A Summary of the USS Soley Reunion

Norfolk, Virginia, 23-27 April 2014

 

The 18th Reunion of the USS Soley (DD-707) Reunion Association was attended by 38 shipmates, 33 wives & significant others, 3 widows & 2 of their daughters, 1 daughter & her husband, and 8 other guests, for a grand total of 86.  The reunion began on Wednesday, 23 April, as attendees arrived throughout the day from all parts of the country. 

 

Two Plank owners were in attendance.  Mike Masciola and his wife Jean returned for their 13th reunion.  It was great to have them with us.  The other Plank owner and his wife were attending their first Soley reunion.  A big welcome to Bill and Jane McMurdy.  Bill served on the Soley from 1944 to 1946 as a Seaman 1st Class.  The McMurdys traveled all the way from Scottsdale, Arizona to be with us. Bill is still working as a barber, on his feet all day. Ouch, my aching back! 

 

Plank owner Al Schowalter, who has attended many reunions, was unable to attend but sent me a nice note sending his best regards to everyone.  Hope to see you next time, Al.

 

Widows of deceased shipmates attending this year’s reunion included Pat Kranack, Ernestine Eble, joined by her daughter Lynn, and Helene Wallace, joined by her daughter Paula.  It was great to see them again.  Another widow, Joanne Broderick who is a regular attendee, was unable to attend and was missed by all.  Joanne did send a note with a generous donation to the Association and wished everyone well. We are always happy and proud to have these members of the Soley family continue to be a part of our reunions.

 

We also welcomed 5 shipmates and 4 wives who were attending their 1st reunion:  Don & Dene Cook, George & Carolyn Stamps, Bill & Jane McMurdy, Chuck & Lynn Morton, and Lew Jones.

Hope you enjoyed yourselves and will be back at the next reunion.   If I missed anyone or listed you by mistake, I apologize.

 

I must mention that among our family members in attendance were Cathy and Tim Roberts, daughter and son-in-law of shipmate Ken Dry & his wife Janice.  Cathy & Tim were attending their 1st Soley reunion.  Cathy had back surgery shortly before the reunion and even though she had the staples removed from her back the morning of 23 April, she told her doctor “I will not miss the reunion”, and she didn’t, what a trooper.  Also a special welcome to her husband Tim, who is a retired Chief Gunners Mate. Both are now officially part of the Soley family. 

 

The first official reunion event was a Welcome Reception at the hotel on Wednesday evening.  Everyone had a great time getting reacquainted, meeting 1st timers and their wives, having a few drinks and enjoying the hors d’oeuvres.

 

On Thursday, we boarded motor coaches for a trip to Colonial Williamsburg for a guided walking tour of the restored colonial capitol.  The weather was great and everyone enjoyed the leisurely stroll down the main street as our guide explained how our forefathers lived when our country was in its infancy.  It was a great history lesson.   

 

On Friday, we traveled by motor coach, first taking a riding tour of downtown Norfolk, which has changed drastically (for the better) since most of us were stationed there aboard the Soley.   Our motor coach then took us to Naval Station Norfolk, the largest naval base in the world.  As we entered the Base, a sailor boarded our buses and took us on a narrated tour.  Of course most of the buildings, as we had known them, had been replaced, but the tour was very interesting, especially a ride by the Destroyer Piers where the Soley was once home-ported.  We then had an excellent lunch at the Officers’ Club.  After departing the Base, we headed back to the Norfolk waterfront for a visit to Nauticus – The National Maritime Center.  The Center was filled with interactive nautical and Navy exhibits. A fun time for all. 

 

Adjacent to Nauticus is the USS Wisconsin, the largest US battleship ever built – now a museum ship.  We toured the ship on our own and then headed for the fantail for our Memorial Service.  Colors were presented by a local Junior ROTC unit, all high school students.  They did an excellent job and did us proud.   Before our Master of Ceremonies, Jim Hawker, read the names of Soley shipmates who have passed away since the last reunion, he presented a plaque that he had professionally designed honoring Navy wives for all the sacrifices they make while their spouses are away “fighting the war”.  In particular, the plaque paid a special tribute to one of our own Soley wives, Heidi Olsen, who passed away several years ago. Heidi was the wife of Bill Olsen, who served on the Soley as a BTFN, 51-53.  Bill was in attendance to witness the unveiling of the plaque and was quite taken by it.  He expressed his heartfelt thank you for the honor.  The plaque was displayed in the Hospitality Room during the reunion, and will be brought back to each future reunion for all to see.

 

Following the reading of deceased shipmates, as Taps was being played by a Junior ROTC bugler, Pat Kranack, widow of Mike Kranack, assisted by widows Ernestine Eble and Helene Wallace and their daughters Lynn, and Paula, tossed the ceremonial wreath into the Elizabeth River to honor our fallen shipmates.  During the reunion planning I was informed that the Naval Base would be unable to provide the services of a Navy Chaplain for our Service, 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 morning the City of Norfolk hosted a NATO festival that started with a parade a few blocks from our hotel.  We were lucky enough to get seats along the parade route, courtesy of our tour company and the Convention & Visitors Bureau.  There were bands and floats from most NATO countries in the parade.  It was great fun to watch.  When the parade was over, we adjourned to browse the many festival tents that had been set up in an adjoining park for great food and souvenirs from around the World.

 

That evening we attended the Virginia International Tattoo at the nearby Scope Arena.  The Tattoo is also part of the NATO festival, and is held in Norfolk every April. It is a ceremonial performance of military music by massed bands, pipes and drums, drill teams, Scottish dancers, choirs, and more. The cast is over 700 strong from many NATO countries.  It was spectacular!

 

Sunday morning we held our business meeting in the hospitality room.  And, for the 1st time, the Reunion Committee decided that we should invite our wives, significant others, and widows to participate in our business meetings.  They are certainly a big part of our Soley family and should be recognized for their contributions by voicing their opinions and voting on all business issues.  They are now also eligible for election to Committee positions.  In fact, during the meeting, 3 were voted in as Reunion Committee members.

 

We then recognized first time reunion attendees.  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:  40 shipmates passed away since the last reunion, while several new shipmates were added to the Active Roster.  Our Treasurer reported that we have plenty of money in our account to pay our bills and still have a nice cushion in reserve.  I won’t go into all the numbers, but we are certainly fiscally sound. Our Webmaster, Frank Chesla, informed us that our website continues to see more than 1200 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, informative and great “sea stories”.  Chuck asked that members continue to send him new stories.  We also decided to query members who have e-mail capability to see if they would be interested in receiving their Scoop electronically, in PDF format. 

 

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, to be held in the Fall of 2015, were voted on and the top two sites were Myrtle Beach, SC, and Branson, MO.  I have already begun  researching both locations and will report my finding and recommendations to the Committee. The site will then 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                                           Shirley Brown

            Assistant Treasurer                            Jim Brown (Frank Hawkins, check signing if needed)

Secretary/Registrar                             Skip Sharpe

            Assistant Secretary/Registrar             Mike Pollack

            Historian                                            Jim Hawker

            Assistant Historian                              Len Porter

            Ship’s Store Operator                         Pat Kranack

            Assistant Ship’s Store Operator        Linda Folk

            SCOOP Editor                                     Chuck Bruce

            Assistant SCOOP Editor                      Jim Hawker

            Webmaster                                          Frank Chesla

            Assistant Webmaster                           Len Porter

 

Welcome Shirley Brown, Pat Kranack, and Linda Folk, our 3 new Committee members.   Also, a big thank you to Len Porter for agreeing to serve in multiple Assistant positions.  Thanks, Len.

 

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 “Plank owners in Attendance”, our first-time attendees, and shipmates who have attended the most reunions,    After a fine meal, we had a special treat.  The Commodores, a barbershop harmony group, entertained us with songs from the good old days.  They were great and were enjoyed by all.

 

Following the entertainment, there were 50/50 and raffle drawings.  Thanks to everyone who donated items and to Dottie Vigna and her crew for selling many 50/50 and raffle tickets that raised lots of money for the Association. For all her efforts over the years, the Association presented Dottie with a certificate good for a free night’s lodging while at the reunion.  Way to go Dottie.   Also, thanks to Pat Kranack for putting together a great raffle basket from the Ship’s Store that also raised lots of cash. 

 

I’d also like to thank 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.  Another special thank you to Pat Kranack for carrying on with the operation of our Ship’s Store after her husband Mike, our Storekeeper for many years, passed away in January.  Pat and her friend Rosemary (Chickie) sold a boatload (no pun intended) of merchandise & ship’s store raffle tickets providing the Association with much welcomed funds.  Thanks Chickie.  Hope to see you at the next reunion.

 

Of course any reunion wouldn’t be a success without everyone’s support by attending. So thanks to all that were there.  I look forward to seeing you again next time. 

 

Everyone stay healthy and spread the word about what a grand time we have at our reunions.

See you in the Fall of 2015, in either Myrtle Beach or Branson. 

___________________

Mike Pollack

Reunion Coordinator