Dear Alumni Member:
It's hard to believe, but the calendar shows that the Pittsburgh Steelers are ready to go to training camp. What this means to us is that our Reunion is just about two months from now!
Thanks to all of you who have sent in your reservations (we currently have 50). I would ask those of you who are planning to come, but who haven't sent in your reservation as yet, to please do so at your earliest convenience. Remember, September 26 is the deadline for room reservations at the Greentree Holiday Inn. After this date, they will not be available. It will help us greatly in finalizing our plans, especially transportation requirements and hotel rooms, if you will send in your reservations as soon as possible. We have heard from several Stoddard alumni who have not been part of the organization but who have read about our Reunion from various publications. They have asked for detailed information and will hopefully be joining us in October. Again, we would urge any of you who have not attended one of these Reunions to seriously consider being a part of this one. We think you'll find it to be a most rewarding experience and a chance to rekindle some great memories and friendships. Phyllis and I had a great time in Jacksonville last year and hope to show you all an equally good time in Pittsburgh this year.
Before I review the schedule for the Reunion, a couple of notes:
Now, let me review the schedule of events on a day-by-day basis:
Wednesday, October 10 - The Hospitality Room at the Greentree Holiday Inn will be open from 3:00 p.m.
Thursday, October 11 - There will be a poolside welcoming barbeque, including live entertainment (weather permitting, otherwise indoors).
Friday, October 12 - After breakfast we will take a narrated tour of Pittsburgh, courtesy of Molly's Trolleys, including a ride on one of Pittsburgh's Inclines. Lunch will follow at the Grand Concourse Restaurant (a most unique setting), and then we will tour Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall. That evening, dinner will be served at our host hotel . . . it should be a lot of fun, as it will take the form of a Dinner Theater.
Saturday, October 13 - We will be picked up at the hotel and taken to one of the Gateway Clipper ships. We will experience an extended trip up the Allegheny River on what is titled a "Fall Foliage" Cruise. Coffee and donuts will be available upon boarding, lunch will be served while cruising, and on-board entertainment is provided. The trip will take us through several locks and dams, so it should be most interesting. That evening we will have our pictures taken for the "Memory Book," after which we will hold our banquet.
Sunday, October 14 - The host hotel will offer a "farewell breakfast" which will conclude the scheduled events.
A reminder that the "package" through the hotel ($250 for double occupancy and $345 for single occupancy, use the green registration form) includes:
If there is any part of the "hotel package" in which you don't want to participate, please call Rose Pascal at the Greentree Holiday Inn (412-937-1187), and she will change your registration amount to reflect the deduction.
Friday's activities (tour of Pittsburgh and Dinner Theater) are not included in the hotel package and require a separate registration (white registration form) and payment sent to John Stoyle ($45 for the Tour and $40 for the Dinner Theater).
We are looking forward to seeing you in Pittsburgh in October . . . until then have a great summer! If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to call us (412-486-1569) or e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org).
For those who ordered the Jacksonville Reunion Memory Book, we are truly apologetic for the delay in getting this Memory Book to you. The proof copy was finally received for our review last week. You should have your copy by mid-August. It has been a really trying experience. As you will see, John and Phyllis have selected another organization to prepare and publish the 2001 book. We thank you for your patience in this matter, and hope that the book, when it reaches you, will re-kindle wonderful memories of the great time we had in Jacksonville.
A Moving Encounter . . .
Some years ago, while leading a church group on a tour of Pearl Harbor, I stood among the clergy and their spouses in the gleaming white-arched and covered Memorial above the USS Arizona. One minister in our group, a man from Maine, had been there on December 7th, 1941 - the day the Japanese flew in to sink our Pacific Naval Fleet. He had not been aboard the Arizona, but his ship had also been hit. He described vividly the horror of being aboard the flaming and sinking vessel as bullets flew and bombs roared. As I listened, out of the corner of my eye I noticed a Japanese tourist entering the Memorial.
It was the man's fine clothes - long tie, buttoned sports jacket, and shiny brown lace-up shoes - that initially attracted my attention. In Hawaii, professionals like lawyers, corporate executives, soldiers and ministers seldom, if ever, wear ties or jackets. Even network television news anchors wear open-collared aloha shirts. This man, dressed as he was, stood out. Two women walked with him. The older one I took to be his wife, the other perhaps an older daughter. Both wore conservative dresses and fancy shoes. The man appeared to be in his sixties, and while he may have spoken English, I only heard him speak Japanese. In his left hand, he carried, almost shyly, an ornate and obviously costly multi-flowered wreath about eighteen inches across.
Our group's veteran continued to speak as we clustered around him. He described being caught below deck: feeling disoriented as the ship took on water where he stood, fire coming from above and the smoke stealing his breath. His buddy lay dead at his feet as the young sailor struggled in the darkness to escape, fear and adrenaline propelling him to the surface. Everyone in our group was so engrossed in his story, that no one, except for me, noticed the Japanese tourist and his family who walked quite near to us.
As I watched, the tourist stopped, turned to his wife and daughter and spoke to them. They stood quietly, almost solemnly. Then the man straightened his tie, first at the neck and then near the belt, and tugged at the hem of his jacket. As if in preparation, he squared his shoulders, took a deep breath, and then exhaled. Alone, he somberly stepped forward toward the railing at the water's edge above the sunken warship.
The other tourists swirled around him. From what I could see and hear, they were apparently all Americans. They were talking, laughing, looking, asking questions; some were listening to our minister's story, but none seemed aware of the tourist who had captured my attention. I don't believe the Japanese man understood the minister's words. As I listened to one man and watched the other, the Japanese tourist came to the rail, bowed at the waist, and then stood erect. He began to speak; I heard his words but could not comprehend then. However from his tone and the look on his face, I felt their meaning. His manner conveyed so many things at once - confession, sorrow, hurt, honor, dignity, remorse and benediction. When he had finished his quiet prayer, he gravely dropped the flowered wreath into the seawater - the same water the minister kept mentioning in his reminiscence - and watched as the wreath floated away on the tide. The man struggled to remain formal, to keep face, but his tears betrayed him. I guessed he must have been a soldier, a warrior of the air, whose own plane had showered the bombs and bullets that had torn through our sailors, sinking their ships. It struck me that he had come on a pilgrimage of repentance, not to our government, but to the grave site of those young men whose lives he had taken in the name of war.
Stepping backward one pace, the Japanese veteran then closed his eyes and bowed again, very deeply, and very slowly from the waist. Then he stood tall, turned around and rejoined his family. His deed done, they began to leave. All the while, our minister veteran continued his narrative. He and the group were oblivious to the poignant counterpoint occurring behind them.
But I was not the only American to witness the Japanese man's actions. As I watched his family leave, I noticed another American step away from the wall on which he had been leaning. He was dressed casually, and wore a red windbreaker with the VFW emblem on it. He had a potbelly, thinning hair and held his hat in his hand. I assumed the man was a WW II veteran. Perhaps he had served in the Pacific, I thought, and was himself on a pilgrimage.
As the Japanese family walked by him, the American stepped directly into their path, blocking their way. I immediately tensed, fearing a confrontation. The startled Japanese tourist, who had been deep in thought, stopped short, surprise and sorrow mixed on his face. His family, eyes on the ground, stopped abruptly, then crowded closer around him.
But the American simply stood at attention, once again a strong, straight-backed soldier. Then he raised his right hand slowly and stiffly to his forehead, saluting his former enemy. The American remained in salute until the Japanese, with dawning understanding, returned the gesture.
As the tourists milled by, the two men stood as if alone, joined by their shared pain, glories, honors and memories, until the American, while remaining at attention, slowly lowered his arm and formally stepped backward one pace. The Japanese tourist, when his arms were both once again at his side, bowed formally to the man in front of him. To my surprise, the American returned the honor.
Neither said a word. Neither had to. Their solemn faces wet with tears, expressed to each other in a universal language what could never have been said in words.
I watched as the two men, their reconciliation complete, went their separate ways, united in a way I had never imagined possible.
TAPS - Chaplain Pro Tem Joe Harpster reports . . .
Leonard Rostek sent word that Dean Ruck who served during WW II, passed away on April 28, 2001. Condolences may be sent to his widow Donna, at 1322 N. 4th Street, Chillicothe, IL.
We also learned that shipmates Howard Bohen of Albany, NY (51-54, GM2) died November 24, 2000 and Bill Springer of Mesa, AZ (WW II, GM2) died January 7, 2000. Please remember them in your prayers.
Museum of the Aleutians (Unalaska, Alaska)
Your Treasurer Jay Romack Reports . . .
Message from your Secretary . . .
We have "lost" the following members on our roster - the newsletter mailings have been returned undeliverable. James Baker of Amelia OH, the Bray brothers Herman and Sherman of San Diego, CA, John W. Fender, J.C. Harwell of Poplar Bluff, MO. If you know their whereabouts, please let your secretary know. More shipmates have been "found!" Our roster now boasts 492 names! The following bios were shared:
Willie Jones of Ionia MI (67-68) says: I was on the ship when it got hit, I helped fix the hole. I was the MR.
Chuck Fontanier of Houston, TX (68-69) writes: Howdy! I have been talking with Gary Neihaus and found your web site. I served in 1968/1969 with no duties assigned. I had just graduated from Oregon State University and was the junior ensign. Climbed on board as we went to sea in June of 1968. I am now a physician and surgeon in Houston, Texas and have been here for 20 years. I shuffled out of the reserves in 1993 after 25 years of affiliation, but not enough time for retirement benefits. Anyway, it was my coming down with mono while on the Stoddard that seeded my drive to go into medicine and be a good listener.
James Mills of Collinsville, MS (52-54) says: Stoddard was my first ship went to USS Tabberer DE418, Prichett DD561, USS Cascade AD16, Fleet Reserve Green Cove SPs, FL, USS Union AKA 106, USS Tioga County, USS Blue, Keywest, Florida and finally to good old GITMO Fleet training group where I retired. My wife and I have been married over 30 years and have 7 children, 5 living and 2 deceased. After the Navy I went to work for Delco Remy (GM Div.) and retired in March 1998. Haven't done anything since except enjoy myself with my 3 grand children, fixing to be a great grandpa.
Allan Plapp of Poplar Bluff, MO (65-66) reports: I left the ship & became Hospital Corpsman, thanks to XO Backus. He helped me on my career path. Went to Operating Room Tech School, Great Lakes. Transferred to Marines 1st MAW flying helicopter med-evac. Discharged from service to enter school and become a nurse anesthetic in 1977. I have been in solo private and group practices since. The last eight years I have been freelance, locum tenums anesthetist. Traveling the eastern half of the United States. I was married for nine years, then divorced for 13 years. I have now been married for six years to a psychiatric clinical nurse specialist with the VA. I got my pilot's license in 1969. I have owned a sailing charter service in the past. We enjoy travel adventure and exploring what the world has to offer. I have a stepson and grandson.
We have completed our plans for the 2001 reunion and we trust it will measure up to the high standards set by past reunions.
First of all the Greentree Holiday Inn will be our home base. It is located about three miles south of Pittsburgh, and 10 miles east of Pittsburgh International Airport. Before I lay out our day by day itinerary, let me tell you what our "Reunion Package" through the hotel will include:
The cost for this package will be $345.00 for single occupancy or $250.00 per person ($500.00 per couple) for double occupancy. It is important to note that this payment will be made between each attendee and the Greentree Holiday Inn via the official Reunion Reservation form which accompanies this letter. Please study the form and return it to the Holiday Inn as soon as possible.
Friday's activities are not included in the above "Package" and the payment for these activities are to be sent directly to John Stoyle. These activities include a guided tour of Pittsburgh (including lunch) followed by a Dinner Theater that night. Costs for these events per person will be $45 for the tour and $40 for the Dinner Theater that evening.
EVENT SCHEDULE ON A DAY BY DAY BASIS:
Wednesday, October 10 - The hospitality room will be available after 3:00 P.M. and for the duration of the event. Refreshments and plenty of naval conversation. As always, please remember to bring photos and other memorabilia that can be shared with your shipmates.
Thursday, October 11 - First "official day" of the reunion. A welcoming poolside BBQ is planned in the evening, with lots of good food & entertainment.
Friday, October 12 - Following breakfast at the hotel, we will be picked up at 10:00 A.M. for a narrated tour of Pittsburgh including a ride on one of Pittsburgh's renowned and historic inclines. Lunch will follow at the Grand Concourse Restaurant, one of Pittsburgh's finest, and then a trip to Soldier's and Sailor's Memorial Hall for a tour of military exhibits. The exhibits are displayed chronologically beginning with the Revolution and going through to the Persian Gulf War. In the evening we will be treated to a Dinner Theater which promises to be a lot of fun.
Saturday, October 13 - Breakfast can be purchased at the hotel or you can have coffee and donuts which will be served at our first event. This will be a "Fall Foliage Cruise" of approximately 20 miles on the Allegheny River aboard one of Pittsburgh's "Gateway Clipper" ships. We will be picked up at 9:00 A.M. at the hotel for boarding at 9:30. The cruise will include a buffet lunch, musical entertainment, bingo and an "Oktoberfest" song and dance review. If the weather cooperates, it should be a colorful trip and we will be passing through several locks and dams. Upon returning, we will have our official BANQUET beginning at approximately at 7:00 P.M. at the Holiday Inn. Photos will be taken preceding dinner beginning at about 5:30.
Sunday, October 14 - The hotel offers a farewell breakfast buffet.
Let me mention a few more items.
Reunion 2001, October 11-14!
President John Stoyle announces that plans are progressing nicely for your Reunion in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The date has been set - October 11-14 - so mark your calendars for our 13th gathering! Detailed plans and program will be announced in the next newsletter. It is going to be another grand event, and we know all will enjoy the hospitality of "The best city to live in the USA." As with previous reunions, the host hotel will honor the special rates for several days prior to and after our Reunion, so plan to extend your visit to the area.
Past President Joe & Jerilyn Robinson writes...
We are sorry for our delay in this latest correspondence. "Life" got very busy after our Reunion and we are still playing catch-up.
The 12th Annual Reunion is now history. A very happy and animated group met in Jacksonville, Florida. It was truly rewarding to meet so many "new" Stoddard alumni. To share their joy in meeting fellow shipmates for the first time in 30 or 40 or even 50 years was the very best part of our Reunion. As we think back on that wonderful weekend we know the highlight was the renewal of friendships, new and old.
Although the Reunion did not officially start until October 19th, a hardy group arrived early and quickly got involved helping with the preparations. Thanks to the Romacks, Owens, Honbergers, Brooks and Harpsters for all their help.
We had 139 attendees, including 73 alumni, a new record! 21 shipmates attended our Reunion for the first time. We hope everyone had a great time.
Thursday evening was our first event, a cruise along the St. John's River. We boarded the Lady St John Riverboat as a beautiful sun was setting over the harbor. A sumptuous buffet, a disc jockey and the happy chatter of reminiscences filled the evening.
Friday morning we traveled to the Mayport Naval Station. Although a light rain dared to fall, it could not dampen our high spirits. Mayport allowed us to hold our memorial service in the base chapel. It was a beautiful ceremony led by the base chaplain and assisted by our own worthy chaplain, Joe Harpster. A beautiful wreath was left on the altar to commemorate our departed alumni. In keeping with Mayport regulations, the wreath was brought out to sea by the first ship leaving port. Following the memorial service we were invited to tour a new frigate, the USS Doyle. It was a memorable visit. The Captain welcomed us aboard and presented a plaque to our own Captain Bill Hurst to commemorate our visit. Some of our "old" engineers enjoyed a very special tour of the Engine Room. We finished our Mayport visit with a wonderful lunch at the Ocean Breeze Club. The food and service was exemplary.
We proceeded on to Anheuser Busch for a tour of the Brewery while a more energetic group participated in our golf tournament at the Bay-meadows Golf Course. Congratulations to Shirley and Don Hummel who turned in the best scores.
Friday evening we enjoyed a grand buffet including prime rib, seafood, etc. Music, dancing and camaraderie completed a wonderful day.
Saturday took us to St, Augustine for a tour of our country's oldest inhabited city. It was a beautiful "Florida" day. Our guided tour brought us to the city's major tourist sites and then we enjoyed a delightful lunch at the King's Forge Restaurant. A weary group returned to the Embassy Suites to prepare for our Banquet.
We do apologize to those guests who did not get to enjoy the fried chicken and southern pork which highlighted our banquet menu. The Embassy had a major oversight and ran out of both dishes. Although our treasury did receive a substantial credit it was still a disappointment for an otherwise lovely evening.
Our annual business meeting was held following the banquet. The main order of business was the location of the 13th Annual Reunion. John and Phyllis Stoyle, attending their first reunion, graciously agreed to host the next Reunion in Pittsburgh, PA. We also authorized Dan Withers be reimbursed for the costs associated with establishing the USS Stoddard website. Finally, the officers for the upcoming year were selected. John Stoyle will be taking the helm as President, Marilyn Harpster will continue as Secretary and Jay Romack will remain our Treasurer. Joe Harpster will once again serve as our Chaplain.
Following the banquet and business meeting there were numerous prizes presented. We would like to thank Frank Buck for donating his beautiful pen and ink drawings of "Navy Life." They were certainly a highlight. Thanks also to the Goodwins and Derringtons for providing baskets of Texas and Louisiana "goodies" for our raffle.
The Kennedy Space Center was our destination for Sunday. We enjoyed our tour of the Center and almost saw the space shuttle return. Unfortunately, high winds postponed the landing.
We had a very busy itinerary and there were many special memories but the highlight of this Reunion was the Hospitality Room as it has always been. We got to see souvenirs, mementos and photos from WWII on. It was great fun watching the surprised faces as they opened their "Tee Shirts." Thanks to everyone who brought their treasures for us to enjoy.
As we said our goodbyes everyone promised to meet next year in Pittsburgh. We look forward to seeing you there and we wish you joy, prosperity, peace and good health in 2001.
The following alumni attended their first Reunion:
From Past President Bob Hoag . . .
I thought it would be a good idea to bring you all up to date on the status of our campaign to convince the Navy to name another ship (preferably a destroyer) after James Stoddard.
I have a fairly complete file on Seaman/Acting Masters Mate Stoddard during his enlistment in the Union Navy from September 21, 1863 to May 20, 1865. This includes letters written by Admiral Porter, the Squadron Commander, and CO of Marmora detailing the action at Yazoo City, and recommending Stoddard for the Medal of Honor. Also I have his enlistment and promotion records from the National Archives. However, aside from his reported birth location of Port Robinson, Canada West (now Ontario), we either have no, or conflicting, information about him. For instance, we do not know for sure in what year he was born. Various documents indicate anywhere from 1838 to 1845. Also, his Medal of Honor Citation indicates he had some association with North Carolina. In working with the assistance of North Carolina Archives, we can find no information that would indicate he had any connection at all with that State. Otherwise, we have been unable to find any information about what he did or where he went after the Civil War. Since Stoddard was a Canadian Citizen, I have located a History Professor at the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario who is going to try to assist me in locating some information about Masters Mate Stoddard. His particular research interest is in documenting the 30,000-50,000 Canadians who participated in the Civil War. Also, I have recently talked to Dr. William Dudley, the Director of Naval History who will assist us in locating the source of information (some of which is apparently incorrect) contained in the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships Vol VI. Now why is any of this important? If we can find some connection Stoddard had with a specific state(s) either before or after the War, then we can hope for strong assistance of the politicians from those states to lobby the Secretary to have another ship named after Mr. Stoddard.
As to the status of the request, since October 2000, I have sent a number of rather extensive letters to the Secretary of the Navy, 2 politicians in Washington State, the President/CEO of Todd Shipyards (where our ship was built), the Premier of Ontario, and the Canadian Defense Minister. To date, I have received a number of replies, and have been assured that there is a file started with our request in the Secretary of the Navy's office. Currently, I continue to try to locate information about Stoddard (the Stoddard Society is also assisting), and am waiting until a new Secretary of the Navy is confirmed before starting another letter campaign. I have already roughed up a number of new letters, and will request assistance from each of you in writing any and all politicians or influential people you know to lobby the Secretary of the Navy about our request. I will be bringing plenty of copies to Reunion, and will also provide a suggested letter in an upcoming newsletter. It is quite clear that this is all a matter of the squeaky wheel getting the attention. If enough of you write the Secretary, and request your politicians do the same, we will have the best impact on our request.
More later, and in the mean time, I would sure appreciate any assistance you can provide in locating information about James Stoddard. Many thanks to those of you, (especially Casey Jones, and Bob Wright) who have already sent me information.
TAPS - Chaplain Pro Tem Joe Harpster reports...
We have all heard the haunting melody of "Taps." It's the song that gives us that lump in our throats and usually tears in our eyes. Have you felt the chills while listening to "Taps?" or heard all the words to the song? Do you know the story behind the song? Shipmate Walter Roemke shared the verses and the story behind the haunting tune:
Reportedly, it all began in 1862 during the Civil War, when Union Army Captain Robert Ellicombe was with his men near Harrison's Landing, Virginia. The Confederate Army was on the other side of the narrow strip of land. During the night, Captain Ellicombe heard the moans of a soldier who was severely wounded on the field. Not knowing if it was a Union or Confederate soldier, the Captain decided to risk his life and bring the stricken man back for medical attention. Crawling on his stomach through the gunfire, the Captain reached the stricken soldier and began pulling him toward the encampment. When the Captain finally reached his own lines, he discovered it was actually a Confederate soldier, but the soldier was dead. The Captain lit a lantern and suddenly caught his breath and went numb with shock. In the dim light he saw the face of the soldier. It was his own son. The boy had been studying music in the South when the war broke out. Without telling his father, the boy enlisted in the Confederate Army. The following morning, heartbroken, the father asked permission to give his son a full military burial despite his enemy status. His request was only partially granted. The Captain had asked if he could have a group of Army band members play a funeral dirge for his son. The request was denied since the soldier was a Confederate. But, out of respect for the father, they granted him one musician. The Captain chose a bugler. He asked the bugler to play a series of musical notes he had found on a piece of paper in the pocket of the dead youth's uniform. This wish was granted. The haunting melody, which we now know as "Taps" used at military funerals, was born.
With much sadness we report the passing of:
Goan, Hubert (deceased, fall 2000)
Bohen, Howard E. (deceased, 11/24/2000)
Presgrove, Charles (deceased, 1/6/2001)
Handy, James D. (deceased, 1/23/2001)
We are deeply saddened by the passing of these shipmates. If any of you have a family contact for them, please let your Chaplain Joe Harpster know so that he may send a note of condolence and a prayer on behalf of all the Stoddard Alumni.
Your prayers are also requested for shipmate Perry Saunders, who is undergoing cancer therapy in Florida. Perry served aboard the Stoddard during the Vietnam period (66-68), as PNC. Some of you may remember reading, at the Jacksonville reunion, the touching memoirs Perry wrote about growing up in the south.
Museum of the Aleutians (Unalaska, Alaska)
The Aleutian Islands played a strategic role in the Pacific theater during World War II. Today, the remains of Dutch Harbor Naval Operating Base and the Fort Mears Army Post are among the National Historic Landmarks commemorating the Aleutian Campaign. Captain Bob Hoag talked with Mya, museum representative, at a show and learned of their interest in obtaining information about anyone who fought in the Aleutian Campaign. They would appreciate donations of memoirs or mementos from those who were there. They are particularly looking for a list of Stoddard shipmates who fought in the Aleutians, as well as pictures of our ship. If you have materials to send or would like to assist in compiling the list of shipmates who served then, please contact your Secretary Marilyn Harpster. A list and package can be put together, brought to the Pittsburgh Reunion for review by the membership and then sent to the museum from the Association.
Your Treasurer Jay Romack Reports . . .
The following is a summary status of funds in the Alumni's account. The ending balance reflects financial status as of 12/31/00, and does not include all of the remaining outstanding obligations relating to the 2000 Reunion:
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