It will be hard to top last year’s article which was written by Joe Mitchell as I lack much of his formal training and also his living in close proximity to the Budweiser factory….. but here goes nothing.
The 24th consecutive Willard Keith reunion began as many of the more recent ones have with many stories of GPS units being vilified or actually being thrown out of moving vehicles. I can still remember driving by the big red Ramada sign and hearing "Samantha" (our Tom-Tom) saying only 5 more miles to go which would have put us in the middle of Lake Pontchartrain . After finally being able to turn around and not trusting "Samantha" anymore I stopped and asked someone with a smart phone what was the best way to get back to the Ramada. He entered the info, gave me the flight plan and we were on our way. Within minutes we were again passing the big red Ramada sign this time heading in the opposite direction. After re-crossing I-10 we arrived at our destination but the only problem was that it was a Holiday Inn, but we could still see the big red Ramada sign on the other side of I-10. Instructing Nancy to silence "Samantha" and keep her eyes on the big red Ramada sign, we snaked our way through many one way and dead end streets and finally made it to the Ramada where we heard many similar stories.
It was good to see and hear familiar faces and voices and also sad that some that had been coming for years were now MIA. As we gathered for our evening meal the elephant in the room was not hearing the calming voice of Earl Shields who led us in prayer and thoughts for so many years. May he "rest in peace".
It was wonderful to have four first time attendees this year. They are Bob & Debra Friedhaber ( our web master), David Kutzfar, Don Mc Quinn, and Kenny Wince & Fiancé Lynda Malone. It must be mentioned that Eugene Replogle & Sharleen attended twenty years after their last time attending and bringing along their daughter Candis and Son-in-law Chuck Putnik.
We are very proud of our WWII veterans that can still attend our reunions. This year Dossie East, James Herring, Eugene Replogle, and Leon White attended.
The mood brightened after the meal as the now highly anticipated Chinese Auction was about to begin. It's not so much the auction but the Master of Ceremonies, Phil Zipp, who is a legend in his own mind that makes it all worth while. I don't know where he gets all of his material but Minnesota and Sweden play into it quite a bit.
Over all our weather was good as it only rained during the night and the temperature and humidity were tolerable.
On day 2 we boarded our bus for downtown "Nawlins" and a tour of the WWII Museum and the Movie Beyond All Boundaries narrated by Tom Hanks. You really needed more time than what we had to do justice for viewing all that the museum offered but it still was a moving experience. Speaking of moving experiences I hope you all got to take the Troop Train ride as it was quite unique. You just sat there but still it felt as if you were moving. After a few hours downtime it was back on the bus for our ride to the Creole Queen and our dinner cruise. Conditions for boarding didn't look good when we arrived. A long line of people stretched along the pier waiting to board but "RHIP" (rate has its privileges) and we were escorted to the front of the line drawing more than a few stares from the folks who had been waiting. The buffet and band were great and before long we were pulling away from the pier for our cruise. It was different cruising at night but I think it might have made it more interesting. With the smoke coming from the refineries mixing with the lights from the city it made for an interesting view. It must take a special person to pilot a vessel on the Mississippi, especially at night, because it was really dark and there was quite a bit of traffic on the river.
Day 3.... It was back to the bus for a tour of the "Big Easy" and time in the French Quarter.
The tour guide was the same but we were on our third driver which made things interesting at times. It took awhile to get tuned into the tour guide but once you did she was very entertaining and her sense of humor almost matched Phil's. The cemetery stop was interesting especially when the guide explained how the rotation of the deceased worked which still left more questions than answers. Later we stopped at the Morning Call Café for coffee and beignets. It was easy to see who really enjoyed the stop as some re boarded the bus wearing spots of powdered sugar including yours truly. We also were shown where the levee's had given way that led to the catastrophic flooding after hurricane Katrina. We also saw the giant pumps that are used to pump flooding waters out of the city. It was said that the pumps could handle 2 inches of water the first hour and one inch per hour after that which really does not seem like that much the way it can rain there.
Last but not least was our visit to the French Quarter. It was not my first visit to this area as the
Keith had visited there when I was on board and we also were there another time. But, it still looked and smelled the same. Where else can you eat fine food amid the aromas that abound but it must work as millions of people a year make the trek there. After spending quite some time trying to find a place to stop and unload the bus some of the more hardy took off for Bourbon Street while others made their way to the Spanish Market Area and others just sat and took a load off. Someone in our group said, most cities are trying to eliminate areas like this but here it is a destination. I can't seem to remember exactly who said it but I think his initials were Casey Jones. Very interesting!!! All in all it was a good day.
On our last morning some were gone before others woke up and some stayed on for another day or two. Nothing definite is in the works for 2015 but stay tuned.
It would be amiss not to mention the effort that some of our shipmates put in so we can continue this tradition. As Winston Churchill once said something to the effect that " never have so few done so much for so many", but the names Don and Jane Hempstead should be at the top of the list. They truly are the "straws that have stirred the drink" these last few years.
Thank you for allowing me to put these memories in writing. Dick Marcham
Honor Roll Of Deceased Shipmates
The following names have been received in the past year since our 2013 reunion.
Bennett, William B., Gentner, Albert, Hamilton, Charles, Harrison, Augus D.
Hurm, Lee Roy, Admiral O'Brian, Leslie J, Rogers, Roger C. Shields, Earl W.
Swanson, Leonard, Triplett, Kenneth
of the annual membership meeting of the
USS WILLARD KEITH (DD775) Reunion Association
Metairie, Louisiana, May 9, 2014
The meeting was called to order by the chairman, Casey Jones, at 1613.
Minutes of the 2013 meeting, held in Jacksonville, Florida, were read by the secretary; motion made and seconded to accept, carried.
The treasurer reported that $1,770 had been taken in, in dues since the last meeting. $1,250 had been expended as donations noted in the secretary’s report.
Inasmuch as the bank balance could not be accurately verified, the chairman ruled that the treasurer’s report would not be accepted until an audit was conducted. It was noted that the association was, however, in good financial condition.
The past chairman Don Hempstead presented an award to Bob Friedhaber for the excellent quality of the association’s website, of which he is webmaster.
Motion was made, seconded and carried, that the association’s donations to other service-related organizations would be the same as last year.
Van Wells noted that the sidewalk and lobby at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, were paved with bricks that were engraved with names of the donors thereof. He suggested that a brick, to be suitably engraved, be purchased by the association. Motion to do so was made, seconded and carried. $500 was appropriated for a brick inside the museum. Van was appointed action officer, and authorized to compose appropriate wording.
The chairman advised of action taken by the Board of Directors which had made a change to the By-Laws, Article 10 Section 2.
The major decision usually made at the annual meeting, the location of the next reunion, was not accomplished. It was the consensus that Norfolk was the most appropriate .
B/O/D REPORT (2014)
The 24th. Consecutive Keith reunion for all ships personal was held on May 7th. Thru May 10th. In Metairie, Louisiana. Our home base the Ramada Inn Metairie La.
Don and Jane Hempstead prepared and mailed 472 invitations for the 2014 reunion and newsletters covering the 2013 reunion.
All personal visited and enjoyed the National WW 2 Museum and movie “Beyond All Boundaries” We also enjoyed a dinner and cruise on the Natchez River. We had a total of 46 for our fun and games.
The annual membership meeting was held on Fri. prior to are final dinner, the meeting was called to order, minutes were read and approved, the treasurer reported that $1,770.00 had been received as dues and $1,250.00 had been expended as donations etc., at this time the BOD felt that it would be a good time to have an audit performed on the books and report back.
It was noted that the association is in good financial condition.
Don Hempstead presented an award to Bob Friedhaber, our webmaster for all the good work he does for us.
The Service related organizations will receive the same donations as last year. The association has approved the purchase of a brick to be placed in the WW 2 Museum lobby at the cost of $500.00., the brick will be properly engraved under the direction of Van Wells.
The decision has been made to hold the next Reunion in Norfolk, Va., the date is 5/6/15—5/9/15. Plans are underway, the Home Base will be HOLIDAY INN NORFOLK AIRPORT.
Hope to see you all at the Reunion.