Shipmate Column
November-December 2011

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.

        This has been a busy summer and two months have passed since the last issue of Shipmate, so I have an unusually large amount of news and images to share with you. Let's get right to it.
        Ron Klemick continues his outstanding service as coordinator of the Another Link in the Chain (ALITC) program bonding the Classes of 1963 and 2013. He filed this full report about the Commitment Dinner at the Naval Academy on 23 August.

     Despite a mid-day earthquake, 56 classmates, spouses, and guests attended a reception in Smoke Hall followed by an excellent dinner in King Hall to celebrate the class of 2013 officially signing their Commitment Documents. This event marked a significant milestone in the ALITC program as the Midshipmen obligated themselves for the next seven years -- two at USNA and five after graduation.
     The Commandant of Midshipmen, Captain Bob Clark, accepted the class of 2013 Honor Scroll and praised our class for its participation in the ALITC Program and our generosity in being one of the great graduating classes, particularly for our sponsorship of the Center for Academic Excellence.
     Our classmate Bill Earner was the keynote speaker. A copy of his riveting speech can be seen on our web site by clicking HERE.
Bill Earner addresses the Class of 2013

     This event marked the halfway point in the ALITC Program. The last two, Bonds of Gold and the Commitment Dinner were particularly memorable because of the close interaction between 1963 and 2013.
     Although six classmates were caught in the post earthquake DC traffic gridlock, the following attended : Peter Browne, Mel and Glynda Bunnel, Joe Bustamante, Eli and Eileen Dabich, Doug and Charlsie Davidson, Dave and Fran Driskell, Bill and Jennifer Earner, Mario and Susan Fiori, Chuck and Patti Fishburn, Bob Forster, Sonny and Laurie Glassner, Harry and Barb Hirsch, Spencer and Andrea Johnson, Pat and Ginny Johnson, Dick Jones, Ron Klemick, Mike and Kathy Krause, Dan and Karen Koczur, Dick and Janice Kuntz, Jim Lloyd, Kent Maxfield, Roger Mehle, Jim Metcalfe, Jeff and Marla Miles, John Nielsen, Dave and Judi Puckett, Pete and Jan Quinton, Grayson and Kitty Redford, Jim Ring , Norm Shackelton, Al Sherman, Forrest and Arlene Siburt, Chet White, and John Wilkinson and Carol Davisson.
     Please mark your calendars for the Ring Dance which is currently scheduled for 17 May 2012.

        Here are some Commitment Dinner photos which I downloaded from the Alumni Association's Facebook page.

        Mario Fiori tells us about his travel to Scandinavia and shows, once again, what a small USNA world this is.
     Susan and I flew to Sweden on 7 July and visited Tina and John Castro on their family homestead near Eksjo. We had a delightful time checking out the local area, meeting old friends, eating, drinking, etc. and also taking trip to Visby, Sweden, for two days. Tina was raised in Eksjo and her family owned a farm property, named Hesterslid. John and Tina eventually sold it and it was repurchased by their son about eight years ago. It is a beautiful location with wonderful view of an 18 mile long lake. This photo was taken looking looking from their porch toward the lake.
Susan Fiori, John and Tina Castro, Mario Fiori

     We had a great time and regretted that we had to leave on the 14th. We then went to Oslo and on the 17th took a two-day excursion to Balestrand, Norway, to see fjords and two glaciers. Here is a small world story - on our day trip on a local ferry to the glacier area, we met another 63er, David DeHoll and his wonderful wife, Donna. We and their friends, the Niles, had a great time for the next two days until we parted company in Bergen, Norway. Susan and I visited Bergen for two days and then flew home on the 21st.
Donna, Dave, Mario, and Susan

        I also received a report on the ferry encounter from Jim Metcalfe who learned about it from a former Air Intel friend of his who lives near the DeHolls in South Carolina. He added the important detail that Dave was wearing a USNA windbreaker which caught Mario's attention. The lesson is to wear your USNA gear; you never know who you'll encounter.

        Here's another story of a chance meeting which resulted from a display of USNA pride. It came from Mike Blackledge in early August.
     Bonnie and I drove north from Albuquerque to South Dakota for Bonnie's family reunion. We had not been to Mt. Rushmore before, so headed over to Keystone, SD, and stayed overnight at the K-Bar-S Lodge. While we were there, I was surprised to find a note on my windshield in response to my USNA 63 license plate. It was from our classmate Ernie Freeman! Ernie and wife Joyce were part of a Road Scholars tour that was also staying at the K Bar S. So these two classmates, who had both left Texas 52 years ago (Ernie from San Antonio, Mike from Houston) joined up again in the cool of a Black Hills evening - is this a great country or what!
Ernie and Joyce Freeman with Mike Blackledge

        Hard-working, globe-trotting Jim Eckland sent this brief note:
     In early July, I returned from Mongolia , where I had been working on a copper and gold mine project. It was a grand experience, and the Mongolians I worked with showed strong traits of loyalty, humor, and focus on getting the job done right. They love horses, wrestling, archery, and being competitive. Beginning in early August, I'll be on a 90-day business trip in Doha, Qatar. I'll be working on an LNG facility there to mobilize Operations and Maintenance resources. I should return to the USA in early November.

        Here's the latest Baby Bulletin - this one probably is a milestone for us. It comes from Lu Schumacher in Colorado. If you can answer his question, please let me know.
     We are now not only "Great" Grandparents, but Great-grandparents!!!
     Carole and I want to announce the birth of our great-granddaughter Alexandra Grace Showers on August 2, 2011. She was born to Naomi and our eldest grandson, Dustin. They live in New Hampshire so, unfortunately, we won't be able to see her very soon. Are we the first great-grandparents in the class?

        Ten years having passed, we have all had the recent occasion to remember the events of 9/11 and recall what we were doing on that day. Yvonne and Steve Coester were in the air aboard a commercial aircraft when the attacks occurred. Their story was told in a Florida Today article published this September. You can see it by clicking HERE .

        Our classmates had many contacts with members of the USNA Class of 2013 who were in the San Diego area for their summer training this year. Chuck Stone submitted this item from early July.
     Here is a photo of June and me with a group of 2013 Mids. The young lady on the far right is Laura Curtis, granddaughter of very dear Supply Corps friends of ours here in San Diego (I have adopted her as my Link in the Chain.). The occasion was the retirement of her father, Captain Adam Curtis '85, a highly decorated Navy Seal.
June and Chuck Stone with 2/c Midshipmen in the Class of 2013

        Phillip Marsden outdid himself for this column, submitting three illustrated reports for your enjoyment. The first covered an outdoor concert this summer.
     A number of San Diego classmates gathered at Coronado's Concert-In-The-Park at the end of July to enjoy the balmy weather and lively music. For a special treat we were joined by some Class of 2013 parents and midshipmen. Gathered under the Class of '63 banner were Karl and Marirose Kozak, Dave and Patti Meyers, Max and Edith Ricketts, Donna Kaup, Jay Roberts, Chuck Stone, Vern VonSydow, Lee and Sue Cargill, Charles and Nancy Helsper, Dave and Lana Moore, and me. A great time was had by all as we particularly enjoyed the enthusiasm of the young Mids who have yet to hear all our old sea stories! While we were there, the widow of member of the Class of 1994, Mary Ellen Bancroft, came up to me requesting a "1963" hat -- to mark her birth date! I gave her one of my spares.
At the Coronado concert

Class of 2013 parent Dave Austin with Nancy and Charlie Helsper

Donna Kaup, Marirose and Karl Kozak, Lana and Dave Moore

Patti Meyers, Edith and Max Ricketts, Chuck Stone

Bob Griffin '68, Lana Moore, Vern Von Sydow, Dave Moore, Donna Kaup, Jay Roberts

        Phillip's second report was about a San Diego picnic for members of the Class of 2013.
     Alumni, parents, and Mids gathered at the San Diego Alumni Chapter's Another-Link-In-The-Chain picnic on 13 August. This photo shows some of the 1963/2013 representation: Roy and Nilda Hansen, Phillip, Chuck Stone, John Austin, Roland Hansen, and Michael Reindle (2013), Dave and Patti Meyers, David and Luz Austin.
1963-2013 ALITC picnic

     Our classmates have enjoyed the opportunity to meet the 2013 Mids and their parents on several occasions this summer and look forward to including them in future Class of 1963 events. I recommend that our classmates seek out any 2013 parents and Mids in their area. One way to get started is to find the local rep of the USNA Parents Club, a very active organization. Check the link on the USNA Alumni website at
        As his final report for the summer, Phillip sent a note with this envy-inducing image.
     I joined classmates Dave Moore and John Peterson and eight other hardy souls for a 22-mile loop through the spectacular John Muir Wilderness south of Yosemite. The weather was perfect and the views stunning. The photo shows Dave, John, and me at Wilber May Lake on a day hike in late August.
High Sierra hikers

        Although many of our classmates felt the impact of Hurricane Irene this August, I have heard only two post-storm reports. Jim Metcalfe told me that Lettie and Ron Baxter rode out the storm in their home in Kill Devil Hills, NC. About two feet of water came into the ground floor of their house, causing significant damage. Storms can be capricious: their sailboat in the canal next to their house came through unscathed.
        The other storm news came from Watt Miles, who filed this item shortly after the storm passed.
In Norfolk, after the storm

     This photo shows me, Fred Beckham, my wife Anne, and Fred's wife Gloria on the deck behind our house in Norfolk just after the worst of Hurricane Irene passed in August. The signs we are holding say I-R-E-N-E, and yes, the end of the storm coincided with cocktail hour; why do you ask?
     Fred did not get enough sea time in his career, almost all spent in destroyers, so about seven years ago he and Gloria bought a 42-foot trawler, named it Slow Dancin' and cruised the Caribbean for six years. They have stayed close to CONUS past year or so. They hosted a party dockside in Annapolis at a Fifth Company mini-reunion Labor Day weekend in 2010. Working their way up the East Coast again this year when Irene kicked up, they tied up in a marina in Portsmouth and moved in with us for a couple of nights. We did about equal parts worrying and partying. Fortunately, Tidewater was spared the worst of it, and the Beckhams' boat came through OK. A few days later, just before Slow Dancin' headed north again, another Fifth Company classmate and destroyer sailor, Bob Lyons, joined Fred and me for beers. We may have told a sea story or two.
     On another topic, Joe Taussig, '66, put me onto a book written by his companymate Gary Blinn, who died recently. The book, Confession to a Deaf God, is about Gary's service in Swift boats. I have known more than a couple of Swifties (Bob Lyons being one of them), heard a few war stories, read some articles in various places, but never really got a comprehensive and insightful description of what that duty was like. It was a fascinating read, and I recommend it.

        Alan McAnally reported on the latest USNA company assembly, this one in a lovely part of New England.
     August was a good month on Cape Cod as it not only ducked the onslaught of Hurricane Irene but also survived what has become the annual 21st Company visit to Suzanne and Joe Collins's summer home in Pocasset, MA. For a good number of years now, Tom and Dolly Batzel, Wink Wilkinson and Carol Davisson, and Jack and Yvonne Saux have made the trek to this idyllic harbor to share good times and devour their share of the available lobster and seafood. Joe and Suzanne's hospitality and Yankee guidance have made this continually just a great week to get together.
     This year, the gang was joined for cocktails and dinner by Bud and Betty Small, who came over from Barnstable for the evening. Alan and Terry McAnally, who had come from California to Massachusetts to visit family and friends, were also able to spend an evening with everyone, enjoying cocktails at the Collins home and dinner at their golf club. It was a particularly great evening because Bud and Betty were unable to make the Mid-Term Reunion so there was a lot of nice catching up and more than a few laughs.
The 12th Company visits Cape Cod

     Here is a picture of the group at Joe's house. In the back row, left to right, are Bud Small, Tom Batzel, Joe Collins, Alan McAnally, Wink Wilkinson, and Jack Saux. In the front row are Betty Small, Suzanne Collins, Dolly Batzel, Terry McAnally, Carol Davisson, and Yvonne Saux

        Lou and I had a delightful visit from Ann and Tom O'Brien recently. While they were here, Tom told me he would be submitting a trip report for Shipmate. After far too many glasses of wine, he got me to agree not to exercise my editorial position to moderate his comments, especially since any credit is deserved by my wife. I'm keeping my word, but reluctantly.
     Ann and I were fortunate enough to win the San Diego Mid-Term Reunion's Silent Auction offering of three nights at Mike and Lou Shelley's beautiful home in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina. Our expected three-night "B&B stay" starting on 30 August turned into a wonderful, personally-guided, two and a half day tour of that beautiful part of our country, supplemented by morning, daytime and nighttime hospitality provided by the most gracious host and hostess you can imagine. Their personally-designed home with a rocking-chair porch provided a very relaxing getaway from the trials and tribulations of everyday life and led to much reminiscing of our Navy careers. Needless to say, the excellent Shelley wine cellar-provided libations led to some heretofore unknown disclosures which definitely will not be repeated here! Personally-guided tours to many local landmarks provided us with some spectacular views. We couldn't pass up the opportunity to tour the Biltmore Mansion in nearby Asheville and had a wonderful tour of a Tiffany lamp exhibition at the associated Antler Village.
Ann and Tom O'Brien visit the Blue Ridge

     On our second full day, we visited a local antique mall where we found a few treasures for our silver business. Walking around the lovely town of Brevard, there seemed not to be a storekeeper or person who didn't know Mike. He claims no political aspirations, but.... One objective during our tour was to spot the elusive Brevard white squirrels. Spending several minutes circling the grounds of Brevard College, all seemed lost, and Mike seemed to be really starting to sweat it, until Ann shouted from the back seat, "There's one!" Screech! "And there's another!" They were too far away for definitive photos, but we are now two more lucky ones who definitely can attest to the White Squirrel presence in Brevard.
Yes, they do exist!

     Lou's culinary expertise certainly was the icing on the cake for this visit. A chicken with fennel dinner, a wonderful breakfast quiche, plus her "So Good" breakfast loaf, and a salmon with pesto butter dinner were all "over the top" treats for us. We truly had a great time. The only regret taken away from this whole experience was that we had not taken Mike up on several prior invitations he had extended to "come visit." We had a most enjoyable visit, and we're so happy we won the bid!

        That's a wrap, folks. Thanks to everyone who contributed to our news exchange this month. Keep up the great work!

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