From the fall newsletter until just recently, a happening was going on here in our part of the country which you may have heard about. I know it got my attention pretty good. As I have indicated previously in this letter, I had just about lost all interest in the professional sports. In the 50s I used to stay up until 2:00 AM to hear Bud Blattner describe those knockdown dragout battles between my Hawks (Pettit and Hagan) and the Lakers (Baylor and West). In the 60s I would turn my TV antenna around every Sunday afternoon to pick up the out-of-town telecasts of the Cardiac Cards winning on a last play Baaken field goal. And, of course, I seldom missed a broadcast by Harry Caray and Jack Buck of the most popular baseball team of all. Then, so many of the athletes started this million dollar cry-baby attitude of "me first" which turned me off. and I resigned myself almost completely to the support of our local high school kids. One day this fall a tearful Dick Vermeil took the mike to say that we had lost our new quarterback who was going to bring us back from the 3-12 seasons of the last four years but that the team would rally around a guy named Kurt Warner. After each succeeding victory I would hear a humble young man from the cornfields of Iowa refusing to take credit for his or the team’s accomplishments but, instead, giving all the glory to his God. Then I started hearing the same faith being expressed by others on the team - many of them. When they rebounded from a couple of giveaway losses, I told everyone who asked my opinion "Nobody is going to beat those Rams except the Rams themselves". About the time of the Super Bowl, a story came to me which expressed my feelings completely. It seems that the coach of the Tampa Bay Bucs died and went to heaven. God was showing him around to let him pick out his mansion in the sky. They came upon a rather rundown looking house with a TITANS banner draped across the front of the house. Then the coach turned around and spotted a huge mansion in glistening white and gold perched atop a hill in the distance with a blue and gold RAMS banner across the front pillars. "How come Dick Vermeil gets a place that fancy when the Titans coach has to settle for something like this?" he asked. God replied "Oh, that’s not Vermeil’s. That’s MINE". As Paul Harvey says at the end of his broadcast, "Now you know the rest of the story!"
There have been other things going on, too, but nothing which uplifted my spirits the way that did, so I hope you will excuse my editorializing on it. And, rest assured all you Vols, it is not meant to rub your noses in it. I think we just had more help than you guys did.
The details for this year’s reunion have been finalized by the hosts, Mike and Dorothy Hodnichak. We will be meeting at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Cleveland on Sep. 8-10. The rooms will be $92 per day and, if you drive in, there is a valet parking charge of $15 per day at the hotel. Other parking is available in the area for $6-10/day. There are only 35 rooms on hold and the cutoff date is Aug. 8th. There may not be more rooms available after the cutoff date as the Indians are in town for games next door on Sat. and Sun. so, it might be advisable to make your reservations early (1-800-333-3333). They have a 24-hour cancellation policy in case your plans get derailed by some emergency. Those rates will apply from Sep. 5-13 if you want to extend your stay. The activities will start with a dinner cruise Friday on the Nautica Queen 6:30-10:30. On Saturday there will be a trolley tour of Cleveland with stops at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the submarine USS Cod, and the William Mather Steamship Museum. A tour of the Browns new football stadium may be added, if details can be worked out. The banquet will be held at the Radisson starting at 7:30, followed by the annual business meeting. The cost for these activities (cruise, tours, and banquet) will be $126 per person. Make checks for these payable to USS Great Sitkin Reunion and send to: Mike Hodnichak, 25850 Lake Shore Blvd., Euclid, OH 44132 no later than Aug. 1, 2000. Mike and Dorothy have put together a complete package of information about Cleveland and our reunion activities so, if you’re thinking about coming, get in touch with them (Phone 216-731-5289 or e-mail dhodnichak@aol,com) and they will send it to you.
As some of you are aware, I experienced some problems early in the year with the web page going down. It seems that the network provider forgot to pay for the phone line leases and they cut him off. They managed to revive under new ownership so I stayed with them. We did lose about 125 sign-ins on the guestbook but, other than that, no serious damage was done as my son had most of the data stored in his computer from doing the updates. For the newcomers, the address to that web page is www.theriver.net/~gfrank. Thanks to some help from recent find Ron Zimmerman, we have come up with a source for historical records of where the ship was during much of her time. We pieced that together with Eldon Geiger’s diary from the early 50s and we now have info pretty complete for 1951-54 and 1967-73. If any of you have any records which can fill in any of the missing years, I would appreciate getting it. If you don’t have access to reading it on the web page, and would like a copy, let me know and I’ll get it to you.
I said in the fall that the search effort had slowed down due to running out of sources but we have managed to add 29 more names since then. They are: Charles King ‘61, William D’Ambrisi ‘62, James Blevins ‘67, Bob Barnett ‘65, Joseph Lavigna ‘60, James Snider ‘58, Dick Weininger ‘52, Ron Zimmerman ‘72, Tom Dalton ‘69, Tim McCarty ‘72, John Keenan ‘46, Paul Kirby ‘46, Charles Otka ‘67, Roger Crosby ‘71, Roman Cantos ‘71, Richard Dunphy ‘60, Vito Scarna ‘46, Scott Mason ‘63, Hollis Varnado ‘72, William Vigliotti ‘46, Ronald Rookey ‘60, Hulett McDowell ‘48, George Drummond ‘48, Arthur Turcotte ‘48, Charles Ross ‘60, Joseph Biancardi ’60, Paul Madaio ‘71, Elroy Potter ‘71, and Fred Flagge ‘59. Some of these people found our web page and contacted me. At the suggestion of retired DCC George Kaiser, we put a link on our web page to something called the "Goat Locker". (How many of you knew that was the name of the chiefs’ quarters?) That link found Ron Zimmerman and he helped me find several more whom I hope to meet in Cleveland. I also had a couple of interesting contacts on the web page. One gentleman contacted me from Naples, Italy to tell me that he had made the acquaintance of Capt. Schlech during one of the Sitkin visits to that city. Another man contacted me from Germany to ask for the address of one of our crew he had worked with at IBM. These computers have really shrunk down the size of this old world. A reminder - as more and more of you give in to the technology and go online - be sure to send me your e-mail addresses to aid in the delivery of these newsletters. Also, it is very easy to communicate back and forth if you have the service.
We have learned of the passing of several more of our shipmates - the roly-poly little guy from the ship’s office during my tour who was another one of those "good people", Jack Chrisitie has left us. We had the pleasure of seeing him in Norfolk in ‘94. Also gone are Jerry Eckman, Donald Chmura, Mickey Swinyer, Reggie Bruhn, and one whom someone called "the kind of skipper we would have gone to hell and back for", Capt. Esler passed away about a month ago. These, and any others whom we are told about, will be honored in our bell ceremony in Cleveland.
Our treasurer, Adelmo Costantini, has informed me that he had to put a hold on any more Sitkin shirt orders. It seems that the supplier does not agree with the original terms of the agreement as to their charges. We do still have Sitkin caps available at $6 and "Always Ready" lapel pins at $5. For those of you who want to help support our publishing costs, a yearly dues contribution of $15 would be appreciated. Be sure to send all payments to the treasurer,
Is someone out there looking ahead to next year? If you are willing to host the reunion in your area, get together a package of information as to the availability and costs for rooms, a banquet, and any other activities which you think the group might be interested in doing and bring it along for presentation at our business meeting in Cleveland. If you can’t be there, send it to me and I will present it for you. It would be nice if you would bring along suggestions for 2002 also.
As most of you know, I did my first 30 months in the Navy aboard the USS Chilton APA-38. I have been getting their newsletters for most of the time since we started our group but have never had a chance to meet with them because it conflicted with our Sitkin reunions. Last fall, when we got back from Vegas, I was able to run down to Branson to attend a Chilton reunion. There were only two men there whom I knew and most of their group is a bunch of old codgers who want to talk about the beaches they hit during invasions near the end of WWII. To try to interest them into expanding their reunion group, I have purchased microfilm for the years I was aboard and started working on a database of names from it. So far I have over 1300 names accumulated. I got a bit demoralized when I tried a phone call to one of the men right here in St. Louis when I learned he has been dead since 1989 and another from our boot camp company who went to the Chilton with us, had died from cancer last year. Last night I contacted another up in Iowa and learned that he has had a bypass and a stroke. The next one I called had just finished his second session of chemotherapy. And these are all people my age! The point I’m making is an old message I’ve been sending for quite some time - don’t wait until it is too late! See you in Cleveland - God willing.