoid confusion, please send any money for caps and pins to Adelmo and he will get in touch with me to mail your caps. The current supply is exhausted but I plan to order some more in a few weeks.
The Sitkin web page address is www.theriver.net/~gfrank My e-mail address is still email@example.com and I would be glad to hear from any of you on the Net because it is so much faster and it’s free once you have the Internet service. Also, please let me know if you change your e-mail address. I have been experiencing some problems being able to reach people with aol.com addresses but I think that problem has been straightened out now.
The web page has helped find a few more Sitkin sailors but the phone program is still the most efficient. Since the last newsletter the following men have been added to the address list: Ronald Brosius SFM3 57-59, Alan Hildeman SK3 59-61, Ed Keegan SN 59-62, Frank Hacker SN 61-62, Leroy Coralluzzo EN3 59-61, Gary Brosius BT3 59-61, Earl Wilber SN 68-69, Allen Metzger SN 53-55, Edgar Carman EM3c Plankie-46, Ronald Anstey SN 55-56, Edward Zbyk SN 59-61, Gary Gartz MMFN 71-?, Wayne Keech SN 71-73, Charles Zeamer BM3 67-68, William Floyd SA 63-64, William Wilson SK3 69-70, Douglas Wales DK2 62-66, Bill Rhinehart QM3 52-53, Robert Tilley YNSN 51-52, Edward Gray S2c 46-48, Michael Kelly YN3 64-65, Robert Rizzo SN 66-67, Dean Martinsen F1c Plankie-46, Mark Burfiend EMFN 70-73, Gary Salabak MM3 64-65, Carman Tuliano MM3 63-65, Bobby Huff FN 64-66, Ronald Chad EMFN 58-59, John Kolvenbach SH3 58-59, John Lents TE1 59-60, Ernest Loser CS3 63-65, Carl Pipp FN 67-70, Roger Branch BM2 58-61, Coy Cagle SN 59-61, Thomas Cali LTJG 59-61, James Dittmar EM2 56-59, Gary Schroeder BT3 56-59, Robert Melville GM1 57-59, Wiley McLeod EM3 59-61, Fred Applegate DC3 68-72, Robert Kapas SN 61-63, Rodger Koon CS3 67-70,Robert Nicomede SN 57-59, Michael St. Germain BT2 67-70, Clyde Pierce BT2 66-70, Clifton LeBlanc CS1 60-62, David Leefeldt RM3 63-?, Frank Misasi SFP1 63-66, Raymond Francoeur SM1 59-61, Paul Dellorco SF2 67-?, Donald McClane LTJG 72-73, Leo Minnickel PN2 69-71, Michael Morus SFM3 60-61, Ronald Dagg SN 58-59, Robert Smith GMG2 70-71, Robert Zombek BM3 66-70, Herman Bratcher RMC 62-?, Thomas Zeimet GMCS 65-67, Jerauld Edwards MM3 60-62, Wilbert Holland MM2 60-63, John Angelina S2c 46-47, Jack Bonskowski SN 48-49, Alan Dollen F1c Plankie-46, Jack Casimir QM3 45-46, Max Minnich S1c 45-46, William Hladik S1c Plankie-46, Richard Lawrick SA 49-?, Jerry Boyd BM2 65-66, Paul Cake RM3 ?-48, Dan Fucito YN3 64-66, James Hastry SN 65-67, Dennis Ripple FTG3 65-67, Murray Cato BM3 59-?, Ciro Carucci RM3 58, David Kerr FN 60-63, Earl Kirby SN 46-49, Kenneth Plasket EM2 63-66, Raymond Bryant BM3 69-?, Thomas Smokovich SN 71-73, Ed Connors BM3 69-73, and James Shubert SN 64-66. Unfortunately it has also added to our honor roll of deceased men the following: Harold Feezell SSMB3 Plankie-47, John Ries LT 64-68, Alfred Caplinger SK3 Plankie-45, James Cupler HM3 57-59, Harry Poddany GM2 59-62, Joseph Pazzula EM3 71-?, and Stanley Biddle GM1 Plankie-46. As in the past, if you want addresses or phone numbers on any of these people let me know and I will be glad to send it. Also, copies of the 40s, 50s or 60s rosters are available upon request. The simplest way to get them is to go to the web page and print them directly off it. If you know of the whereabouts of any of the men who ever served aboard, I would certainly like to have the information.
I had a pleasant surprise one day this summer when Carl Sizelove EMP2 58-60 called to say that he was in the area on his way from CA to the east coast and needed directions to Paw Paw Lane. He came in off I-70 and we had a nice afternoon of getting acquainted before going out to supper with them in St. Louis and sending them back on their route east. I would like for any of you who may be passing through this part of the country to do the same. We are about 45 miles from I-70, 30 miles off I-64 and about 22 miles from I-55. If you are going to be in St. Louis for business or otherwise, give me a call and I can be up there in about an hour.
At the start I mentioned the sports note about what Big Mac (a name that used to mean a sandwich) had done this summer. I had just about given up all my interest in sports, other than the local high school kids. But I did revive long enough to pull for this one last great achievement. To me, it did much more than put his name in the record books - I believe it temporarily delayed the demise of pro sports. What with all the arrogance, belligerence, showing off, and general ungratefulness being displayed by most pro athletes any more, it was a pleasure to see him do what he did and maintain the attitude he had all summer.
Some of the places put out for consideration in the year 2000 include Cleveland, Corpus Christi, and Memphis. If you have any other suggestions, get some information as to room rates and attractions and send it to me or, better yet, bring it along with you to Vegas.
Until the next time, stay healthy and have a good winter.