The USS Joseph Strauss 2002 Reunion
San Diego, California
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3rd Qtr. 2002 Presidentís Corner
9/23/02! Home from a very successful reunion in San Diego CA. The last time I was in San Diego was either June or July of 1969, a very laid back city where no one become excited.
Not so these days. The city boundaries have burst their seams; people and vehicles are everywhere, where did they all come from?? The only time I had a street to myself was a back street into the car rental agency at 5 AM this morning.
Our reunion hotel was very nice and the staff very accommodating. The rooms were large and comfortable while the Hospitality Room and Banquet Rooms were sufficient with no crowding.
Thursday Evening: Our hosts and hostess for the evening affair was Capt. Don and Faye Elliott at their home up in the hills out of Escondido. What a view from their back yard. Wow!
Faye and their daughter prepared the food for the dinner and it was succulent and plenty of it. Three of the Elliottís neighbors preformed a USO Show for us with songs and dancing. Beautiful and a pleasure to watch and enjoy. Right Modena? Even the missile range at Pt. Mugu got into the act by firing off a long-range missile out into the Western Pacific. The evening sun shinning on the booster exhaust trails was a beautiful sight to beholdÖ
Friday morning tour departed at 9 AM. We toured the harbor in a sight seeing boat and the tour narrator "Bosín Bob" was an old shipmate of mine on the USS Hamner DD718. Only I was aboard the Hamner in 1959-60 and Bob was aboard in the mid 80ís. Small world, isnít it?
Our boat tour revealed the ICBM boats, the CVAís, the LPH Boxer returning to port and many other interesting and educational facets of SDiego Harbor. Lunch was at the Bali Hi on Shelter Island and then a tour of downtown where not a one of us could have found our way from the old days. All the "ole gin mills and honky tonks" of 4th & 5th streets have been cleaned up or disappeared completely.
The Friday evening Luau brought out many beautiful muu muuís and gowns that Iím sure had been stored away from the days of the Pineapple Fleet of DesRon 25.All our ladies were gorgeous and shipmates handsomely clothed even to the "Ole Beach Bum" who appeared mooching and caging drinks from the unsuspected. All had a fun time!
Saturday Afternoon Navy Tours; Shipmates Jerry Halfman and Brad Jorgenson spent considerable time and effort arranging for two Navy busses to transport us from the hotel out to North Island NAS and then to the 32nd St. Naval Station for our Navy Day Tours. Jerry arranged for a detailed educational tour the NavAir Depot showing us how the F-18 fighter is overhauled and return to full flight operations after a lengthy cruise of cat shots and tail hook landings stress the material of the plane. We even received instruction "How To" repair bullet/missile holes in the surface of wings and etc. It was a very interesting tour of the Depot. At Pier 8 we boarded the USS Higgins DDG 76 for a full in-depth tour of an Arleigh Burke Class of DDG. I believe our people were astounded to find out that the "Shipís Company" is made up of 40% females with a female XO. Crewmembers that I talked with are proud to serve with the ladies and without exception; all spoke highly of their capabilities and Seamanship. At 1630 hours we returned to the hotel to make ready for the evenings banquet.
Saturday Evening Banquet: Everyone was dress in their finery with Petty Officer 1st Class Chuck MacDonald and Captain Michael Vaughan in Dress Blues. Everyone was very impressive. Our photographers Beth Pine, Brenda Keith with the able assistance of Bill Cain commenced the photo shoots and all individual and group pictures were taken before the official opening of Ceremonies at 2000.
Our Color Guard for the evening was three young ladies from El Cajon Div. and the 32nd St. Div. of the Sea Cadets. Their ages were from 14 to 15 years and they did a most impressive Colors Presentation. I spoke earlier of a "small world"; the adult supervisor/instructor for the El Cajon Div. was a young lady whose parents live about 6-7 miles from us here in Gerry NY. We have known them for years and even were on a gambling jaunt to Indiana earlier this year with them. Now that is a small world to run into someone 3,000 + miles from home. The meal of prime rib was delicious and plenty of it, I didnít hear one complaint. The high lights of our program was the presentation of "Honorary Membership Certificates" to four of the Vietnamese Boat People that the ship rescued on July 15, 1980. Nine individuals had said they would attend but only Ngoc-Giang (Shelley McEllheny) Huey H. Nguyenhuu, Dein Dinh & Rich Hung Nguyenhuu made it. They are beautiful people and so appreciative for the rescue and to be American Citizens.
Shipmate Chaplain Albert "Doc" Kotrola conducted the Memorial Service for our 46 deceased shipmates assisted by Shipmate Rod Keith on the bell. The Doc handles a very impressive ceremony. I wish he is around when my name is added to the list, but I hope not for many, many years yet.
The Assn. gave special recognition to Shipmate Lawrence Tondu as Rod Keith presented him with the Signal Flag "Station" to remind us all that Larry was the first to hold a Strauss reunion in Luddington MI (1991) with only six attendees. Saturday was Larryís birthday and his son out bid all for the "History of the U.S. Navy" book that we all had autographed and then presented to his father as his birthday present.
Mrs. Manny (Vi) Guerra made a presentation to our Treasurer Patrick Meadows of a gift of $900.00 which our ladies donated from the proceeds of their Silent Auction conducted in the morning while the menís business meeting was going on.
THANK YOU LADIES, IT IS TRULY APPRECIATED!
Shipmate Vice President John Aldredge conducted the drawing of numbers and raffle tickets for the annual gift give-away. Major raffle items were won by; Bill Pine, Beetle Bailey, Bill Gardner, Bill Cain, Manny Guerra, Doc Kotrola, Bill Pratt, Beth Pine, Mike Vaughan, Bob Wilson, Lee Merta, and finally Rod Keith. Shipmate Rodney Keith conducted our annual auction of artifacts items with the big prize being a brass ashtray made by two butt pieces from a 5" 54 shell. Jim Hansen earned the right to carry that home with the high bid of over $350.00
The final event of the evening was the selection of the reunion site for 2004. No votes were cast for Branson, 17 votes for St. Louis and 28 for Peoria, IL. Lee & Marrilyn Merta will be our host and hostess at the Pere Marquette Hotel
The Sunday Morning Departure Breakfast was attended by about 75%. Last minute Goodbyes and Well Wishes were exchanged. This wrapped up another truly memorable reunion for all of us who served as "Shipís Company" of the USS Joseph Strauss.
Attendance: 46 Shipmates with 31 Spouses + 1 son for a total of 78
Banquet at 94 people with 16 Special Guests
A Very Special Thanks to:
Capt. Don & Faye Elliott
Jerry & Joan Halfman
Brad Jorgenson, CPO USN
Ray & Ann Pack
For hosting, tours and general information regarding San Diego
AND a special Well Done to Karen Lane our ML&RS Liaison
Bart Bartholomew, President
A big thanks also to the following contributors to the website photo album:
Bill Cain - Photos
Jerry Halfman - Photos and commentary
Captain Don Elliot - Commentary
Chief "Bart" Bartholomew - Commentary