1971 - Present
The idea of a reunion was conceived in the summer of 1970 by three WWII Fletcher men who attended a League of Naval Destroyermen meeting in Boston. Former Ensign Basil Bowman and former engineering Yeoman Ray Allen were present with their wives along with Fletcher's first Executive Officer, Admiral J.C. Wylie who was the Commandant of the First Naval District at the time and a guest speaker at the event. Dr. Ray V. Allen, a dentist from West Virginia, was obsessed with the idea of a Fletcher reunion and it was he who announced that the next year, 1971, the USS Fletcher DD-445 would hold it's first reunion in conjunction with the League of Naval Destroyermen event in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania. He went to Washington, DC and at the Navy Department he located and photocopied the ship's rosters, starting with the commissioning roster report of 30 June 1942.
Summary of all past reunions
1971 Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania: The first official reunion of the DD-445 was a success. Of those who attended, some were among the crew aboard the night of 13 November 1942, the night, "Lucky 13" became the ship's good luck omen. The reunion was hosted by the League of Naval Destroyermen. The first order of business of the newly formed reunion group was the election of Officers. The officers elected were Ray Allen "Commodore"; Olon Henderson "Vice Commodore"; and Keith Snyder "Secretary". Millard Blevins accepted the responsibility of "Historian" and immediately began searching the historical files of the ship's activities. Blevins, Ray Allen, and Mary Handley spent hours in the Navy Archives searching for and photocopying Daily Reports, Battle Action Reports, etc. accumulating facts about the DD-445. Dan Davis and his wife, Beverly, volunteered their computer services to program pertinent information.
1972 Point Comfort, Virginia: The second reunion was also held in conjunction with the Navy League of Destroyermen, August 2nd through the 6th at the Hotel Chamberlin. There were 29 Fletchermen with their wives in attendance, which was the largest representation of any WWII destroyer at this event. Point Comfort is part of the Norfolk, Newport News and Virginia Beach metropolitian area.
1973 Nashville, Tennessee: Olin and Jeanne Henderson and Frank and Judy Harrell, hosts, at the Holiday Inn Parkway. Forty-three of the crew attended who, with their wives and guests, totaled over 100 of the Fletcher "Family" enjoying three days in Music City, USA. The highlight of the reunion was Minnie Pearl attending our breakfast and entertaining us for 30 minutes.
1974 Chicago, Illinois: Aenos and Evelyn Rogers and Frank and Minnie Andrews, hosts, at Caesar's Inn. The "Early Birds" had dinner at the Willow Grove Ballroom where they listened and danced to Big Band of the 1930's and 1940's. A tour took attendees through a newspaper plant, atop the Sears Tower, the tallest building in the world, to the museum and aboard a WWII German Uboat, the U-505. Twenty-nine of the crew plus family and friends attended.
1975 Charleston, South Carolina: Bill and Mildred Ashley, hosts, at the Francis Marion Hotel. The tour included going to the Charleston Navy Yard, a cruise of the harbor with a history of Charleston being narrated, and a tour of historical homes. The Saturday night dinner-dance was a gala affair. Admiral William M. Cole, our commissioning Commanding Officer, met with us for his first reunion. He draped the podium with the Battle Flag that was flying the night of November 13, 1942, creating an atmosphere of reverence and pride to those present who were on the ship that unforgettable night during the Battle of Guadalcanal.
1976 Point Comfort, Virginia: Bob and Garnet Yates, and Warren and Delta Broome hosts. Held at the Hotel Chamberlain which overlooks Hampton Roads and provided a feeling of nostalgia to those who remembered sailing through the roads on their way to the South Pacific in 1942. Fifty Fletchermen along with their wives and friends attended. "Plank Owner" certificates were presented to each man present who commissioned the ship in 1942.
1977 Alexandria, Virginia: Warren and Delta Broome, hosts, at the Holiday Inn. The highlight of this reunion was a VIP trip through the White House. Each guest was greeted individually in the Rose Garden by Mrs. Jimmie (Rosalyn) Carter. Mrs. Carter accepted a beautiful quilt made by Mrs. Ruth Callahan, who presented it to the First Lady and President Carter as a gift from the Fletcher Reunion. There were 57 shipmates, plus their families and friends at this reunion, which included "13" new "Plank-Owners" attending their first reunion. Each received his certificate from Captain Cole.
1978 St. Louis, Missouri: Basil and Ginny Bowman, hosts, at the Holiday Inn. Activities included a tour of St. Louis that included learning how beer is made and sampling the finished product. There was also the dinner and melodrama on an authentic Mississippi River "Show Boat". A total of 128 attended reunion with 55 being crew members. A feature of this reunion was the launching of the six foot (radio-controlled) model of the DD-445, built by Fred Campos of Wichita, Kansas. Television and newspapers covered this activity.
1979 San Diego, California: Waldo and Faynette Dickenson, hosts, at the Town and Country Hotel. The Fletcher Family went West for the first time. 59 of the crew along with their wives, families, and friends making a total of 139 attended this reunion spending several days together and a tour of the San Diego Zoo. Many West Coast shipmates attended their first reunion, one being Adm. Frank L Johnson, the DD-445's second Commanding Officer. Historian, Millard Blevins, displayed Adm. Johnson's USS Fletcher War Diary, and the radio-controlled model of the DD-445.
1980 Biloxi, Mississippi: Joe and Mary Howell, hosts, at the Howard Johnson Inn. This reunion was held in Biloxi for a very special reason. The new USS Fletcher DD-992 was being completed in the Ingalls Ship Building Yard in Pascagoula, Mississippi and the 165 Fletchermen, their wives, and others were honored guests for the commissioning ceremonies on 12 July 1980. Admiral Cole, the DD-445's first Commanding Officer, participated in the commissioning and said: "It is with great pride that the Fletcher Reunion Group of the DD-445 helped send the new Fletcher on its way to join the operating forces of the United States of America." "We come to transfer to you our Fletcher's most powerful weapon--the Fletcher Spirit." "It comes to you free, but each of you will have to pay your dues from here on." It was with great pride that the reunion group of DD-445 helped send the new Fletcher on it's way to join the operating forces of the United States Navy. Going with the DD-992 was the DD-445's ship's bell and ship's wheel. The Fletcher Reunion Group also donated a color television set for the crew's mess deck.
1981 Kansas City, Missouri: Andy and Pat Kryworuchenko, hosts, at the Continental Hotel. Andy, a DDE-445 crew member, and his wife, Pat were the first post WWII members to host a reunion. They attended their first reunion the year before in Biloxi and caught the disease known as "Fletcheritis:, then returned to Kansas City and planned the next reunion. A tour took members to historical and interesting places, including the Truman Library. The spacious and comfortable Hospitality Room provided a place for much conversation, laughter, and good fellowship. Millard Blevins' exhibit in the adjacent History Room provided much interesting reading for many.
1982 Jacksonville Beach, Florida: John and Elizabeth Grisham, hosts, at the Ramada Inn Oceanfront. This was the 40th commissioning anniversary reunion. Those attending were privileged to be guests of the Navy again. Admiral Train, CinC Atlantic Fleet, assigned the USS Samuel Eliot Morrison (FFG 13) to host the Fletcher Reunion on a day's cruise out of the Mayport Naval Base. Captain Andrews, his officers and men made this the highlight of the reunion. A welcome ceremony on the fantail, escorted tours of the ship, picnic lunch on the fantail, and sincere hospitality made this another memorable experience for members of the Fletcher Family. Present were 68 of the crew plus wives and friends totaling 149 in attendance at this reunion. The event included a tour of St. Augustine and Marineland, WWII movies of the South Pacific Campaign, and much fellowship.
1983 Reno, Nevada: Max and Ester Ewing and Jim and Daibe Fallis, hosts, at the El Dorado Hotel. Other members of the California group gave them a hand. "The Biggest Little City" in the world had much to offer. Activities included an MGM Stage Show "Hello Hollywood Hello," a bus tour to Lake Tahoe and a lunch cruise on the lake. This was a scenic trip to be remembered. The tour guide narrated a little bit of history of the lake and some folklore of former residents of the area. Several members of the group took side tours of Carson City and Virginia City. And as always there were the casinos. Seventy-four shipmates plus wives and friends were in attendance.
1984 Nashville, Tennessee: Jeanne Henderson, host, at the Opryland Hotel. Approximately 80 shipmates along with wives and friends attended this second reunion in this country music city. The Vice Mayor presented Admiral Cole with a key to the city. A bus tour took included a drive by some of the homes of country music stars, a visit to Twitty City, and on Friday night everyone attended a show at the Grand Ole Opry. During the Saturday morning meeting, Captain.Monroe presented a slide show of the USS Fletcher. Several people attending the reunion spent a day at Opryland. The Saturday night banquet and dance included dancing to the big band music of the 30's and 40's. Coming all too soon was Sunday morning when everyone said their goodbyes until next year.
1985 Alexandria, Virginia: Capt. R.R. Green and Millard Blevins, hosts, at the Holiday Inn. This city is a favorite for history and sightseeing. The group visited the museum at the United States Navy Shipyard in Washington, D.C. Admiral William M. Cole presented the American flag which was flown on Fletcher during the Battle of Guadalcanal, 13 November 1942. Mrs. Verna Perry presented the Congressional Medal of Honor to the museum which belonged to her son, Elmer C. Bigelow who was killed by Japanese gunfire on Fletcher in February 1945 during the retaking of Corregidor. Later there was lunch at the Officers Club and a banquet and dancing. This reunion received national TV coverage. Mrs.Keith Snyder (Jane) sent a Fletcher cap and information regarding the reunion to Willard Scott, weatherman for NBC's Today Show. The group learned its way around the area on the Metro System making it possible for them to visit many historical sites in and around Washington, D.C.
1986 Portland, Oregon: Don and Martha Dahlke and Bill and Helen Muchow, hosts, at the Hilton Portland. Fun and adventure on the West Coast, salmon fishing, golf, along with special treats from the State of Oregon made this a memorable reunion. Tour buses took the group to beautiful Mt. Hood where they enjoyed the scenery, snow, and skiers during the latter part of the month of August. Everyone seemed to want to dance or tap their feet to the orchestra on Saturday night as the band played music that brought back so many memories of the big band era. At the banquet Ray Allen and Walter Claassen made a toast to the distinguished and revered guest of honor, Adm. William M. Cole. "To one of the truly great people of the United States Navy, due to his skill we were able to come through the days of the Pacific War unscratched and few casualties." Gifts were given to Ray and Lil Allen in appreciation of their efforts throughout the years for making the reunion bigger and better.
1987 Charleston, South Carolina: Bill and Mildred Ashley, hosts. The 17th annual reunion was a return to Historic Charleston where there were many first-timers who enjoyed the beautiful old homes and the tour of the ships in Charleston harbor and the southern hospitality of the area. The hospitality and history rooms were great gathering places. 51 Fletchermen attended along with their wives and friends.
1988 Memorial Underway Cruise, San Diego, California: Faynette Dickenson, host. Although not a regular annual reunion, this deserves mention because many Fletchermen showed up to make a special memorial cruise on the USS Fletcher DD-992 on May 31, 1988 thanks to Commanding Officer Commander Gene Kendall and the crew. Attendees stayed at various hotels and the Hospitality Room was at the Holiday Inn.
1988 San Antonio, Texas: Arnie and Ellie Reiner, hosts, at the Sheraton Seven Oaks Motor Inn. Deep in the Heart of Texas a warm glow came not only from the special San Antonio food at the Lone Star Brewery, but also from the great fellowship of all shipmates and friends. Everyone enjoyed a tour to the Alamo and the Riverwalk. The most rewarding time came when a Friendship Quilt was presented to our Commodore and his wife, Dr. & Mrs. Ray Allen. All blocks of the quilt were made by members of our Fletcher Family. A total of 174 Fletchermen and guests attended.
1989 Sacramento, California: Jim and Daibe Fallis & Tim and Marcella Elder hosts, at the Holiday Inn which was located in the downtown area of Old Sacramento where there were many interesting places to visit and shop within walking distance. The group enjoyed a luncheon cruise on the Sacramento River. 152 attended our banquet and dance on Saturday night, which was the highlight of the reunion. Fred Ward joined the band by singing a few songs including "I left my heart in San Francisco" and "I'll See You in My Dreams”.
1990 Minneapolis, Minnesota: Don and Hazel Holmes & Pat and Warren Seim, hosts, at the Minneapolis Marriott Hotel. 137 attended including 53 shipmates. Tours included a Fort Snelling, downtown St. Paul and Minneapolis, and the Stroh's brewery where there was lunch and a free beer. There was also a tour of a frontier museum and lunch at a historical home next to the Governor's Mansion. The Saturday night banquet was exceptional as usual.
1991 Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Jim and Charlotte Setter, Charles and Helen Bender, Millard and June Blevins & Warren and Delta Broome, hosts, at the Holiday Inn. Tours included a visit to Nottoway Plantation built in 1859 and a tour aboard the USS Kidd DD-661, a Fletcher-class destroyer in WWII configuration. A memorial service was held in front of mount 51. There was also a tour of Baton Rouge and a visit to the grounds of Louisiana State University, the State Capitol, and a walking tour of a pre-Civil War plantation. At the Saturday night banquet, Tom Chesnutt gave the invocation and Frank Harrell a recitation on the meaning of the American flag. Dinner and dancing followed. Everyone was looking forward to the 50th anniversary of the commissioning of the Fletcher the following year. Seventy-eight members with wives and guests brought the attendance total to 172.
1992 Norfolk, Virginia: Fred and Betty Ward, hosts, at the Howard Johnson Hotel. A total of 183 guests attended this reunion with 88 of these being Fletchermen. There were quite a few early arrivals on Wednesday and the hospitality room and history room were open for them. On Thursday everyone enjoyed a wine and cheese welcome party put on by the hotel. On Friday after a group breakfast there was a tour through the scenic Virginia countryside to Colonial Williamsburg where everyone had lunch and shopped. On the way back to the hotel the group visited the quaint village of Yorktown. On Saturday there was a trip to the naval base and a lunch in the galley with active duty military personnel.
1993 Bellevue, Washington: Jack and Lil Mills, Don and Martha Dahlke, Tim Elder and the Howard Peterson family hosts, at the Bellevue Inn. Howard (Pete) passed away shortly before the reunion but his family attended en masse. Brian, his son, spoke at the reunion and told of his father's love for the Fletcher and the reunions. There were 56 Fletchermen attending this reunion and 133 total in attendance. An area tour included the Space Needle from which there is a spectacular view. The hospitality room was well stocked and the history room keeps getting more material and was visited by many.
1994 Dayton, Ohio: Norb and Lois Bender and Babe Allison and daughters Sandy & Marylin, hosts, assisted by the Knipp & Seibel families, at the Holiday Inn in Miamisburg, Ohio. The CO of the DD-992 honored this reunion by sending one of his ship's crew, Trent Keffer, as a reward for some of his accomplishments. It is believed that petty officer Keffer was the first DD-992 sailor to attend a Fletcher reunion. There were 58 Fletchermen and with wives and friends, a total of 126 enjoyed this reunion. The Early Bird tour Thursday included a stop at Carillon Park which included seeing the third airplane built by the Wright brothers, the beautiful Bell Tower and historical displays. There was also a narrated tour of the area and a visit to the Esther Price candy factory. Friday, after a breakfast and talk the group visited the Air Force Museum. the oldest and largest Air Force Museum in the world.) At the Saturday evening banquet the group was honored to have Vane Scott, President of the USS Radford Reunion Association, as a speaker. Vane is cofounder and retired general manager of the Colonial Flag Company. The dance band was great and Vane Scott and John Wall entertained us with a song.
1995 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Jerome and Norma Koch and Stan and Mary Cebulewski, hosts, at the Holiday Inn, Philadelphia Stadium. This was the group's 25th annual reunion so it was appropriate to hold it in the City of Brotherly Love and the nation's capitol from 1781 to 1804. With the Koch family manning the hors d'oeuvres for the hospitality room, there wasn't anyone who didn't sample some of the tasty food. Tom & Betty Chesnutt donated pecan rolls which they have done for many years. Philadelphia's Mayor welcomed the group to the reunion and also spoke at the banquet. There was a trolley tour of the city with stops at all the historical places. Some members visited the Veterans Hospital where stamps and stationery were donated. Walter Sullivan authored and brought along copies of an article titled; "The Ship Ahead Just Disappeared." In attendance were 127 including 50 Fletchermen. The Captain of the USS Fletcher DD-992 sent two young men to represent his ship, Aurelio Sanchez and Chad. Elliot who also gave a talk at the banquet. The days seemed to be entirely too short for this reunion and everyone left with a better understanding of this city full of history.
1996 San Diego, California: Walter and Terry Smudzin, hosts, at the Clarion Hotel. Many in attendance visited Old Town and the famous San Diego Zoo. The hospitality room was well stocked and well attended, and the history room was filled with browsers most of the time. The weather was also great as it usually is in this fine navy city. On Saturday morning there was a trolley tour of San Diego and that evening the banquet and dance.
1997 Mobile, Alabama: Tom and Betty Chesnutt, hosts,at the I-10 Holiday Inn. Many in attendance visited local casinos and greyhound racing. There was also a city tour of Mobile and other optional tours of Bellingrath Gardens or a Mobile Harbor cruise. Also visited was the battleship USS Alabama and the adjacent aircraft pavilion and WWII submarine, USS Drum. The Saturday evening banquet had a Mardi Gras theme with festive decorations and a narration of Mardi Gras history by costumed entertainers. Jim and Charlotte Setter were honored as King and Queen of the Ball.
1998 Colorado Springs, Colorado: John & Dorothy Rust hosts, at the Radisson Inn, Colorado Springs North. More new members showed up for this reunion in the beautiful foothills of the Rocky Mountains. An optional tour was a dinner and show at the Flying "W" Ranch on Thursday evening and a Friday tour of the Air Force Academy, the Garden of the Gods and lunch at the NCO Club.
1999 Jacksonville Beach, Florida Eddie and Sherry Baker, hosts. On Thursday there was a welcome dinner and on Friday a breakfast buffet in the hotel ballroom. Later there was a tour of the submarine base in nearby Kings Bay, Georgia and lunch or an alternate tour of St. Augustine and lunch.
2000 Davenport, Iowa: J. Norb and Lois Bender, hosts. A first visit for many to the Quad Cities, held at the rustic Blackhawk Hotel in downtown Davenport the reunion was once again blessed with good weather on Thursday when a fine lunch cruise was held on board the paddle wheeler Delta Queen on the Mississippi River and a tour of the John Deere factory showroom across the river in Moline, Illinois. As always the hospitality and history rooms that were located in hotel suites were a huge success.
2001 Virginia Beach, Virginia: Bob and Susan Foss, hosts. Held the first week of October, attendance and planned tours of the naval base were affected by the terrorist attacks of 9-11 only days earlier however this did not dampen the Fletcher sprit and the renewal of old friendships. Everyone loved the spaciousness of the Virginia Beach Resort Hotel and Conference Center where many enjoyed the large hospitality room where drinks and snacks were provided. A tour of nearby Norfolk and the MacArthur Museum was a hit with those who made it and, as usual, the banquet was a tremendous success
2002 San Antonio, Texas: Robert and Delores McCurley, hosts. September 25 to 29. Over 100 people attended during typical sunny and hot weather. The Woodfield Suites provided a spacious setting for our hospitality and history rooms which were almost always crowded. One of the optional tours was to the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredricksburg where was held the annual memorial service and a wonderful self guided tour of the museum. Some also enjoyed lunch in one of the many German restaurants in this popular hill country town. An historical tour of San Antonio including the Alamo, the San Antonio Shoe Store, a Chinese tea garden and one of the many old Spanish missions in town was also popular. Especially popular was an evening at the 7A Cattle Ranch near Hondo where everyone enjoyed a BBQ dinner, live country music and for some, a hayride around the ranch. The Saturday evening banquet and a live band were enjoyed at the Fort Sam Houston NCO Club.
2003 Great Falls, Montana: John and Dorothy Rust, hosts. The Holiday Inn was our location for this very successful reunion from September 10 to 13. On Wednesday most guests checked in and enjoyed the snacks and drinks in the hospitality room and browsed the displays in the history room. On Thursday there was a tour of Great Falls including a spectacular view of the famous falls on the Missouri River which gave this city its name. The Friday tour was to Ulm Pishkun State Park in the morning and an eye opening visit to the Fairview Hutterite Colony in the afternoon. On Saturday morning the men had their annual business meeting and discussed details about next year's reunion site and that evening the group enjoyed a fine catered meal at the hotel and a dance.
2004 Madison, Wisconsin: J. Norb and Lois Bender, hosts. Beautiful weather blessed this reunion held from September 20 to 23 at the Radisson in Madison (yes, it rhymes) which was the first mid-week reunion. On Monday everyone registered, socialized and enjoyed time in both of the very comfortable hospitality and history rooms. On Tuesday there was a half day tour of Madison including a stop on the University of Wisconsin campus for fresh ice cream. The next day a day long tour to nearby Mount Horeb and Little Norway was enjoyed by many. On Thursday morning the men attended the annual business meeting and that evening was another very successful banquet and dance at the hotel, marked by a moving poem read by Buck Lock about the Group's matriarch, Lil Allen who was in attendance.
2005 New London, Connecticut: Craig and Ivy-Lynn Patapas hosts, at the Radisson Hotel in downtown New London, Connecticut on October 3rd through the 6th. Our hosts put a tremendous amount of work into making this reunion a success. On Monday, October 3rd guests arrived, registered and socialized in the hospitality room and browsed documents in the history room. Tuesday morning we toured the very impressive Mashantucket Pequot Museum and some of us spent an hour or two at the nearby Foxwoods Casino which is said to be the largest casino in the world. That afternoon we visited Clyde’s Cider Mill and Olde Mystic Village. On Wednesday we toured the USS Nautilus & Museum and that afternoon we spent several hours at the very scenic Mystic Seaport. That evening David McComb stopped by to show us his very detailed model of Fletcher and a slide show of his recent historical trip to the South Pacific. On Thursday morning we held our annual business meeting and that afternoon everyone rested and prepared for the evening banquet which featured a Navy color guard and door prizes.
2006 Carson City, Nevada: John and Dorothy Rust hosted another very successful reunion from September 17 to 20 at the Piñon Plaza Casino & Hotel, made all the more better by near perfect weather. On Sunday, Sept. 17, the reunion went into high gear as guests registered and congregated in the Hospitality and History rooms and renewed friendships. On Monday evening many of us enjoyed a wonderful dinner cruise on the Tahoe Queen on the California side of Lake Tahoe. On Tuesday some of us enjoyed a very informative tour to Virginia City in the morning and to downtown Carson City in the afternoon. On Wednesday morning our annual business meeting was held. Eli Bourgeois was elected as our new Commodore, replacing Robert McCurley who did a fine job for us the previous two years. Eli resigned his post as Secretary to take the Reunion Group’s highest position and Buck Locke was elected to become our new Secretary. Norb Bender was re-elected as Treasurer and all the other positions remained the same. Our banquet dinner and dance on Wednesday evening was a huge success, and somewhat emotional at times. Some members endured hardships the previous year and it was hard to say goodbyes when you didn’t know if you’d be seeing some of them again. It was with great sadness that the evening came to an end with many of us vowing to meet again next year in Oklahoma City.
2007 Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: Hosted by Earl and Charlotte Faubion at the Best Western Saddleback Inn, approximately 75 former crew and their families attended. Among those were seven World War Two veterans including two plankowners. Early registration began on Sunday, September 23rd. On Monday most guests enjoyed a city wide tour that included stops at Stockyards City, the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Center and Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum. Tuesday evening many guests enjoyed a special presentation of the Oklahoma Centennial play at the Yellow Rose Dinner Theater in Moore, OK. Those of us who were there know that “Liza Jane” and our Commodore, Eli “woof woof” Bourgeois, will certainly remember the evening! Wednesday morning the annual members’ meeting was held and the usual Reunion Group business was taken care of. In addition, possible locations for the 2009 Reunion were discussed as well as the possibility of making the quarterly newsletters available to members in electronic format. Tuesday evening our banquet and dance was held in the hotel’s conference center and some walked away with interesting door prizes including unassembled Fletcher models and gift certificates or memberships to Tin Can Sailors. Thursday morning we said our goodbyes and vowed to meet in Ft. Mitchell, Kentucky next year.
2008 Ft. Mitchell, Kentucky: Once again we had a wonderful reunion hosted by Norb and Lois Bender at the Drawbridge Inn with approximately 28 Fletcher men and their families in attendance. The Cincinnati area weather cooperated with unseasonably warm weather and not a drop of rain. The amply sized hospitality and history rooms provided plenty of room for us all to congregate and have a great time in between the two tours put on by our hosts that showed us the sights of the Newport, KY and Cincinnati, OH areas. From the Peace Bell to the Hoffbrauhaus and the Queen City river boat, everyone had a great time. And it was all topped off by what some describe as one of the best tasting banquet meals anyone can remember, and live music by The Impossibles.
2009 Rapid City, South Dakota: Wow, what a reunion! John, Dorothy and Debbie Rust went all out and produced a fantastic reunion for all who were fortunate enough to attend at the Best Western Ramkota. Several new faces were present this year along with a large number of old hands including Don Holmes who made this his 30th consecutive Fletcher reunion. Shipmates from WWII, Korea, the Cold War and Vietnam were present as well as one from the DD-992. The History and Hospitality Rooms were alive with conversation and goodwill.
Saturday and Sunday the weather wasn’t the greatest with cool temperatures and showers, but Mother Nature cooperated fully for the Monday and Tuesday tours because the skies cleared and the temperatures soared into the 80’s. It was perfect!
The tour Monday left the hotel at 1:00 PM and took us to the Journey Museum where we learned a bit about the history of the Black Hills. Then we visited the Black Hills Gold Factory where we encountered another tour group from the USS Bremerton CA-130 reunion who were also in town. Many of our members made purchases in the showroom while waiting for the very interesting tour of the factory. Then we visited the Stavkirke Chapel in the Hills which some said was the highlight of the day. We returned to the hotel a little before 6:00 PM and the rest of the evening many of us congregated in the History/Hospitality room.
On Tuesday those going on the all day tour had an excellent buffet breakfast at the hotel. The tour to the Shrine of Democracy at Mt. Rushmore was under beautiful blue skies and many took advantage and walked the six tenths of a mile walkway that goes to the base of the mountain. From there the group went to Heritage Village for an excellent buffet lunch, then to the Crazy Horse Visitor Center for an educational video and good look at the huge work in progress on the mountain. Then it was a bus ride through portions of Custer State Park including up close views of some of the wildlife and some interesting twists and turns through some hairpin turns and tunnels. By 5:00 PM we were back at the hotel for another evening of fellowship in the Hospitality Room.
On Wednesday members attended a morning business meeting. The highlight of the day and the reunion was the banquet that evening where everyone enjoyed yet another excellent meal and friendships were affirmed and promises made to meet again next year. The next day most members left for home or extended their vacations to visit other areas in the region. Thanks again to John, Dorothy and Debbie Rust for putting together a superb reunion!
2010 Lake Harmony, Pennsylvania: October 3 - 6, Fletcher’s 40th annual reunion was special in so many ways that it’s hard to describe to someone who wasn’t there at the Split Rock Resort with us. Three days of damp weather couldn't come close to dampening the spirits of all those who were fortunate enough to attend this reunion in the Poconos. Joanne Kobus outdid herself and it was an overwhelming success. Bravo Zulu Joanne! Ah the memories, the flashing stars the Fletcherettes dazzled us with Monday night, the Bud Light flowing freely at the bar as Mike illustrated how it must have been to shoot down fighter planes, Mr. Broome and Tommy all decked out in their dress blues, the great meal and show at Penn's Peak, tons of raffle items at the banquet, and so much more that it'd take several newsletters to describe it all. Suffice to say that this was a fun fun FUN reunion and for those of you who missed it, well, I don't know what else to say. This reunion will be the benchmark for future reunions for years to come. If you missed it, you missed a great one! Joanne, we salute you!
Commodore, Eli Bourgeois, wrote: Linda and I are still reeling from the great week in the Poconos in eastern Pennsylvania. We not only celebrated our Honeymoon, but we shared a week with very dear friends. Joanne Kobus is to be congratulated for a wonderful reunion, a fitting one for our 40th year. I know Stan and Mary are very proud of their baby girl!!! Additional thanks go to her entire family for this was truly a family affair.
2011 Waterloo, Iowa: October 2 - 5, Hosted by Larry and Joani Wasserfort at the new Isle Casino. One has to wonder if Larry and Joani have connections that allowed them to order the most perfect weather we've seen for a reunion in a long time. Beautiful blue skies, light winds, cool nights, warm days, it just doesn't get much better than this. And the fall foliage began to turn at just the right time too. RC and Joan Kingsbury arrived early to assist Larry and Joani Wasserfort in getting this reunion off on the right foot and they did a magnificent job. The casino's staff was very helpful in getting things started in our ninth floor hospitality rooms, and Buck and Earl consented to allow the Jacuzzi in their room to be used for icing down the beer. The tour of the Sullivan Brothers Museum on Monday was very interesting, and sobering. It's a must see for anyone visiting Waterloo. The catered lunch that day was great as well as the following day when the Iowa Pork producers provided a great meal at the Iowa Air National Guard post. The group was allowed an up close look at a Blackhawk helicopter and was able to speak with the crew at length. A visit to the local John Deere factory earlier in the day left everyone very impressed at what this American institution is accomplishing in the current day economy. What impressed me the most was how all the employees seemed happy and how JD is selling so many of these tractors to China. American products are still the best!
The peak of the reunion for many of us was at the banquet Wednesday night when the granddaughter of Albert Sullivan spoke to us about her grandfather and family. She spoke from the heart and had us both laughing and shedding a few tears. Kelly Ann Sullivan Loughren is indeed a jewel. Just Google her name to find out more, or check out the Photos section on our web site for many photos of her taken at the banquet. Thank you Kelly for making the evening so extra special for us. And thanks to Don Holmes and Warren Seim, our two WWII veterans who were both on Fletcher the morning the USS Juneau was torpedoed and blew up killing all five of the Sullivan brothers. This is indeed a reunion we will all remember with great fondness.
2012 Boston, Massachusetts: September 17 - 20, Hosted by Armand and Donna Blanchette, Buck & Judy Locke, RC and Joani Kingsbury, Shaun and Mary Ellen Murphy. At the Holiday Inn Peabody, MA. Wow, what a reunion! Our hosts did a fantastic job putting this one together. And instead of the usual two optional tours, we were treated to a free third tour. Those who went got to see the sights around Boston, Salem, Goucester and Rockport. The visit to the USS Constitution was special and a 1966 flag flown on Fletcher in Vietnam was hoisted above the vessel. Nearby was the USS Cassin Young, currently in drydock for repairs. She's a Fletcher class destroyer and was looking very good even though we were unable to board her. And the super duck trip into the harbor gave us a different view of the downtown skyline. Most heartening was the fact more DD-992 sailors attended this year than ever before and two of them are now officers of the Reunion Group. Shaun Murphy was elected as our Vice Commodore and Kelly O'Brien was appointed as the new historian.
The banquet on Thursday night had wonderful food and a great comradeship. We were treated to the wonderful tunes of a barber shop quartet and successful raffle of several donated items. What a wonderful reunion this was! A special thanks goes out to Armand and Donna Blanchette who worked extra hard to ensure things went smoothly. The ever popular hospitality room was open longer hours than at previous reunions and was never empty, in fact it was often filled to capacity. Anyone who missed this reunion missed a truly great one. Bravo Zulu to all who made it happen!
Shaun Murphy wrote:
First and foremost a hearty thank you congratulations to Armand and RC for their tireless efforts in organizing what turned out to be a fantastic Reunion. The phenomenal amount of time they dedicated to the event and their sensational organizational skills proved that they are still sea worthy after all these years. Buck I'm sure you will agree that our duties were minor in comparison to what our shipmates accomplished. They made us look good and I thank them for that.
Also, we have our wives to thank. Joan, Donna, Judy and Mary Ellen not only put up with our shenanigans for the last year but when it came down to crunch time you were there not only to make sure we did everything right, you gave us food in the hospitality suite and made the place look great. Thank You, Ladies. We could not have done it without you.
Now for our attendees who came from far and wide. You took time out of your busy lives to gather together with old and new friends alike. Not only do I thank you for attending, I do hope each and every one of you had a fantastic time visiting Boston. I assure you having lived in Massachusetts most of my life, everything we did as a Group were 1st's for both Mary Ellen and I. Visiting the USS Constitution, Faneuil Hall, The Salem Witch Museum and The Peabody Essex Museum plus my favorite The Duck Boat Tour of Boston Harbor. With so much to do back at the Hotel Mary Ellen and I did not make the final tour to Gloucester but do hope that someday we will venture there also.
It was very exciting for Kelly and I to see some 992 Shipmates attend this year’s Reunion. Traveling from the western US were Larry Freidrick and his Lovely wife Judy, Matt Reed looking spiffy in his Army Uniform and Joe Nee who was in attendance to protect and serve from the Boston Police Department. pssst...I still haven't gotten my drink yet Joe.
Mary Ellen and I had the pleasure of having Kelly O'Brien as a house guest for the week before the Reunion, blast from the past. All the sea stories she's heard in the past are nothing in comparison to Kelly's keen memory. Although most nights I went off to bed, Kelly and Mary Ellen forged a new friendship that I know will endure forever.
2013 Seattle, Washington: October 7 - 11, This reunion was made possible through the efforts of several individuals including RC Kingsbury, Kelly O'Brien, Ken Priest, Tina Holmes and others. It was held at the Radisson Airport Hotel which featured an attentive staff and included a fine breakfast each morning., The day before the official start of the reunion was a beautiful sunny 72 degree that enabled early arrivals a wonderful opportunity to tour the area on their own. Monday most of the attendees arrived and visited that evening in the hospitality suite. On Tuesday, October 8, we enjoyed an excellent tour of the Museum of Flight where we announced our arrival during a short but intense rain storm with lightning. The highlight of the reunion was on Wednesday when we spent the day touring the Space Needle, then enjoying a Duck Boat Tour of all the important points in downtown Seattle and the area before a drive out on Lake Union to view the many yachts and homes on the lake. Afterwards we were treated to a guided tour at Pike Place including the fish market and farm markets where we got to sample many delicious foods. The tour began with a closeup view of the infamous gum wall which brought about a variety of comments of both approval and disapproval.
Thursday morning we held our business meeting and it was noted that the Commodore Earl Faubion, Secretary Buck Locke and Treasurer RC Kingsbury are all DD-445 veterans while our Vice Commodore Shaun Murphy, Historian Kelly O'Brien and newly appointed Assistant Historian Larry Friedrich are all DD-992 veterans. It's obvious the future of the Reunion Group will soon be entirely in the hands of our DD-992 shipmates!
The reunion concluded Thursday night with a banquet buffet of fine food and fellowship while enjoying entertainment provided by local guitarist Brian James. Shipmate Tommy Thompson surprised everyone when he left briefly and returned in a Popeye the Sailor outfit! A raffle was held and many great prizes were won by many. After dinner great fellowship was enjoyed by many and vows made to meet again at next year's reunion.
Here’s another account from Buck Locke:
What a great time with over 50 attendees. It was a family
reunion time for Shirley Allard’s group with sons Jim and
Bob. Another reunion was John Jensen and his four children. Goodness gracious
Don Holmes also had had his family with him.
We started out with the Flight Museum and it started out with a copy of the Wright brother’s plane and ended with Air Force One, which was used from John Kennedy through Ronald Reagan. There were all kinds of planes from WWI and WWII. I especially liked the Flying Tigers and Japanese Zero from that bygone era. A particular plane of interest was the Blackbird which could fly at 2500 miles per hour. Just think Boston to Seattle in an hour! Another highlight was a U2, which could fly so high that it, was out of reach for years till the USSR finally got Frances Powers with a missile in 1960. The collection of planes demonstrated the evolution of flight in just 100 years!
The Space Needle was built for the 1962 Seattle World’s fair. What a blast to ride up the outside with the elevator doors opening into space. It is 605 feet high, 138 ft. (42 m) wide, and weighs 9,550 tons. It is built to withstand winds of up to 200 miles per hour (89 m/s) and earthquakes of up to 9.1 magnitude. It also has 25 lightning rods. From the observation deck there are great 360-degree views of Seattle and Puget Sound!
We followed that with a Duck Boat tour of Seattle and adjoining lakes. We had a great tour guide who kept us laughing as he had a variety of hats. He would put on a different wig and hat for each different story he had about Seattle. The movie “Sleepless in Seattle” with Tom Hanks was filmed on the lake with very expensive houseboats. Interesting that water is considered real estate and I couldn’t afford to live there! The guide told us that Seattle was founded as a logging town and timber was slid down a “skid road” to the ships in the harbor. It was a rough place and dangerous as this morphed over time to “skid row”! He told us about the city being destroyed in 1889 by fire, when it was done, the damage was enormous, 120 acres (25 city blocks) had been destroyed. The area was covered with dirt and a new town was built 22 feet over the old.
After the fun on the Duck Tour we went to Pike Place Market for a food tour, which was like a progressive dinner! We had a few pieces of smoked salmon at a fish market, a taste of cheese at another shop, sausage and salami at the butcher shop, tiny sandwiches and caramel candy in another space, etc., as you can tell the market was a gastronomic adventure. There were lots of little shops to tempt folks to buy souvenirs and tee shirts!
A special thanks goes to Kelly O’Brien and R.C. Kingsbury for doing all of the driving the vans around Seattle to our various events. They got us to the Flight Museum in the rain.
2014 Columbus, Georgia: Host Kelly O’Brien and his family did a wonderful job putting together this reunion at the Holiday Inn North in Columbus, Georgia from October 6th to the 10th.
Attendance was up this year and we enjoyed three full days of tours. On the first day we enjoyed a very informative visit to the Civil War Naval Museum followed up by an excellent dinner hosted by the local Navy Reserve unit. Then it was off to the beautiful National Infantry Museum for several hours on a guided tour in a facility that is so good many of us want to return and spend an entire day taking it all in. It is nothing short of incredible.
On the second day we traveled several miles on our tour bus to Andersonville to view the infamous Confederate prison camp and the POW Museum. It was eerie to see the tiny gulch where so much misery occurred in 1864 and 1865.
Don and Hazel Holmes made this their 40th straight Fletcher reunion and Shirley Allard made it her 34th reunion, both were accompanied by family members. Their dedication to the USS Fletcher Reunion Group is a fine example for us all and we look forward to seeing them again for many more years to come.
On the third morning the members held their annual business meeting and we
voted in a new treasurer, Larry Friederich to replace outgoing treasurer R.C.
Kingsbury. Then we boarded our bus for a trip to Warm Springs to visit the
quaint little Georgia town and the Little Whitehouse where FDR died in 1945
shortly before the end of WWII. Upon return to the hotel everyone prepared for
the final evening’s banquet where we enjoyed an excellent buffet dinner and
raffle prizes. Entertainment was provided by Kelly’s brother’s band, the Tim O’Brien
Project. It was the perfect end to a perfect reunion!
2015 Albuquerque, New Mexico: Earl and Charlotte Faubion hosted this reunion at the MCM Eleganté Hotel from September 28 to October 1. This reunion was blessed with warm, dry weather for the duration of the reunion.
On Monday the 28th we renewed friendships and met new people in the Hospitality Room.
On Tuesday the 29th many of us went on a guided tour to The National Museum of Nuclear Science and History, then to the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque Balloon Museum and then to Old Town where many of us enjoyed a good meal and shopping.
On Wednesday the 30th we enjoyed a trip to Santa Fe via the old former Route 66 (now Highway 14) for a guided walking tour of the Plaza area and took in such sights as the State Capitol, The San Miguel Mission and the Loretto Chapel followed by free time to dine and shop, then a return trip on our bus to the hotel via I-25.
On Thursday the 1st the men held their annual business meeting and the women also held their own meeting. During the afternoon many took advantage of the free time to go up the Sandia Peak Tram. Most mornings hot air balloons could be seen on the northern horizon as Albuquerque's annual Balloon Fiesta was about to begin. Armand Blanchette took a balloon ride one morning and said he enjoyed it very much.
On Thursday night we enjoyed our anual banquet with a combination of Southwestern and New Mexican food at our buffet and enjoyed a thrilling performance by young performers with the National Institute of Flamenco. At the end of the evening the membes suprised their hosts by presenting them with a 35th anniversary wedding cake and card.
Most members left Albuquerque the following morning, some returning home, some continuing a vacation in the area and at least one remained to enjoy Balloon Fiesta. It was a reunion to remember in that Don Holmes, a WWII Fletcher veteran, made this his 41st straight reunion thanks to the love of his family. Some of the other attendees were also family of departed Fletcher members and it is so nice to see that they've maintained an interest in the DD-445 after their loved one has passed. One first time attendee, Eddie Johnson, served on both the DD-445 and DD-992 during his naval career in what we believe is the only instance this has happened. Participation by our DD-992 shipmates is increasing and we hope to enjoy more of them at future reunions.
2016 San Diego, California: Hosted by Larry and Judy Friederich at the Town and Country Resort from September 19 to the 23rd. Many arrived a day or two early to enjoy the City and its various attractions. On Monday the 19th we registered and prepapred to set up the hospitality room only to learn the hotel had changed policies and wouldn’t allow us to bring food or alcohol in the room. Consequently Larry and Judy graciously gave up their suite for this purpose and the overflow used the adjacent garden and pool area and it worked out very well. Attendance at this reunion exceeded our expectations!
On the 20th we started the day by going to the USS Midway. By the end of that visit an uncommon (for San Diego) light rain began but it didn’t dampen our spirits and we enjoyed a very nice harbor tour and box lunch in the afternoon.
On the 21st we started the day by visting Mount Soledad and even though it looked like it might be a rain-free day, the summit was socked in by super thick fog. It was still an inspiration to see the cross standing out in the lonely gray sky. From there we traveled to the beach and time for shopping, then a trip across the bridge to Coronado for a quick view of this quaint community. After that we visited the Bali Hai restaurant for lunch and then returned to the hotel.
At the annual business meeting on the morning of the 22nd, Earl Faubion was re-elected as Commodore and Armand Blanchette as Vice Commodore. We discussed future reunions and the possible merger with the USS O’Bannon Shipmates Association for future reunions. That evening over 70 attendees enjoyed an excellent banquet in the otherwise unusued hospitality room. Preceding the meal the Navy Region Southwest Band entertained us. Our guest of honor was Captain John P. Nolan, USN (ret.), the last CO of the USS Fletcher Dd-992 in 2004 when it was decommissioned. A raffle was then held followed by entertainment by comedian Bobby Gray.
A special thanks goes to Larry and Judy Friederich, not just for being hosts, but for their superb handling of the sometimes trying logistics this reunion presented. Larry shuttled many of us back an forth to the Airport in a rental van and ensured we never ran low on refreshments in the hospitality room. Bravo Zulu to them both!