7th Biennial Reunion
Adam’s Mark Hotel
September 14-17, 2000
Well, our 7th reunion has come and gone. We waited two years for this reunion and in a blink of an eye it was over. It was another great reunion with a total turnout of 270 crewmembers and an overall total of 519. Many of our members arrived on Tuesday anxious to meet and greet their old shipmates. There were lots of hugs, kisses, and handshakes when we saw each other again. There was also a sadness that swept over us when we were informed of the passing of many of our shipmates. I’m sure they were here with us in spirit.
Wednesday was a quiet day, there weren’t any tours planned. A few members went golfing and the rest of just sat around and talked and shopped in our Ship’s Store. Jack and Betty Culp did a great job setting up the store. In addition to our normal stock they introduced new items that became hot sellers. All items are available online on our Ship’s Store page.
On Thursday, 247 of us boarded buses for a tour of Bellingrath Gardens. It was a hot humid day, but we enjoyed the gardens and especially the boat ride. The tour included a catered lunch that was served under a large white tent. While waiting to reboard our buses for the trip back to the hotel, some of us browsed through the souvenir gift shop. The evening was spent telling sea stories and enjoying beer, soda, cheese, and crackers, while others of our group, 238, went to Biloxi to the casinos. I understand that most of them will make a return visit to Biloxi, just so they can visit their money.
Friday 365 of our group boarded buses for our tour of the National Museum of Naval Aviation at Pensacola, Florida. For those of us who have never been there we were amazed at the number of planes that are on display. Some of us took the museums guided tour. The tour guides really held the interest of our group with their vast knowledge of the planes and histories. A deli buffet lunch, which was included as part of the tour, was served at the Mustin Beach Officers Club. Bill Lewis introduced two of the pilots that would be part of the flyover for our Memorial service on Saturday.
Friday evening was our Mardi Gras Party. We had a great turnout. 475 attended. Masks and beads were given to all and what a fantastic time we had. The band, the Jazzamatazz, was great. The MC was phenomenal. He even got some of the guys on stage to imitate Elvis. I hope they don’t give up their day jobs. A few of our more jubilant members dressed in costumes and marched into the ballroom throwing beads to the ladies. A contest was held for the lady that had collected the most beads. Anna Furches from Eden, North Carolina, mother-in-law of our shipmate Ralph Morrison won the contest. Her prize was a musical Sailor statue. We danced and formed conga lines and just had a grand ole time. Carl, you did a fantastic job in putting this all together.
Our business meeting was held on Saturday morning at 8AM. Bill Lewis, our Sergeant-at-Arms, brought our meeting to order. President George Miller extended greetings to all members. George then opened nominations for President.
Carl Capestrain was unanimously voted in as our next President. There was only one vote against Carl and Carl cast that vote. Sorry Carl, you were outvoted. Bill Henson was voted as our new Vice President. As you know, Bill is also the Editor of our Badger. The by- laws were amended to include a second Vice President. Gabe Fiore was appointed to this position. Dave Patrykus was re-elected as our Treasurer. Ted Dey from Armed Forces, Inc. discussed hotel accommodations for our future reunions. Due to the fact that our ship will be berthed in Norfolk, guess where our 2002 reunion will be? You guessed it, NORFOLK.
RADM Jack Kavanaugh explained his role in the Wisconsin Foundation and how plaques will be placed on the bridge with the names of all contributors to the bridge. Our Association is pledging $500,000 to build the bridge that connects the ship to Nauticus. Charles Hartig, Media Assistant to Norfolk’s Mayor Fraim, explained they would be the caretakers of OUR ship. He extended greetings from Mayor Fraim and his apologies for not being able to attend our reunion. For those of you who were not at the reunion, when you listen to Charlie speak, one would think that he was part of our ship and loves it as much as we do. Charlie, you can say Shipmates; we feel you are part of the crew. Dick Hamann brought us up-to-date on the Panama Canal Cruise that is planned for October 30, 2001. We’re all ready to go Dick.
The meeting was adjoined at 9am and 460 of us boarded buses for our Memorial Service on the fantail of the USS Alabama. Our Assistant Chaplain, Deacon Robert Simpson gave a beautiful invocation. The names of our deceased members were read. As each name was called a flower was placed in a wreath and the ship’s bell was rung. Our Sergeant-at-Arms, Bill Lewis, as usual, did an outstanding job in organizing our memorial service. Bill arranged for a fly-over, by the 86 Training Squadron, Pensacola Naval Air Station, Fl., during this service to honor both our living and deceased crewmembers. That was a very touching moment for all of us. Beautifully done, Bill. At the conclusion of this reading, a firing detail gave a 21-gun salute. George Miller and Carl Capestrain then laid the wreath to rest in Mobile Bay while Taps was being played. It was a wonderful tribute to all of our deceased members.
With time to spare before lunch, most of us toured the Alabama, of course to reminisce about our ship. At 12:30 a buffet lunch was served in the Aircraft Pavilion. By 2:30 we were ready to board our buses back to the hotel to get all spruced up for our Memory Book pictures and our gala banquet.
There were 521 of us at our banquet. A Military Color Guard marched the colors in to start off our evening. RADM Jack Kavanaugh swore in our new officers. Charlie Hartig again reiterated his commitment to the Wisconsin and her new home in Norfolk. RADM Jack Kavanaugh explained the role of the Wisconsin Foundation and how the Wisconsin is still a navy asset and therefore still controlled by the Navy. No definite answer was given as to who will ride the ship from Portsmouth into Norfolk to her new berth at the National Maritime Center. David Kohnan thanked everyone for the cooperation he received from our members and especially to those who volunteered to give taped interviews. These interviews will be used as part of the “City at Sea” exhibits at Nauticus. You can tell David is a Navy man; he had us volunteer the Navy way. He pointed a finger and said “you, you and you.” Only kidding David. It was our pleasure and we know you worked very hard in putting these interviews together.
Carl presented plaques to our former presidents, Dave Patrykus and George Miller. Lou Sinagra had previously received a plaque.
Carl explained what had happen to Dick Hamann on their trip in January to set up this reunion. As you all are aware, Dick suffered a heart attack while in Mobile. Dick then thanked all of those who had a hand in his being with us today. He presented Wisconsin caps to the two police officers who came to his rescue that day and one of his nurses, and one therapist who were instrumental in nursing him back to health. Joe Determan, Frank Perry, Frank Romatowski, and Ed Spencer, all of “M” division, presented Dick with a plaque making him an honorary SNIPE. Dick was instrumental in having them tour the engine rooms of the cruise ships. Of course, Dick took the tours with them. So he is a SNIPE by association.
Carl took the podium at this time and thanked all of those who had contributed in some form or other to the success of our great Association. At the conclusion of all speeches, we sang God Bless America led by Martin Sippel. Thanks Marty. Dinner was served, and the band “Tribute” played for our listening and dancing pleasure.
At this time we would like to comment on the outstanding job that Carl and his reunion staff did in making this a most memorable reunion.
In attendance for the first time were members from our 80/90’s crew, affectionately now known as our “THIRD GENERATION.” A name suggested by Lt. Charles Sikes. Thanks Chuck. Our entire First and Second-generation’s crewmembers welcomed our Third Generation with open arms. It was good to see these young members, for they showed just as much enthusiasm and love for the Wisconsin as our first and second generation. In speaking with the wives, we found that they also have the same love for the ship that we have. We decided that it must be the Wisconsin aura that does this to all of us.
Our banquet was over and it was time to say goodbye. It is always a sad time when we must pack up and think of heading home. A lot of sad goodbyes were said after the banquet and again on Sunday morning. Most of us shed some tears and shared hugs. It’s almost like decommissioning the ship again when you say goodbye at the end of our reunions, there are always tears. The time went by so quickly, everyone wanted it to last longer, and really no one was ready to leave. But we know that in a very short time, be it December 7th or April 16th, or September 2002, or for our Panama Cruise in October 2001 we will all meet again. Until then,
God Speed Fair Winds and Following Seas.
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