A Summary of the USS Soley (DD707) Reunion
Marriott Chicago Naperville Hotel
12-16 September 2012
The 17th Reunion of the USS Soley (DD-707) Reunion Association was attended by 40 shipmates, and their wives, family members, and guests, for a grand total of 79. The reunion began on 12 September 2012, as attendees arrived throughout the day from all parts of the country. Some arrived a day or two early to take advantage of the extra time to finalize preparation of events, do a little sightseeing, or just relax. Some also stayed a day or two after the reunion to unwind and relax before their trip home.
One Plankowner, Mike Masciola and his wife Jean attended the entire reunion. Both seemed fit as fiddles. When Mike described some of the activities he is involved with back home in New York, it really put this sailor and other shipmates to shame, as many of us are younger, but not as fit and active as he is. Mike is like the Ever-Ready Bunny – he never stops going. Another Plankowner, Al Schowalter attended the Banquet only. Good to see you again , Al.
Widows of shipmates attending this year’s reunion included Joanne Broderick and Helene Wallace. Joining Helene was her daughter Paula. It was great to see them again. Another widow, Ernestene Eble and her daughter Lynn, who are regular attendees, were unable to attend and were missed by all. We are always happy and proud to have these members of the Soley family continue to be a part of our reunions.
Also attending was Eric Olsen, Bill and Heidi Olsen’s teenage grandson. This was Eric’s 2nd reunion and he has quickly become an honorary shipmate. Eric always volunteers to help out where needed, and we certainly appreciated his help throughout the reunion. He makes us feel young again, although it is becoming more and more difficult as the body doesn’t want to cooperate. Eric has enlisted in the US Marine Corp, with his active duty commitment beginning when he graduates from high school. We wish him God speed as he joins the other brave young men and women who help defend our freedom. Best of luck Eric. We hope to see you at future reunions!
We also welcomed nine shipmates and their wives who were attending their 1st reunion:
James & Lois Anders, Randy & Linda Burns, Ken & Janice Dry, Richard & Marian June, Tom & Susan Liewert, Dan & Catherine Onofrey, Brian & Alice Perkinson, Henry & Kathie Steare, and Dennis & Nora Vigil. Hope you enjoyed yourselves and will be back at the next reunion. If I missed anyone or listed you by mistake, I apologize.
The first official reunion event was on Wednesday evening, 12 Sept. We traveled by motor coach to downtown Chicago and Tommy Gun’s Garage, a replica of a roaring twenties speakeasy, where we enjoyed a great dinner and musical comedy review, complete with singing, dancing, and tommy guns. The food and entertainment was enjoyed by all. As in past reunions, Tony Vigna was picked out of the audience to go on stage and participate in a skit in which Tony was asked to impersonate James Cagney. He did a great job. When we got back to the hotel Tony said that was his last “free performance”. Next time he expects to be paid. I wonder if he has an agent. Thanks, Tony, for being a good sport.
On Thursday, Sept. 13, we again boarded motor coaches for a trip to downtown Chicago for a bus tour of the city and a stop at Soldier Field to see a Memorial Water Wall and statue, which is a memorial to all veterans. We then took a 1-hour narrated cruise on the Chicago River which highlighted the diverse architecture of Chicago’s downtown as it has evolved over the years. It was a great history lesson and fascinating cruise. After the cruise we were cut loose on the Navy Pier, the most visited tourist attraction in Chicago. The Pier was once used for shipping, naval training and even as a university. It has now been converted into a shopping, eating and entertainment complex. There is even a 16-story high Ferris wheel on the Pier, as well as the only museum in the USA dedicated solely to stained glass. Because we didn’t have much time to spend on the Pier, most of us only had time for a little sightseeing, lunch, and to buy souvenirs. A group of us had lunch at Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Co. (for you Forrest Gump fans), which had many shrimp and other seafood items on the menu. The food was great and the wait staff was really a fun bunch.
On Friday, 14 Sept. we traveled by motor coach to the Great Lakes Naval Training Center, where most of us went to Boot Camp, many years ago! As we entered the Base, a sailor boarded our buses and took us on a narrated tour of the base. Of course most of the buildings, as we had known them, had been replaced, but the tour was very interesting. We then had an excellent lunch at the Officers’ Club Port O’ Call Restaurant followed by our Memorial Service. Before our Master of Ceremonies, Jim Hawker, read the names of Soley shipmates who have passed away over the last several years, Jim related a story about his cousin Tommy Hawker, a sailor, who was killed in action during the Vietnam War. Tommy had volunteered for 3 tours and was killed in an 8 inch gun mount on the USS NEWPORT NEWS during his third tour in 1972. It was very moving. A note of interest was that at the last minute I was informed that the Base would be unable to provide the services of a Navy Chaplain, as all of the Base Chaplains were away performing their duties in support of our military operations around the World. Jim Hawker agreed to step up and say the appropriate prayers during the service. Thanks, Jim.
On Saturday, 15 Sept. there were no tours scheduled, so we held our business meeting that morning. The meeting began with first time reunion attendees being recognized. By all accounts they all had a great time. Reports by the Reunion Coordinator, Secretary/Registrar, Treasurer, Storekeeper, Historian and Webmaster were made. Items of interest were: 13 shipmates passed away since the last reunion, while several new shipmates were added to the Active Roster. Our Webmaster, Frank Chesla, informed us that our website continues to average 4150 hits per month. He also reported that he is continually updating our Rosters and that electronic copies are provided to all Committee members. The Soley Scoop, our quarterly newsletter, under the editorship of Chuck Bruce continues to provide members with interesting and information and great “sea stories”. Chuck asked that members continue to send him new stories. Elections were then held to elect or re-elect Association committee members for the coming 18 months. The results of that election are below. Potential sites for the next reunion were voted on and the top two sites were Norfolk and the Annapolis/Washington DC area. As the Reunion Coordinator, I will conduct research on both locations and based on my report to the Committee, a site will be voted on and selected by the Committee. The site selection will be published in the Soley Scoop as soon as it is known.
There being no further business the meeting was adjourned.
Committee Members and their Assistants elected for the coming 18 months are as follows:
Reunion Coordinator Mike Pollack
Assistant Reunion Coordinator Len Porter
Treasurer Jim Brown
Assistant Treasurer Frank Hawkins
Secretary/Registrar Skip Sharpe
Assistant Secretary/Registrar Bob Sefton
Historian Jim Hawker
Assistant Historian Len Porter
Ship’s Store Operator Mike Kranack
Assistant Ship’s Store Operator Dave Cummins
SCOOP Editor Chuck Bruce
Assistant SCOOP Editor Bill Smith
Webmaster Frank Chesla
Assistant Webmaster Len Porter
Welcome Jim Brown and Skip Sharpe, our two new Committee members. Also, a big thank you to Len Porter for agreeing to serve in multiple Assistant positions. Thanks, Len.
The remainder of Saturday was free and folks took advantage of sightseeing and shopping opportunities in the area, or just relaxed in the Hospitality Room visiting with shipmates and their families.
Our Banquet was on Sunday evening at the hotel. Jim Hawker again stepped up as Master of Ceremonies, overseeing the evening’s festivities. Included were introductions of our “Plankowners in Attendance”, our first-time attendees, shipmates who have attended the most reunions, reunion committee members for this reunion, and newly elected committee members.
We also had a special treat that evening as our Guest Speaker was Brian Perkinson, CPT, US Navy, Retired. Having served on the Soley from 1963 to 1965 as an Ensign and LTJG, Brian and his wife Alice were attending their 1st reunion. I served with Brian, 1963-1964, and it was great seeing him again after all these years. Following his Navy career Brian worked in the shipbuilding industry and headed up the design and production team for the Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) class destroyers. In his remarks Brian related his experience with that endeavor and his views on the Navy, past, present, and future. He also told some very entertaining personal “sea stories” about his time aboard the Soley.
First Timer Henry Steare presented the Association with a plaque he removed from the trash while the Soley was in the Portsmouth Dry Dock for FRAM in 1961. The plaque was removed from the Radio Shack door. Thank you Henry!
Following dinner, there was a 50/50 drawing, drawing for raffle prizes, that included many items donated by shipmates and their families, as well as door prizes, A big thank you to all those who donated items and to Dottie Vigna and her crew for selling many 50/50 and raffle tickets, which raised lots of money for the Association.
I’d also like to give a big “thank you” to my fellow committee members for volunteering their time and effort to help keep the Association going on a day-to-day basis, and for all their hard work leading up to and during the reunion. A special thank you to Mike & Pat Kranack for running our Ship’s Store and selling tickets for their special raffle. They sold a bunch of merchandise & raffle tickets this year providing the Association with much needed funds.
Also a big thank you is in order to everyone who attended and to those who lent a helping hand during the reunion. A great time was had by all, and we look forward to the next reunion.
Everyone stay healthy and spread the word about what a grand time we have at our reunions.
See you in Norfolk or Annapolis/Washington, DC – Spring of 2014. As I’m writing this article, I’ve already contacted the Norfolk Convention & Visitors Bureau and by the time you read this I will have begun evaluating bids from hotels.