Shipmate Column
November 2005

Pres:  CAPT W. Spencer Johnson IV, USN (Ret.)
Sec'y: Michael H. Shelley
25 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.

        Not content to wait until our 45th Reunion, several members of the 18th Company convened for a reunion aboard a cruise ship this August. Among them was Steve Coester, who supplied this overview of their very full time together.
     A few months ago the 18th Company began discussing a mini reunion. Chuck Stone took the lead and after several questionnaires we decided to take a cruise to Alaska. Chuck's friend Gladys Block of Worldview Travel of La Jolla set up the cruise on Holland America's MS Oosterdam, an 1,800-passenger ship launched in 2003. The route would take us from Seattle to Juneau, Hubbard Glacier, Sitka, Ketchikan and Victoria, B.C.

Seattle residents Denny Vaughan and Bill Anderson along with Dave Durfee arranged for a Friday night pre-cruise dinner and Saturday brunch for the cruisers who got to Seattle early enough. Their hospitality was much appreciated by those lucky enough to be there.

Dressed for dinner underway

In the above picture of the 18th Company couples dressed for dinner underway, left to right are June and Chuck Stone, Fran and Tom Reemelin, Linda and Rick Wakefield, Ann and Tom O'Brien, Maire and Ron Machens, Ella and Mike Bracy, Eileen and Eli Dabich, and Yvonne and Steve Coester.
In the following photo are Messrs. Reemelin, Dabich, O'Brien, Coester, Wakefield, Stone, Machens, and Bracy.

18th Company Alaska cruisers

Our cabins were all together and we ate at two adjoining tables in the main dining room. Cocktails were hosted by the Bracys and by the Reemelins and O'Briens in their cabins. We all gathered regularly in the Crow's Nest lounge. Reemelin sweet talked the Captain into getting us an engine room tour which is NEVER done. That was a highlight of the week for us men. Five massive diesels and one gas turbine to drive an 11,000 volt electrical system for propulsion and the hotel. The propulsion is two 22-foot propeller outboard engines that rotate 360 degrees. No rudders on the ship. They parallel park that big ship easier than I could park my car. They never used a tug.

One of our group won over $3,000 playing bingo and another $500 at the slot machines. Everyone kept busy with the plethora of shipboard activities. In each port we participated in tours that ranged from hikes, kayaking, and bike riding to helicopter and float plane adventures.

It was a great trip for all of us and a wonderful way to keep the USNA spirit alive.

        Pete Deutermann tells us that he recently relocated from Georgia to North Carolina.
     We're finally settled in Rockingham County, just NE of Greensboro, NC, and have the new farm up and running. Both of our kids have also bought country property nearby, so we'll soon have a regular enclave going. We like the Piedmont area of North Carolina very much. I have a new book coming out in late November, called The Cat Dancers. It's set in both the Greensboro area as well as in western North Carolina. This will be number ten, so things are going suspiciously well. If any classmates are running I-40/I-85 in the Greensboro area, please feel free to give a holler. (336) 342-2524.

        Julie and Tom Robertson made an extended trip through western states earlier this year. Tom sent this report for you to see.
     Julie and I recently got back from our epic mid-summer trek through the mountain states. Our first destination was the gem of a cabin that Linda and Zimm Zimmerman have polished on the north fork of the Snake River south of West Yellowstone, MT. We marveled at the great work the Zimmermans have done giving this cabin just the right balance of nature and comfort. Sleeping in the finished loft definitely reduced any incentive to roam at night, so we roughed it. Laughs filled the cabin and campfire and we spent the days on the river. The best feature was, of course, their endless hospitality. The rugged life obviously is good for both of them. The wine supply held out and Zimm kept the campfire stoked. Here is a picture of Zimm and me at the council fire where occasional wisdom was passed. Those cool mountain nights have me ready for a return, particularly as we prepare for the storm season on the Florida coast.
Zimm Zimmerman and Tom Robertson

Bill Opitz and Julie Robertson on the Missouri River

After family reunions in Montana and North Dakota we returned to Helena for a stay with Judy and Bill Opitz. This is a visit we make about every three years and the great news is that life remains pretty constant for them -- just being made better by more grandchildren. We did plenty of loafing, broke out the boat, and even broke out the restored '65 Chevy convertible that we rodded around in during the old New London days. Bill had us out on the Missouri River at the gorgeous Gates of the Mountains trying to lure some champion trout into our clutches. We had more success downing drafts again at Dapper Dan's cowboy bar. Those great summer nights in the Big Sky made us eager for our next visit to the wonderful Opitz family hospitality.

        An article in the Washington Post on 8 September described the activities of several families who conduct charitable activities as memorials to loved ones who have died of disease. One of those remembered in this way is Ashley Fister Cole, daughter of our classmate George Fister. Here is an excerpt from that article.
     Had Ashley Fister Cole lived, there never would have been a charity golf tournament in her honor. Nor would nearly 250 people have turned out for a movie benefit, held by a nonprofit foundation named for her, to raise money for cancer research. Instead, Ashley Cole would have been a kindergarten teacher and perhaps a mother, living with her husband, Brian Cole, in their Fairfax home. But when she was 28, Ashley died of melanoma, a virulent form of skin cancer. Her death in 2002 led her husband and family to launch the Ashley Fister Cole Foundation, which on Sept. 16 will hold its third annual golf tournament, its major fundraiser of the year. So far, the foundation has collected more than $30,000 for cancer research. "We just knew we wanted to give something back" to melanoma researchers and cancer survivors who helped Ashley fight the disease, said Brian Cole, 35.
        To read the entire article and learn more about the Ashley Fister Cole Foundation, visit its web site at
        Phillip Marsden seems to be constantly on the move. Here's his latest submission:
     I was fortunate to be able to join three other classmates on a week-long backpacking trip into the Ansel Adams Wilderness in late August. We were among 12 backpackers led by John Peterson on a 30-mile loop through the Gale Lakes region of the Sierra National Forest. John, Dave Moore, and Sandy Stoddard had hiked with this group before; I was a last-minute addition. We all had a great time with perfect weather, fantastic scenery and great company. The photo shows the tired but happy classmates after humping our packs to the top of Fernandez Pass, an altitude of 10,175 feet."
Sierra Nevada hikers

        Dave Byrnes forwarded the announcement that his daughter, Elizabeth Byrnes Crony, has been selected as this year's winner of the prestigious "Outstanding Women in Business Awards" in the National Association of Women Business Owners Award Small Business Category. The association promotes women entrepreneurs into economic, social, and political spheres of power nationally and worldwide. Elizabeth is President of, a clearinghouse of events, planning services and promotional tools for Colorado's nonprofit organizations and the philanthropists, staffs, and volunteers who run them. Active in a variety of civic and charitable organizations in the Denver area, she had previously been honored by Cystic Fibrosis and the Denver Business Journal as a "Young Entrepreneur of the Year."

        The excellent reports above notwithstanding, this has been a lean month for 1963 news. For the first time this year, there is no overflow of news to our web site. I hope that doesn't signal a trend, and it's up to you to ensure that it doesn't. It's time for you to send me some news about yourself and classmates you've been in contact with. Please do that.

Beat Army!

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