Shipmate Column
January-February 2016

Pres:  CAPT W. Spencer Johnson IV, USN (Ret.)
Sec'y: Michael H. Shelley
164 Sweetwater Lane, Pisgah Forest, NC 28768
h: 828-862-4245  e:
Web site:

For any classmate you can go to the Classmates Page and enter his name to read his current biography if available.

        I am sorry to begin this report with news of three deaths within the Class of 1963 family.

        Our classmate Homer Smith succumbed to cancer on 11 October. His wife, Jean, can be contacted at 1925 Eucalyptus Hill Road, Santa Barbara, CA 93018. You can read his obituary and a fine remembrance by Bill Kaman in the Last Call section of our web site by clicking HERE.

        Bernie Grabowski passed away at his home on 20 November, ending his long battle against cancer. His widow, Lois, can be contacted at 99 Cambridge Drive, Brevard, NC 28712. His obituary can be seen on our web site by clicking HERE.

        We extend our sympathy to Jim Newberry, whose wife, Mary Jane, died in an automobile accident on 15 September. He can be contacted at 6965 Hillwood Lane, Dallas, TX 75248.
        The date and location of our 55th Reunion have been set. We will return to San Diego the last weekend of October 2018. An added attraction of the weekend will be the Navy-Notre Dame football game there. A number of our classmates living in the area have volunteered to stage the reunion and have already held their first planning meeting. Most of them performed the same service to the class for the San Diego Mini-Reunion in 2010. Many thanks to them and their wives for taking this on.

        It's great to know that many of our USNA companies are holding their own mini-reunions from time to time. Dave Bingemann sent this news of the latest event enjoyed by his companymates.
     Since 1994, we have been holding Terrible Tenth (8th Company) mini-reunions almost annually somewhere in CONUS in between the five year homecomings in Annapolis. We try to split our get-together's equally between the two coasts, and usually have roughly 50 percent of us attending each event.
     This year, 16 of us gathered October 26-29 in Palm Springs, CA, hosted in grand style by Georgia and Hugh Schall. We thoroughly enjoyed two full days of tours. The first day was spent taking the Palm Springs Aerial Tram up 8,500 feet to overlook the valley, followed by tours of the Palm Springs Art or Air Museums, and then sitting down to a wonderful authentic Mexican dinner. The second day was spent on lunch and a private guided tour of Sunnylands, the Annenberg Estate, famous as a historic residence and high level retreat center for national and international leaders. We all had a wonderful time. But most importantly during our get-together, we all enjoyed good fellowship and the hospitality of the Schalls at their home away from home. The weather was ideal, and the Palm Springs area, especially the wonderful amenities and great restaurants, was just a real pleasure to visit.
     Those attending were the Schalls, plus the Augurs, the Bingemanns, the Boleys, the Breens, the Bucks, the Calvanos, Ollie Doherty, the Earners, Bill Hahn, the Helspers, Lillian Karson, Kell and Sandra, Kleinfeldt and Lynne, the Musicks, the Pattersons, the Smalls, and the Spears. With spouses and friends, we numbered 33 strong. Here is a photo of the group (minus six) snapped outside the Tram.
8th Company Palm Springs mini-reunion

     In 2016 we will return to the East Coast and plan to reconvene again in the Tampa Bay Area with hosts Bernie and Cathy Patterson and Dick Kell and Sandy Blagini doing the honors.

        Another company that assembles regularly has a Navy football focus. Bruce Webb tells us about it.
     Here are some pictures of the 17th Company get together in South Bend for the Navy-Notre Dame game. The Company tradition of attending the Navy-Notre Dame game in South Bend was started in the early 90's by Dave Riley and we have kept it going each time the game has been held there as the Dave Riley Memorial 17th Company get together in his honor after his passing in 2011. This year a dozen members of the Company attended. A good time was had by all and old tales were retold! In the photo below are (back row) Phil Gubbins and Butch Whitworth, (middle row) Bernie Conatser, Mike McDermott, Travis Beard, Mike Obsitnik, (front row) Jerry Mulholland, Bruce Webb, Jim Richards, Jack McDonald, Jerry Jordan. Somehow Dick Hyland missed being in the picture.
17th Company in South Bend

     Here also are two pictures of Butch Whitworth's answer to Chet White's tattoo of the Class of '63 crest. Butch has a tattoo of his own on each arm: a '63 class crest on one and the Marine Corps emblem on the other.

        Thanks to Charlie Johnson '66 for supplying this illustrated news about a gathering to watch the televised Navy-Notre Dame game on 10 October.
             Fred Storz hosted another Northern New Jersey Notre Dame Come Around for classmates and wives or significant others. Left to right in this photo are classmates Bill Palafox, Fred Storz, John Newsom, Rob Black, and Rob Newton. Charlie Johnson '66 is on the far right after just returning from a Steerage Run and was enjoying "carry on."
Notre Dame game come around

     Rob Newton was wearing his original issue blue chambray work shirt that we all wore to the rifle range and while on youngster cruise. It still fit him! Obviously, this was a big hit with all of us present and spawned a number of rifle range and youngster cruise stories.

        Talk about not slowing down! Check this report from Randy Orlowski about his basketball league in southern California.
     I am playing in a basketball league with many other over-60 men who are reliving the joys we all experienced as kids when we went out to play with our friends. The Capo Classics number about 75 past and present Orange County players from all walks of life; even a '72 West Pointer is allowed to play. The ages range from 60 to 87 and we play full court basketball simultaneously on two courts with each game averaging 20 to 30 minutes before the challengers come in for the next game. We'll have 20 to 35 players show up at each session with some hard core players there every MWF; myself- not more than once a week. Sometimes I'll just show up for the post session beer drinking at a nearby Mexican restaurant. Our age 60-65 team is currently competing at the World Senior Games in Utah. All in all, it's great exercise and like in "Cheers," it's a place where everybody knows your name. It also lessens the chances of getting in trouble at home.
Randy Orlowski (2nd from left) and league players

        Jim DeFrancia provided this news about big game hunting in Colorado.
     Mike Bonsignore and Mike Krause came for a visit in October to our new home on Marabou Ranch outside of Steamboat Springs, CO. The occasion was to hunt elk, and we were joined by Wayne Arny, '64, also a good friend. The weather cooperated with brisk, but clear, autumn mornings and we were out at 6 AM, rifles in hand. The good news is that we all made a kill! Mike B and I got the first ones, the first day, with Wayne and Mike K being successful on the second day. Mine was a 500 pound elk, with one shot at 257 I get to keep the expert rifle medal from Plebe summer!
Elk Hunters in Colorado

     Here is a picture of Mike Krause, Wayne Arny, me with my kill, and Mike Bonsignore. Darkness was falling and we could not get a picture of Mike B's kill that evening.
     While here, we had breakfast one morning in town at a local favorite, "Freshies," that is owned by the nephew of our late classmate Rick Rohrbach. The '63 Foundation had assisted Rick's kids with education, and the entire family was mindful of that support. The following is a nice note I just received from Rick's nephew, Scott Fox.
     Jim, it was great to talk to you, your wife, and classmates yesterday at Freshies. I think what you have done to help our family with their education funding is a great thing. Rick would have been very grateful. He was a special person to me and I have nothing but the best memories of him. Thanks, Scott and Kristy
     The two Mike's left here for a 23rd Company gathering in New Mexico where they are fishing the San Juan River. Given the successful hunt, they were packing along some fresh elk for dinner!

        I received three submissions from Mario Fiori in October and November. Here's the first:
     Denny Vaughan and I visited Bill Pawlyk on 12 October. Bill continues to work hard in helping junior prisoners get their GEDs, supports numerous prisoner groups such as the military group, Concerned Lifers, and teaches several college courses while he supports a unique Washington State program, University Behind Bars (UBB). His health for a 74 year old is good. His physical condition is excellent. We had great time talking about the old days and also looking into the future.
Denny Vaughan, Bill Pawlyk, and Mario Fiori

        Mario's second submission tells us about a gathering of '63ers in west Tennessee.
     A bunch of 12th Company classmates had a mini reunion in Memphis November 5-8. On Thursday and Friday, the folks had time for sightseeing which included museums, Sun Studio, and Graceland. In the evening we had dinner at the Charles Vergos' Rendezvous, followed by a couple of hours relaxing at the Peabody Hotel. Saturday we attended the Navy tailgate party and then watched Navy beat Memphis 45-20. (We were the 8 point underdog!) Sunday we had breakfast together and then returned home. Here are two photos from our reunion. I couldn't get everyone in one photo. The men in the front row are, left to right, Kent Maxfield, Fred Kaiser, Mickey Favor, Ron Wills, and Charlie Musitano. In the second row are Mario Fiori, Grant Telfer Bill Witcraft in a blue shirt with Jim Stageman behind him, Bob Bennett, Bob Schaefer, and Dave Greeneisen. Joe Lederhaas's widow, Cathy, also attended. In the ladies photo, left to right in the front row are Linda Bennett, Christy Greeneisen, Klara Kaiser, Sandy Stageman, Betty Maxfield; in the second row are Cathy Lederhaas, Susan Fiori, and Julie Schaefer.
12th Company in Memphis

12th Company ladies

        Mario's third submission was this picture taken at the '63 Homecoming party at the home of Jennifer and Bill Earner near Annapolis on 24 October. He commented that the Earners were wonderful hosts, and there was excellent food, plus lively conversation. Appearing in the front row in the photo below are John Kelly, Pete Carrothers, Mike Cronin, and Jeff Miles. Standing are Dave Byrnes, Bob Forster, Norm Shackelton, Mario Fiori, Ian Sargent, Denny Conley, Pete Quinton, Jim Ring, Bill Earner, Mike Nadolski, Phil Rooney, Jim Lloyd, Alex Daunis, Spencer Johnson, and Bruce Webb
Homecoming 2015

        Bill Hollenack sent this account of his latest cross-continent excursion.
     Judy, my sister Nancy, and I flew to Vancouver, BC, on August 31st. From Vancouver we took a 15-day tour across Canada to Toronto -- twelve days by bus and three by train. We visited Victoria and then traveled through the Canadian Rockies including Whistler, Banff, Lake Louise, and Jasper. The scenery was awesome. One of the highlights of the trip was riding an Ice Explorer onto the Athabasca Glacier. The train from Jasper to Toronto was a little crazy but we will remember it and laugh about it later. From Toronto, Nancy flew home to Brevard, and Judy and I flew to Minneapolis for her 50th nursing school reunion and spent a week visiting friends and family in Minnesota and Wisconsin. We saw a lot of lovely places but there's no place like home.
The Hollenacks visit the Athabasca Glacier

Thanks to all who contributed to this collection of '63 news. If you're not among them, it's probably your turn to help us keep this news exchange going. Please take a few minutes to send me an email, and maybe a photo or two, to be shared with our classmates. You'll be glad you did.

Navigate to:   
Shipmate Index
Shipmate Index


Site Map

Site Map

USNA Class of 1963 Home Page