Shipmate Column
October 2006

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.

        We have a very full report this month, so let's get right to it. We begin with an excellent report from Watt Miles about his company's mini-reunion earlier this year.
     In April, 10 members of the Fifth Company and their ladies gathered in Annapolis for a Spring weekend. We had two objectives: to have a good time, and to lay the foundation for a great 45th Class Reunion in 2008. Both objectives were achieved.
Fifth Company in Annapolis

This picture shows the attendees on Friday evening. In the front row are Watt Miles, Jerry Potter, Kate Maples, Anne Miles, Tom Selden, Joanne and Ben Redd. The middle row includes Wilson Harris, Sandy Klemick, Sharon Tebben, Anna Ossler and Nick Sim, Will Settle, Judy Gibson, Doris Selden, Betts Potter. In the back row are Ron Klemick, Dave Puckett, Ron Tebben, Hoot Gibson, Dave Maples. Polly Harris was also with us but missed the picture. Puckett and Settle were in town for a 1963 Foundation meeting and joined us.

We had a really nice time at the various activities, including a parade (It's true: we marched a lot better in our days.), a cruise on the Severn, a presentation by the Supt, a presentation about the Class of 1963 Center for Academic Excellence, a lacrosse game, a concert, and several casual meals together. Sounds like a crowded schedule, but it was actually a pretty leisurely pace. We had plenty of time together in the hospitality room at the Residence Inn, just sitting around talking about plebe year, duty stations, careers, friends, news of classmates not present, etc. We are past the age of worrying about career successes and measuring ourselves and others, and we just relaxed. Jokes and sea stories were told, adult beverages and snacks were consumed, we got to know our classmates' OAO's and found them to be charming; the bonds that were formed starting that hot summer of 1959 were found to be still strong. We tightened them, anyway.

We discovered that a Spring Reunion is a good thing. Annapolis is not so crowded. The Yard is more normal. The football game is missed, of course, but the trade-off is worth it. We all agreed that the combination of timing and being together at one hotel made for an experience that could only be improved by having more of us there. Accordingly, we decided to make a concerted effort to try to get at least 20 classmates and their wives to the 2008 Class Reunion.

        Here's a cautionary tale from Peter Featherstone that you should read carefully.
     After having had a stroke this May, I was well on my way toward a speedy recovery, both with my speech and physical therapy. My cardiologist had me do a nuclear stress test and cholesterol work-up. My heart was deemed good to go, but I had what seemed to be a small blockage, not even noteworthy if I hadn't had the stroke. The doctor deemed it inconsequential enough not to do an angiogram at that time.

Then, in the beginning of July, I was diagnosed with a hernia. The cardiologist said that maybe a pre-operation angiogram would be a good idea after all, just in case. Boy, was I surprised when I came out of the procedure and was told that I had one blockage at 90 percent in one coronary artery, and between 80 and 90 percent blockage in another. The doctor put a stent in the first one the next day, and the second one a day later. None of this would have been discovered if my cardiologist hadn't decided to do the angiogram as a precaution to surgery.

There are a few things I've learned in all this. Become your own advocate. I had to write a letter to all the doctors involved in my stroke to get them talking to each other about the timing of the hernia operation. And if a doctor even hints at the desirability of a procedure, demand that it be done. The angiogram potentially saved my life, but if it hadn't been for an impending operation, I might have waited till it was too late.

        Our West Coast stalwart Phillip Marsden, checked in with me twice this month. Before coming to his reports, I'll congratulate him and Martha on the arrival of their first grandchild, Katherine Amilia.
Proud new grandparents

     This summer I had an opportunity to visit my first and second class year roommate, Mal Schantz and his wife, Sarah, at their seven acre "plantation" in White Stone, VA. Mal and Sarah live in a renovated farmhouse next to Anti-poison Creek and are enjoying the relaxing country lifestyle. We had a nice visit during which we compared health charts, caught up with all the latest Ninth Company gossip and laid plans for the 45th reunion. (Mal and Sarah missed out at the 40th reunion as their waterfront property was right in the path of the storm surge. Fortunately, damage was minimal.) Here are three photos from our time together.
Sarah and Mal Schantz host Phillip Marsden

Mal and Phillip on the pier

The Schantzes at home

In early August, for the fourth year in a row, some of our San Diego classmates gathered in Coronado's Spreckels Park to share in the camaraderie and family fun of a band concert. Balmy weather and lively tunes entertained picnickers (from right to left) Ron and Dee Wills, Lee Cargill, Donna Kaup, Phillip Marsden, Chuck and June Stone and June's brother, George Carillon, from Tennessee.
Classmates in Coronado

        Mike Krause informs us that the Third Annual Inter Academy Golf Tournament was held at The Connecticut Golf Club on 13 July. Several of our classmates were there, including Bob Campbell, Erwin "Fred" Storz, Mike Pero, Bill Palafox, Robbie Newton, Rob "Blackie" Black, and Mike. Army won this year's event - for the first time in three tries -- beating the USNA contingent by three strokes. Also contending were one foursome each from USAFA and The Citadel. Mike supplied some photos. Left to right in the large group are Palafox, Krause, Campbell, Newton, Storz, and Black. The group of five consists of Storz, Newton, Pero, Palafox, and Krause.
Inter-Academy Tournament golfers

Storz, Palafox, and Newton

In the clubhouse

        Len Eaton checks in with a full account of his retirement, relocation, and other topics.
     Greetings from Green Valley, Arizona! After living in southeastern Pennsylvania for over 30 years, we decided three years ago that it would be nice to retire to an area of the country that would provide an opportunity to see and do things that we hadn't experienced on the east coast. My wife, Jana, and I had traveled throughout the country for business and pleasure and knew where we didn't want to live. Jana is originally from Wyoming and we both knew that with its cold winters it was not a choice for retirement. We have no family on the east coast. Our son, Brook, has a home in Los Altos, CA, and will be getting married in Carmel Valley on Labor Day weekend. Our daughter, Heather, is in the Foreign Service, currently stationed at the consulate in Osaka, Japan. She plans on a career in the Foreign Service. Moving to AZ places us closer to our son and in the same time zone for at least half of the year.

We both found southern AZ very much to our liking. Yes, it is warm in AZ! However, the humidity is low and, after experiencing the humidity in PA, we find the dry heat to our liking. The mountains in southern AZ are beautiful and in Green Valley, 30 miles south of Tucson, life is a little slower and there is not the congestion of Phoenix. We both like to swim and hike and in PA we made good use of a YMCA membership that allowed us to work out on a regular basis. Our new home in AZ allows us to continue these activities almost year round.

I retired at the end of July 2004 to prepare for open heart surgery and, being an optimist, to build a retirement home. One month later we paid a deposit on a new home to be built at Quail Creek, a gated Robson adult community here in Green Valley. It has a well equipped fitness center, two swimming pools, tennis courts, and a very nice golf course. The semi-custom home, a Santa Fe style, was completed this March. Last year, we sold our home in PA and have been living in an apartment while Jana finished her last year of teaching before retiring this June. Living in an apartment was an interesting experience after living in a big home for so many years. We now can appreciate a lot more the space that a home provides us.

Len and Jana Eaton near Da Nang

Len Eaton, cruising in Vietnamese waters

In July 2005, Jana and I spent a month in Vietnam and Cambodia. I was very impressed with the economic progress that Vietnam has made and how well we were received. Here are two photos from that trip. The picture of us was taken at the approach to Hai Van Pass just north of Da Nang. The other shows me aboard a Chinese Junk in Ha Long Bay in Vietnam. We cruised for three days and two nights in one of the most beautiful bays in the world. It is a must visit for anyone who does journey to Vietnam.

After returning to the U.S., I had successful open heart surgery in October, 2005, to repair my mitral valve. Fortunately, I did prepare for the operation by getting a lot of regular exercise which helped immensely with the recovery afterwards.

        In August, the Wall Street Journal's Opinion Journal published an article entitled "Football's Ultimate Fanatics on Parade." The article opened with a profile of our classmate, Washington Redskins Hogette Nick Nerangis. I encourage you to read the full text in the Pride and Tradition section of our web site at

Soon after the article appeared, Nick sent these comments to Jim Ring:

     At first, the thought was to have fun doing something crazy. But in the last nine years it has evolved into doing as much good for kids as I can, while I can. As the article correctly reports, the Hogettes, 12 in number, have assisted in raising over 100 million dollars for children's charities all over the country. We make over 100 appearances a year in addition to our games, TV commercials, and Redskin support. As strange as it seems, we are known across the U.S. The only sad part of the whole thing is visiting children's hospitals knowing that you can't tell the kids to get better because in many cases they never will. But the smiles we get while we are there are enough to make us keep trying to help.

        Zimm Zimmerman prepared this very colorful summary of his company's recent reunion in the Rockies.
     The 23rd Company held a mini-reunion in Creede, Colorado, on July 15-18. Creede is a small town high in the Rockies (Elev. 8,852 ft) on the Rio Grande River. Attendees included Bing, Bradford, Grabowski, Hoy, Ortwein, Von Sydow, and Zimmerman. Only the toughest of the 23rd Co. were willing to brave the high altitudes, wolves, mosquitoes, and breakfast burritos in Creede. Everyone commented on the success of the reunion. Though we are a little grayer and more wrinkled than we were on Graduation day, the days were filled with laughter, camaraderie, and several trout. We must warn the wusses who elected not to attend...the town motto of Creede is..."What happens in Creede, stays in Creede". Here are a few of the tidbits that we have agreed to talk about....
Intrepid fishermen in Colorado

Bill Bradford won the Rookie of the Year Fly Fishing award. Bill and Dick Ortwein were battling for the award neck and neck until Bill fell into the Rio Grande up to his neck. It wasn't that deep; Bill fell sideways. He almost got up, then fell again. Healy would have been proud of this fall, worthy of the Three Stooges. In recognition of Bill's achievement, he gets to wear Vern Von Sydow's straw hat next year if Gail doesn't throw it out before then.

Speaking of Vern, he brought his spinning gear instead of fly-fishing equipment. This is equivalent to Jeff Gordon arriving at a NASCAR event in a Model "T" Ford. Adding insult to injury, Vern insisted on using a spinning lure the size of a '57 Chevy Hubcap. Worse yet, he caught trout on the damn thing. More on Vern later. Steve Hoy caught the most and the largest trout. We were very proud of Steve until we heard about his other catch. Steve thought he had caught a huge German Brown Trout until he realized this trout was yelling and swearing at him in German........ Yes, he hooked Vern in the right cheek with his grasshopper fly. After some minor streamside surgery, the two were speaking to each other again. Steve did have a pretty neat fall over some rocks that drew blood but it didn't count because it was out of the water. Bill received more points on creativity and artistic presentation.

Dick Ortwein did well. He cast a fly like a pro and caught trout. He only made us nervous when he said that he thought that Creede needed a high-rise office building and he was the one to do it.

Zimm Zimmerman enjoyed the fishing and renewing of old stories with great company mates. He now returns to his cabin in Idaho, far away from those nice, normal militiamen and survivalists.

Bernie Grabowski was the group's official photographer, but was a little overzealous. With constant vigilance, we were able to attend to bodily functions with our back to his camera. Bernie has a telephoto lens and did get some great pictures of our mini-reunion.

Noel Bing is still trying to figure out how to explain the odd behavior of this aging group to the many friends he had made in Creede during his annual trek to the area to study wood carving. Noel won two awards, one for being the "Best Wood Carver" in the group (as there was no competition) and another for being the "Least Recognizable" due to nature's makeover. Noel is a truly accomplished carver and displays his Christmas carvings at numerous craft sale gatherings.... perhaps he does boats too.

One final item... On the first night together at the Antlers restaurant, we gathered for dinner on the deck overlooking the Rio Grande River. As we sat and ordered drinks , Vern pulled out blue T-shirts with gold letters spelling "NAVY". We all put them on and then posed for pictures by the railing. After taking some pictures, we headed back to our seats. We got a round of applause from the other diners. It was nice until a waitress came over and asked if we had been in the Korean War.....

Brand new Navy t-shirts

All in all, it was a great reunion and it turned out to be a lot more fun than any of us expected. We all agreed that the opportunity to share time together on an exclusive basis made this the best of reunions ... we also agreed that none of us had really changed much deep down inside, although nature had made some interesting alterations to the outer layer. We are already starting to think about another trip next year.

        And now my In-box is empty. There's plenty of room for your submission, so send it to me soon!

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   October 2006 
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 16 August 2006
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