Shipmate Column
November-December 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.

        It is my sad duty to begin this month's column with news that we have lost three classmates and a '63 spouse.
        Gerald (Jerry) Olendzenski died on 9 May in Conyers, GA. I do not have contact information for his family.

        We have just learned that James R. Fields passed away on 28 May. I have no contact information for his family.

        Ronald A. Boyd passed away on 9 September. His widow, Libby, can be contacted at 2349 Coral Stone, Fredericksburg, TX 78624. His obituary is posted in the Last Call section of our web site.

        Elise Browne, widow of our classmate Vern Browne, passed away on 22 September. Her residence address was 2801 Hawthorne Road, Tampa, FL 33611.

        Before moving on to other news of our classmates, this month we will start with a story about the happy result of personal service by a '63 spouse. In 1994, Sue Cole, Ben's wife, volunteered to be a bone marrow donor. She was notified eight years later that she was a match for a person needing a transplant. Sue donated marrow -- not a pleasant or easy procedure -- not knowing anything about the recipient. Two years after the transplant saved a child's life from leukemia, the American Red Cross, following its confidentiality policies, revealed to Sue and the family of Aaron Young each other's identity. Over the years, the Coles in South Carolina and the Youngs in London, England, have kept in touch. They had never met -- until this July when the Youngs traveled to America. Their meeting at the Coles' home near Pickens, SC, was a very emotional experience for both families. Aaron's mother Jackie said, "Aaron and we are only here because of Sue. She and Ben are absolutely fantastic people." Now 16, Aaron just graduated from high school and plans to attend college to study health and social care. This photo is from the Greenville News (SC).
Aaron Young and Sue Cole

        Faithful correspondent Alan McAnally filed this report about a 21st Company event
     A fine group of 21st Company folks gathered on Cape Cod this August. We have been doing this for a while and it seems to get better every year. Whether it is to enjoy a quiet cottage overlooking a scenic harbor, a round of golf, great beaches, or just visiting kids and grandchildren in greater Boston, Cape Cod inevitably draws a group of our companymates every summer. Again this year, Suzanne and Joe Collins hosted the group in Pocasset, as did Betty and Bud Small at their home in Barnstable.
     Pictured in the first photo below are Tom Batzel, Wink Wilkinson, Joe Collins, John Middleton, Alan McAnally, Bud Small and Jace Singler. In the second photo, taken at the Chart Room in Cataumet, MA, are (clockwise from the left) Betty Small, Tom Batzel, Dollie Batzel, Bud Small, Wink Wilkinson, Carol Davisson, Terry McAnally, Jace Singler, Joe Collins and Suzanne Collins.
21st Companymates on Cape Cod

Dining out

Host Bud Small cooking steak tips and his famous swordfish steaks

        Jack Hood tells us about his latest relocation.
     Ginger and I just completed our 19th, and final, move together from Iowa. We are now located at Ashby Ponds in Ashburn, VA, just a few miles from our oldest son in Leesburg. Ashby Ponds is a large retirement home with over 1,000 independent living residents, including 21 USNA graduates. The classes range from '46-'67 so I come in the third youngest. We have a great apartment but are out a lot of the time between the pool, fitness center, bank, medical center, fishing pond and other activities. Ginger has grown used to not cooking as we have a four course dinner in the great dining room every night. Our address is 21045 Ashby Ponds Terrace, Apt 402, Ashburn, VA 20145. Phone is 571-919-4861 and email is Super place to live.

        Walter Sickel tells us about his recent travel to a place few, if any, of us have visited
     I see my classmates talking about this trip or that trip and thought they might enjoy seeing a little about a different type of trip. I had a great time teaching a conversational English class in Mongolia this summer. I spent six weeks in Murun, Ulan Bator, and Terelj with the English Language Institute/China working with Mongolians to improve their English skills. This photo shows me and my class of 14 young ladies. Their class nicknames are on the cards they're holding.
English class in Mongolia

     English Language Institute/China is a Christian organization that sends Christians to various countries to teach (primarily) conversational English. The emphasis is on east Asia, but recently they have begun sending people to North Africa and the Middle East. This was the first time that I went overseas with that group. My wife and I had gone on a trip to China last fall and enjoyed it very much. In early December, an acquaintance at a Bible study group in Tucson asked if I might be interested. I had wanted to go to China, but, unfortunately, am too old. (Can't be over 65 for China!) Laos and Mongolia were open to me. I chose Mongolia, and the rest is history.

        Jim DeFrancia recounts a full weekend in Southern California.
     Cynthia and I made a short trip from the Rocky Mountains to Southern California to catch up with Classmate friends in early September. We started with a terrific dinner in Del Mar with John Ryan and his wife. Commenced with cocktails at 6:15pm and ended at 1am! We caught up on many years of family and experiences.
Very stylish gentlemen at the races

     The following day we joined Edith and Max Ricketts for a day at the track followed by dinner in La Jolla. This photo shows me and Max at the Turf Club of the Del Mar race track north of San Diego. My hat is the more "cowboy" style suitable to someone who lives on a ranch, while Max is attired in a more distinguished cover as befits his elegant demeanor. Max is a regular at the track and a member of the Turf Club, which was evidenced by his superior betting skills.
     Finished the weekend with lunch the last day with Mike Rubel in Newport Beach. He was fresh from the golf course and his usual skilled round.
     Everybody is in good health and good spirits, so that's as much as we ask at our age!
     Thoroughly enjoyed seeing all these old friends and looking forward to more of our California classmates come the 55th in 2018.

        Here's a note from Daryl Rabert about his return visit to the invasion beaches and other locations in Normandy
     The first week of May, a friend and I visited the beaches of Normandy. This was my second visit there, but this time we spent two full days with a very knowledgeable tour guide. Being with the guide gave us an excellent perspective of not only the invading forces, but also the view of the local citizens. Our tours included visiting Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword beaches; areas where the U.S. Army paratroopers landed; and interesting museums. The paratroopers' objective in the Utah beach area was Sainte-Mere-Eglise. This is the town which was prominent in the movie The Longest Day. As you see in this photo, the actor Red Buttons is still hanging from the church steeple.
The church in Sainte Mere-Eglise

     I was not aware of the length of time the Germans had been in France before the Allied invasion (approximately four to five years). The Germans poured many tons of concrete reinforced with steel to build bunkers lining the Normandy Coast. It is amazing that the Allied troops could take the beaches with all the strategically placed guns above the beaches. The local fields were also difficult to traverse due to the French bocage (hedgerows) which gave the Germans a perfect place to ambush the Allied troops.
Daryl Rabert at the Navy memorial at Utah Beach

     Taken at Utah Beach, this photo shows me standing next to a monument honoring the U.S. Navy. The inscription reads, "To the officers and sailors of the United States Navy whose competence, courage, and sacrifice enabled Operation Overlord, the greatest amphibious invasion in history. Their selfless cause was to destroy tyranny and restore freedom and self determination. The fallen will never be forgotten; the veteran will ever be honored. In grateful appreciation, The Naval Order of the United States."
     The cemeteries were very moving and gave me a moment to stop and think of all the Americans who lost their lives in the invasion of Normandy.
The American cemetery

        Extending a strong tradition for another year, several members of the 23rd Company came together in late August for their 10th annual sportsman's outing. They returned this year to the Grosse Savanne Waterfowl and Wildlife Lodge about 20 miles south of Lake Charles, LA, where they had gathered two years ago. Harry Hirsh, who chronicled the event for his companymates, noted that the facilities were excellent, the staff very accommodating and the guides very attentive. Planning for next year has already begun. Left to right in the photo below are Mike Bonsignore, Zimm Zimmerman, Harry Hirsch, Vern Von Sydow, Flack Logan, Bob Maier, Wayne Clark, and Steve Leisge.
23rd Company sportsmen

        Earlier this year, my 4th companymate Mike Blackledge mentioned that he still uses the mathematics prize he received at the Academy. I asked him to provide some background information to share with you. Here it is:
     This is an anecdote I haven't told anyone in 50 years: My prize was a gold watch presented by the Veterans of Foreign Wars. I was instructed to go down to the Mid Store with the announcement letter and "pick out any watch I wanted." So I went down and picked out, as I recall, a cool blue digital watch, probably by Seiko or some such. I took it and the letter up to the counter and was informed, "No, you can't choose this watch." "What? Why not?" "There is not enough room on the back to engrave "Presented to Midshipman Michael Allan Blackledge by the Military Order of Foreign Wars for Excellence in Mathematics -- June 1963". As you might imagine, that rather severely limited the selection of watches. I tried to tell them that was OK, I didn't need to have it engraved, but ... that was not an option. I still have the watch -- a Wittnauer -- today, and I even wore it some last month. It is engraved on the back with a very, very, very small font, but it is engraved as stated. It's analog, of course, but it is 'automatic' (self-winding). The trick is you need to keep wearing it for it to keep winding. Here is a picture of the watch. The engraving may not be legible to you, but it has held up well.
The prize watch

     The recognition did not help in my early career as an Air Force officer. The Air Force sent my transcript to Stanford to begin my masters in Mathematics, and Stanford sent it back, saying something like "Mr. Blackledge has not had a sufficient grounding in mathematics to begin a Masters of Mathematics at Stanford University." Apparently undaunted, the Air Force sent the package to North Carolina State, which accepted me, but used up most of my first year with 'remedial' math courses.
Lunching in Santa Fe

     In current news, Bonnie and I lunched with Ed Hutcheson at Maria's Restaurant in Santa Fe, NM, on 7 August.
     We first met Ed when he and Dave Moore passed through Albuquerque in February 2011, on their way to meet up with some other classmates for skiing in Northern New Mexico. They arrived along with one of those 50-year snowstorms and were pressed into service shoveling out Bonnie's house and sidewalk area. Since then, business has brought Ed back to Albuquerque twice, both times teaching a class at Kirtland AFB on his specialty, DOD Facilities Maintenance Services Contracting. This is apparently a best-seller, for although Ed is looking to ease out of the business, he is still in demand.
     Ed was a leading gymnast at the Academy despite having no prior experience in gymnastics. When he entered USNA, he went out for the Plebe Dingy Squad (no experience there, either). One day he was walking by the gym, went in, saw a low bar, and started twirling around on it, something he had always enjoyed as a boy. A '60 firstie happened to walk by, saw the display, and asked Ed what sport he was involved with? "Plebe Dinghy Squad, sir!" said Ed. "Well," said the firstie, "Starting tomorrow you are going out for the plebe gymnastics team." And thus it came to be: four years as a specialist on the horizontal bar (in our days, the NCAA allowed gymnasts to participate in only one event), resulting in the award of the Stanford Nall Memorial Gymnastics Award as the outstanding member of the USNA gymnastics squad in qualities of character, leadership, and sportsmanship. I think this means that he can never run for political office in this country. He didn't get a watch, but his name is engraved on a trophy that will be around forever.

        Sandy Stoddard prepared this account of the USNA '63 Ski Team's most recent assembly.
     For those sweltering in fair weather heat, this is a cooling submission from last winter. For the 15th straight year, six 63ers met for a week of reunion skiing. With a core four from 10th Company (Gary Hosey, Ed Hutcheson, Sandy Stoddard and Bob Tieslau) the group is nicely rounded out by Dave Moore (14th) and Gary Thomas (13th). We've skied throughout the west, with this year's adventure being in Central Colorado in February at Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, and Beaver Creek. At Copper Mountain, we had a special treat, being hosted by Larry "Bear" Astor, a fellow 10th Company mate. Larry is a staff trail guide and a fabulous skier. Although the rest of us may be slowing down a bit with age, we still have our schuss-boomers and others scrambling to keep up. Next year, we're booked for a week at Mt Bachelor, near Bend, Oregon. We've got the ever elusive goal of reaching the age where a ski pass is free. Think snow!!
Moore, Hosey, Stoddard, Tieslau, Thomas, and Hutcheson

Moore, Thomas, Hosey, Astor, Hutcheson, and Tieslau

        Larry Astor sent this addendum to Sandy's report.
     After putting my skis away in the middle of June, I still get no rest! Besides skiing for the Forest Service in the winter as a Snow Ranger, I also patrol for them in the summer before I head up to Tahoe (at the end of August). To prove that I get no rest, here I am patrolling last month high above Hoosier Pass in the famous Bemrose Ski Circus terrain. Work, work, work!
"Bear" Astor in his workplace

        Most of the time, folks send their travel reports after they return home. Derek Simmons didn't wait, and submitted this mid-trip status report in early September.
     The McCabes (John and Diane) and the Simmons (Dana and Derek) are in London. We're here for five days before meeting our ship in Southampton for a 12 day British Isles cruise. We are here celebrating 100 years of marriage--50 each. Here's a picture of Diane, Dana, John, and me.
McCabes and Simmons in London

     The other photo was (ostensibly) taken at Number 10 Downing Street waiting for Prime Minister May. Actually it was taken in the Churchill War Rooms beneath Whitehall from which he directed Britain in WWII. The door was the one Churchill used during the war.
Churchill's door

        Joe Kotowski told me about a lengthy profile of George Emery in the Kennebunk, ME, newspaper. It's a very interesting article about his career, life in the submarine force, and his current leadership of a major expansion project at the local public library. You can see it by clicking HERE
        I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

        In keeping with the football season, we'll end with this photo from the '63 tailgate at Navy's first home game this year. Beat Army -- and all the others !


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