USS CONSTELLATION CVA/CV64 2018 REUNION
September 9-14, 2018 ~ Warwick/Providence, RI
The annual Connie Reunion was an incredible success this year with one hundred plus folks in attendance. There was something for everyone. If you were curious about Naval History, Naval War Museum, Life Styles of the Rich and Famous, or a Light House Cruise, then you would be satisfied to the fullest through our outstanding tours. We started the reunion Sunday evening with a casual welcome reception at the Crowne Plaza Providence Hotel in Warwick, RI. The hotel was a first class place with very nice accommodations, super-hot free breakfasts and customer service (including courtesy van to restaurants/town/etc. anytime). Kudos to Gus and Kathy Rossomando and Military Reunion Planners for securing a contract with this fine establishment at a favorable rate. Monday morning we traveled to Battleship Cove, Fall River, MA to board and explore WWII battleships, a submarine, a landing craft and PT boats. The highlight was going onboard the USS Massachusetts BB59 to hold our annual memorial service to honor and remember our fellow shipmates who saw their last sunset since our reunion in New Orleans, LA 2017. At the conclusion of the service, following taps, Glenn South graciously agreed to toss the memorial wreath into the harbor memorializing burials at sea. Then we proceeded to the mess deck for a buffet luncheon. Tuesday we travelled to Boston for a full and rewarding day which included a bus tour covering Fenway Park, Harvard Common, and Cambridge. The guided walking tour of Paul Revere’s Freedom Trail brought history to life at the Old North Church. We continued on to the Charleston Navy Yard and Museum to board the USS Constitution frigate which included seaman cadet docents who shared historical stories about the famous first warship of the US Navy. Wednesday we visited The Breakers, a Vanderbilt treasure of a mansion suited for the lifestyles of the rich and famous. This was a must see. It was lavishly decorated in gold, silver and platinum. Indescribable. We visited the Naval War College museum in Newport and enjoyed a mesmerizing guided tour of the chronology of naval history. This day culminated with a bus tour of the City by the Sea, Newport. Thursday began with the Executive Board and General Meeting. Treasurer Sidney Rodgers reported we are solvent with $20,850 in Ship’s Store (Museum account), $1,779 in Reunion account and $10,450 in Regular account. Membership Chairman Stephen Ribak reported 171 Life Time members, 1 Associate Life Time member and 50 honorary members for a total of 222 active members. We have approximately 325 total members. He had to set assail 23 members for delinquent membership dues. It was voted by the Exec Meeting to give our annual $1,000 donation to Fisher House and DAV ($500 each). Using charitynavigator.com we confirmed the percent of money to the veteran versus expenses of the program as follows, Fisher House gives 92 cents on the dollar to the veterans while Disabled American Veterans provides 84 cents on the dollar. These are exceptionally high returns for nonprofit charities. Elections were held for all officers. A motion was made, seconded, passed to temporarily combine the offices of Secretary and Treasurer due to lack of nomination for Secretary. Here are the elected officers for 2019-2021: President Rafael Rivas, Vice President Bob Beese, and Secretary/Treasurer Sidney Rodgers. Mr. Rodgers thank you for accepting the combined position of Secretary/Treasurer. You are doing an exemplary job for the Association. I must also thank Paul McGehee serving as my Treasurer until he resigned, before Sidney Rodgers. Congratulations to all. Other volunteer positions filled were Chaplain Tommy Best, Webmaster Rebecca Best (but would like to find her a replacement), StarScope/Editor Jean and Doyle Gilliam, Master at Arms Dave Martin (USMC). Thank you volunteers you are very much appreciated by this Association. The selected city for our 2020 reunion is Louisville, KY hosted by our very own Doyle and Jean Gilliam. After the General Meeting, we went on a Lighthouse Tour on Narragansett Bay. Who knew Rhode Island has 30 plus islands and many lighthouses for our viewing pleasure. Back at the hotel, photo ops, by our seasoned photographer and mate (Leslie and Mary Ann Stessel) were great and then cocktails and furious auction/50-50 ticket sales by Dennis Chapman, Brent Hammer, Barbara Cecil, Joan Shelton and others was underway. Thanks to all who donated to our auction, John Pendleton (Jim was unable to attend, send him a “thinking of you card”), Betty Bell, Gregory Martinez, James and Dorothy Grimes and many more. After a delicious and generous steak or fish dinner, the 50-50 was won by Carol Tambasco, $396 for Carol and the same amount for the Association. Generous hearts abounded that night as Carol Tambasco and Dennis Chapman both donated their and the Association’s winnings ($792 total) back to the Association for the model ship. The ship costs were $4,005; so far we collected $3,638 leaving a deficit of $367 for complete recoup of funds. A wall of fame is on FB and website applauding donors. There are still a few members/nonmembers sending donations to the Treasurer. Thank you Dorothy Grimes and Bobbie Stoddard for running the ship’s store sales. We enjoyed dancing after the meal and the exciting auction. I am so proud of everyone. Hope to see you in El Paso, TX 2019.
As I reflect on my two term presidency, I look forward to a new horizon of leadership; we are in good hands in the future. I enjoyed serving you for the last four years and with lots of help from many folks in the Association, was able to accomplish many things. In January 2015, I prepared a funeral service for the USS Constellation CVA/CV64 and delivered it in Brownsville, TX, as she was being pulled by a giant sea going tug boat into the ship channel for complete dismantling by the International Shipbreakers Company. It was a sparse crowd of alumni from the Connie and a pretty good crowd of civilian onlookers. It was a sad day on the one hand and a great day on the other hand. There was not a dry eye in the room at the end of that service. Dinah created a special program cover about 5” x 8”, there was a squiggly line diagonally separating the tan sand from the ocean blue water, Connie started on land, sailed worldly oceans and returned to land for her demise. A blazing yellow Connie logo was placed dead center. She was but hard cold steel; what made her famous was the spirit of those who lived on her and will live forever in our hearts because of people like you and me. Thanks to Rich Romeo, Marty Horowitz and Phil Tambasco, I spoke at the Building92 tribute wall celebration, in Brooklyn Navy Yard, where a cloned copy of the bronze memorial plaque was mounted in memory of the 50 shipyard workers killed in a fire aboard Connie December 19, 1960. Creation of the “Connie” museum (pro bono) onboard the USS Lexington in Corpus Christi Bay, TX was a dream come true. The purchase of a wooden model ship to be delivered and installed in early November this year will be icing on the cake for our Association. Eric and Melba Andersen were my mentors and leaders on this lengthy process of establishing “Carrier Row” and stocking the display cases with lots of memorabilia. I’m going to miss your piping Eric and Melba I’m speechless and in awe of all you do for the Association, thank you. Rebecca Best you stepped up and delivered during a difficult time when our webmaster Berl Meyer resigned. Berl was a hard act to follow as he was a great webmaster. I know it has been hard and demanding, please know how much I appreciate you and your efforts, you are the Best. Carol Tambasco, you were so brave to step up and take on the role of ship’s store advocate. You did a wonderful job and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I hope we can find a replacement for you quickly. Tommy Best thank you for being there for me as VP for four years. You are the Best. Also congratulations for accepting the role as Chaplain, your prior experience will serve you well. Jean and Doyle Gilliam you are going to excel in your new job as StarScope Editors and I know you will get us back on track with a quarterly publications. The Schutts resigned as editors due to health issues. Everyone looks forward to your success, thank you. Dave Martin, thank you for taking on the Master at Arms position. Now according to the Association by-laws the President of the Association, Rafael Rivas, will be asking you in 2019 if the hall is secured for the General Meeting to begin. I feel much safer now. Your predecessor Robert Francois resigned due to health issues. I must also share with you how important it is to document the Association’s historical leadership. So, I presented a beautiful plaque detailing each president’s dates of tenure, suitable for hanging on wall. We have had seven presidents lead the Association and luckily they are all still living today. Four of the seven Presidents attended this reunion and were recognized and honored. President number one, Rich Romeo gave a short endearing speech re how the Association began. Please see ussconstellation.org look under tab “more” and choose President History to see details. My greatest and most loving thank you goes to my first lady, Dinah! She always makes me look good (and I love it). She has been so creative and supporting during our tenure of leadership and ultimately brought together the wives of the Association who tire easily from listening to the same old war stories which have new twisted endings every year. She provided them an escape through art work. I loved last year when several of the ladies colored beautiful post cards not knowing they would become treasured pieces of art when we mailed them to members unable to attend as “thinking of you” or “get well” cards. They were well received. I also remember her teaching the ladies how to make coffee filter flowers that were used to decorate our hospitality room and other rooms in San Antonio. I cannot give her enough praise and thanks to fill her heart. I am truly Blessed to have her and this Association’s friendship in my life. Carpe Diem and I love you all. Farewell, Fair Winds and Smooth Seas,
Gayland Rushing, 7th President 2014-2018
USS Constellation CVA/CV64 Association