Registration is open for the 2022 Conserver Reunion to be held in Nashville, TN — April 27 – May 1
Virginia Beach Oceanfront hotel to celebrate Conserver’s eight annual reunion, held April 28 through May 2, 2021. A total of 54 attended — 28 crew members and 26 guests. COVID 19 concerns likely contributed to the smaller attendance. Once again, our hats off and a hearty BZ to our reunion committee: Renee Weaver, this year’s reunion host, Dale and Thayes Hower, Romondo Davis and Keith “Doc” Hansen and any and all who worked behind the scenes to make this reunion another resounding success.
Conserver reunions have established a tradition of being kind of free wheeling. Other than established hospitality room hours, a business meeting, and our banquet, attendees and guests were free to tailor their time to socializing with shipmates new and old and enjoying Virginia’s coastal attractions. This has worked out well for each of our previous reunions and Virginia Beach was certainly no exception.
Nauticus and the USS Wisconsin BB-64
Our first “scheduled” event on April 30th was a group tour of the Nauticus and USS Wisconsin BB-64 museum complex in Norfolk. Our reunion host Renee Weaver, organized the event.
The tour was free thanks to a very generous contribution from LTJG Dave Blake, former Conserver EMO, Diving Officer and Operations Officer. Thirty two shipmates and guests enjoyed an in depth guided tour of the topside areas of the battleship. I think I can speak for all when I say that I haven’t climbed that many ship’s ladders in a number of years. After the guided tour we were free to explore the available interior spaces of the ship and visit the adjacent Nauticus naval museum.
Prior to the finale (our banquet), the group’s business meeting, conducted by Romondo Davis, was held in the hospitality room. The main purpose of this meeting was to reach a consensus on where our next two reunions would be held. Nashville, TN was selected as the 2022 reunion location after an on line vote conducted after the cancelled 2019 Napa reunion. Bremerton, WA, Sacramento, CA and Phoenix, AZ, were selected by those in attendance at the meeting as choices for the 2023 reunion. Look for a future online vote to determine which one of these three cities will be the 2023 location.
Memorializing those who have crossed the bar
A memorial table was set up in the hospitality room to recognize those members of the Conserver family who have passed on since the 2019 Branson reunion. Photographs of each lost shipmate were displayed on the table, accompanied by their obituaries.
Our “grand finale” has traditionally been the Saturday evening awards banquet, after which a meal is served followed by various members of our family being recognized.
Romondo Davis was our very capable Master of Ceremonies.
After welcoming all to the reunion, Romondo thanked our host Renee Weaver for her hard work in selecting the hotel, organizing the hotel catering, hospitality rooms and Nauticus tour. He also thanked Renee and her daughter Brittany Meadows for the amazing hand made cloth welcome bags and RS-39 face masks that they loving crafted for everyone in attendance. The best welcome bags we’ve ever had. Thayes Hower presented Renee and Brittany with flowers and thank gifts.
Dale Hower remembered and memorialized the shipmates who have passed since our Branson reunion. Fair winds and following seas.
- Jess Ashlock
- Buzz Costa
- Arnold Kitchen
- Tim Oman
- Pat Shea
- Kevin Weaver
Dale Hower presented recognition award plaques to the following shipmates:Perfect Attendance: Lee Samuelson – he’s attended all eight reunions!
Attendance at their fifth reunion:
- Dale Geldert
- Pete Westbay
- Greg Haines
- Romondo Davis
First attendance at a reunion:
- Daniel Orr
- Sergio Cartaya
- Bob Preece
- Don Hatch
- Jim Davenport
- Chris Rogers
- Jim Taylor
Oldest attending the reunion: Allen Eckert
Youngest attending the reunion: Fred Stevens
Traveled farthest to the reunion(two awards were given, these two shipmates live within 1/4 mile of each near Poulsbo, WA):
- Ben Lokey
- Jim Davenport
Served earliest: Dale Geldert (63-64)
Served latest: Fred Stevens (90-92)
Keith (Doc) Hansen sold tickets for the 50/50 raffle and invited Grace Sheehan to draw the winning ticket. The lucky winner of one half of the $835 collected was Greg Haines. Greg donated his $418 share to the reunion fund. The remaining $417 went into the fund.
Romondo Davis reviewed the storytelling “rules” and opened the reunion to any and all who wanted to tell a Conserver tall tale. The tellers and the believers all enjoyed themselves. We won’t relate to you any of the great stories we heard, but some will undoubtedly be re-told in Nashville. Come and contribute one!
With that, we adjourned to the hospitality room to learn who the silent auction high bidders were. 64 total items were contributed by shipmates and their guests and every single item sold. The auction contributed a record breaking $2025.
The top five money makers were Shehanna Adams’ T-shirts and metal signs ($495), Brittany Meadow’s memorial quilt made to honor Kevin Weaver ($300), Dale Hower’s ship’s wheel shelf ($160), RS-39 Alumni wall hanging ($151) and the USS Conserver rocker ($150).
The numerous auction item contributions and generosity of those who bid on them play an enormous part in sustaining the reunion fund. Bravo Zulu to all who contributed and all who purchased the items.
Each reunion, as treasurer, I’m frequently handed cash contributions for the fund and overpayments for auction items. These contributions added nearly $900 to the fund.
We hope to see you all in Nashville in 2022! Stay tuned for more information.
Shipmate Kevin Weaver played a major role in planning and executing Conserver reunions since 2014. He passed away unexpectedly on July 9, 2019. In his memory, Kevin’s wife Renee has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made in his name to the USS Conserver Reunion Fund to be used to help defray expenses at our 2020 reunion in Napa, California in April (date to be determined).
The Reunion Committee has provided this webpage to enable you to make a donation to this memorial fund.
Please give what you can, no amount is too small. Your donation is a great way to honor Kevin, by helping to ensure a more successful reunion.
The Donate button below can be used by anyone who wishes to pay using a credit card or their PayPal account. For those who wish to pay by check, make it payable to the “USS Conserver Reunion Fund” and add “Kevin Weaver Memorial Fund” to the memo field. Send the check to:
Dale Hower, Treasurer
USS Conserver Reunion Committee
10407 Santana Street
Santee, CA 92071
Conservermen and their guests converged on the Radisson Hotel in Branson, MO to celebrate Conserver’s seventh annual reunion, held April 24 to 28, 2019. A total of 78 attended — 41 crew members and 37 guests. If you didn’t attend, I can safely say that you missed a good one! You might want to start plans to attend our 2020 reunion in Napa!
Once again, our hats off and a hearty BZ to our reunion committee: Kevin and Renee Weaver, Dale and Thayes Hower, Romondo Davis and Keith “Doc” Hansen, Jeff Beer (photographer), and those who worked behind the scenes to make this reunion a resounding success!
Folks started arriving in Branson as early as April 19th. Those of us who got in early met for dinner at Landry’s Seafood House on the evening of April 23. Thirty-eight crew members and their guests enjoyed a great meal and an evening of fellowship and renewing old friendships.
Lunch on Showboat Branson Belle
Our first “scheduled” event on April 24th was a lunch and show cruise on the Showboat Branson Belle. Themed after the majestic showboats of the 1800s, the Showboat Branson Belle takes guests on a two-hour cruise across the waters of Table Rock Lake. Launched in 1994, she is 278 feet long with a beam of 78 feet and can accommodate 700 passengers.
Branson set some records: 15 first time attendees and a total attendance of 78 (41 crew members and 37 guests), which matched our Charleston reunion. Fund raising highs were posted in both the 50/50 raffle and the silent auction. Other gratifying highlights were the number of new attendees, six of whom were from the recommissioning crew, and the joy of seeing Shehanna Adams learn more about her father, the late LT Ned Culhane. Ned served on Conserver, and Shehanna was able to meet crew members he served with.
We enjoyed a daily breakfast buffet, compliments of our host hotel, The Radisson. From there, most of us gathered in our hospitality room, which gave us the opportunity to rekindle old friendships and create new ones. The hospitality room also contained the silent auction items, which were on display and open for bids. Bids were closed after the banquet. Our past reunions have established a “tradition” of being kind of free wheeling. Other than established meeting room hours, a business meeting, and our banquet, attendees and guests were free to tailor their time to enjoying both the reunion and the entertainment offered by Branson. This has worked out well for each of our previous reunions and Branson was certainly no exception.
Prior to the finale (our banquet), the group’s business meeting, conducted by Kevin Weaver, was held in the hospitality room. The main purpose of this meeting was to reach a consensus on where our next two reunions would be held. We all agreed that Napa, California would be the location of our 2020 reunion and, after some discussion, Norfolk, Virginia was tentatively scheduled for 2021. Napa was chosen because that is where Conserver was “born”, and the attendees will dedicate a park bench in Shipyard Acres Park. The park lies across the Napa river where the shipyard was. Unfortunately, it was razed about a year ago.
Memorializing passed members of the Conserver family
Before adjourning the business meeting, we memorialized the memory of Ron Gitschier, whose first ship was Conserver (1983 – 1986). Ron’s wife Sandi, daughter Linda, and Grandson Jasper attended. Ron’s CO, John Ackerman, and his Leading PO, Lee Samuelson, presented a cased ensign engraved in honor of Ron’s service on Conserver and his career in the U.S. Navy. RIP Ron, you left us too soon and will be missed by all.
A memorial table was set up in the hospitality room to recognize those members of the Conserver family who have passed on. A photograph of each deceased person was placed on the table, accompanied by a sympathy card attendees were welcome to sign. In addition to Ron Gitschier, we recognized the following Conserver family members:
- Mrs. Mary Anne Weegar, wife of former Commanding Officer, Carl Weegar
- Sue Sykes, wife of Roy Sykes MM3(DV) 73-75
- Brett Parker, who served on Conserver as a QM2(SW) 90-93
- Look for a memorial table at future reunions.
Our “grand finale” has traditionally been an awards banquet, at which a meal is served followed by various members of our family being recognized. After the awards, we open the dais to any crew member who would like to tell a “sea story” or two. This year, we opened it up to guests, specifically wives and sweethearts, in order to add a new point-of-view to the stories from the guys. Storytellers were limited to three minutes and, surprisingly, no one exceeded his or her time on the microphone!
Our master of ceremony, Romondo Davis, opened the festivities with a recording of ex Florida State Senator Richard “Dick” Renick. Dick is, as far as we know, the oldest living crew member (86) who has attended Conserver reunions. The good Senator served on Conserver in 1947 – 1949. Health problems prevented his coming to Branson, so he told his story to Romondo, who recorded it for all who hadn’t heard how Seaman Apprentice Renick reported to the good ship USS Conserver.
John Ackerman led the group in the Pledge of Allegiance, which was followed by Thayes Hower, who spoke about being a Navy wife. She presented a prayer shawl to Terry Ackerman in recognition of her long and successful battle with cancer and her contribution to Conserver as its CO’s wife, and the contributions of all Navy wives. Terry then said grace and our meal was served buffet style.
Romondo Davis and Dale Hower remembered and memorialized those passed Conserver family members: Mary Anne Weegar, Sue Sykes (wife of Roy Sykes), and Brett Parker.
Dale Hower presented recognition awards to the following Conservermen:
- Lee Samuelson
Attendance at five reunions
- Dale Cloutier
- Bob Carmichael
- Jeff Washburn
First reunion attendance
- Jeff Beer
- Dan Davidson – Recomm crew
- Tim Burkhart – Recomm crew
- Ben Lokey – Recomm crew
- Mike Filkins – Recomm crew
- Kelly Kilgore – Recomm crew
- Anthony “Jake” Donaldson – Recomm crew
- Larry Hecht
- Vince Carlton
- Ed Jones
- Donald Jackson
- Clarence LeGrand
- Arnold Kitchen
- Martin Wolfe
- Jess Ashlock – A “walk-in” who happened to be in Branson.
Oldest and youngest attending the reunion
- John Ackerman (81)
- Kelly Kilgore
Traveled farthest to the reunion
- Craig Johnson – from Custer, WA
- Buzz Costa (57–58)
- Jeff Washburn (89-91)
Romondo reviewed the storytelling “rules” and opened the reunion to any and all who wanted to tell a Conserver Tale! Needless to say, a good time was had by all; the tellers and the believers! We won’t relate to you any of the great stories we heard, but they will undoubtedly be re-told in Napa. Come and contribute one!
With that, we adjourned to the hospitality room to find out who the silent auction high bidders were. The auction contributed $1,332 to the reunion fund. By the way, we had a 50-50 raffle which brought $780. The lucky winner was Anne Marie Cloutier who took home $390. The same amount was placed in the reunion fund.
See you all in NAPA in 2020! Stay tuned for more information.
In the words of Dale Hower, Treasurer of the USS Reunion Committee:
Each reunion gets better. Branson set some records: 15 first time attendees, total attendance 78 (41 crew members and 37 guests) which matched the previous totals of the Charleston reunion, and fund raising highs in both the 50/50 raffle and the silent auction.
For me the highlights were the number of new attendees (6 of whom were from the recommissioning crew) and the joy of seeing Shehanna Adams learn more about her father, the late LT Ned Culhane and meeting crew members he served with.
A comprehensive recap will be posted here soon.
We gathered at the Hilton DoubleTree Hotel the last week of April to celebrate Conserver’s Sixth Annual Reunion. We have it on good authority that a good time was had by all!
Our hats off and a hearty BZ to our reunion hosts, Kevin and Renee Weaver and the reunion committee, Dale and Thayes Hower and Keith “Doc” Hansen. Continue reading Jacksonville 2018: A Recap
Check back soon for details on the 2018 reunion in Jacksonville, FL and the upcoming 2019 reunion in Branson, MO.
Mission San Diego de Alcala
La Jolla Cove
Mission Beach Boardwalk
Old Town San Diego
Spruce Street Suspension Bridge
Cabrillo National Monument
Point Loma, San Diego
La Jolla Shores, San Diego
Scripps Institute coastal reserve
Coronado Island visitor center, San Diego
Coronado Island Visitors Center
Coronado Beach Continue reading 2017 Conserver Reunion — Things to do in San Diego
The 2016 Conserver reunion was held April 7–9 in San Antonio. In attendance were 28 shipmates and 21 guests who enjoyed the accommodations at El Tropicano Riverwalk Hotel, visiting local attractions, reconnecting with old friends, meeting new ones, and studying the great detail in the USS Conserver model — a project directed by James Richardson and unveiled at the reunion. Continue reading 2016 Reunion Recap
This family gram and patch image were provided by Mike Forney who served on Conserver from November, 1963 to January, 1965.
U.S.S. CONSERVER (ARS-39)
COMMANDING OFFICER’S NEWSLETTER
17 December 1963
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Forney,
As the Holiday Season approaches, our thoughts most naturally turn to our homes and our loved ones. Many of our brothers-in-arms will be able to speni this holiday season near their loved ores, but for this year it is our turn to stand the watch on the outer perimeter for the defense of our country. As we stand our vigil we take pride and consolation in the fact that it is this alert force, of which we are a small part, and others like it throughout the world that make it possible for our loved ones and all the free world to enjoy the spirit of Christmas in peace and security.
On behalf of myself and the officers and men of CONSERVER, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you, who make so large a contribution of patience and understanding toward our task of preserving peach and freedom, a very Merry Christmas and a most Happy and Prosperous New Year.
Nine weeks ago, the CONSERVER departed Pearl Harbor leaving Oahu to dissolve on the horizon and headed westward in the direction of the Land of the Rising Sun and the Far East. Shadowed by the giant Albatross for thousands of miles, occasionally passing another ship, we sailed over more or less tranquil seas with seemed more like a peaceful pond that the world’s vastest ocean. The old timers on board agreed that the crossing was the smoothest ever.
In addition the daily routine of ship’s work and fighting the constant corrosion caused by salt water, the crew managed to relax at the nightly movies, browser though a wide selection of books and magazines that the library had stocked just before leaving Pearl Harbor, consume over 1226 pounds of meat, drink over 200 gallons of milk and start a beard growing contest.
Although our original destination was Yokosuka, Japan, on the tenth day out we were diverted to Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan to recover an anchor lost in extremely heavy weather by a U.S. Navy ship in the harbor of an isolated fishing village called Hiroo, on the island’s eastern coast. We changed course and made best speed for Hiroo, arriving at the harbor entrance as the sun rose the day before Halloween. A real pat on the back for the navigators who piloted us over 3,400 miles of open water — this was the first landfall since departing Hawaii two weeks before. Unfortunately, recovery efforts were in vain. Due to high seas our divers were unable to locate the anchor in the muddy bottom stirred up by the tossing seas. Diving was hazardous at best, and late in the afternoon became impossible. There was a rumor that a disappointed Halloween trick-or-treater got an early start and made off with the anchor and floated far out to sea with it. With our divers chilled to the bone by the cold northern waters and immediate further efforts impossible because of the tossing seas, we got underway once again and headed south for Yokosuka, 570 miles down the Japanese coast.
Beards were shaved (many mustaches remained), clean in port uniforms were broken out again and we mde preparations to enter Yokosuka for ten days in port. For many CONSERVER men Yokosuka was an old acquaintance, for the new men it was an introduction to something quite new and different — Japan and once far-off Orient. The men were able to get used to solid ground again at the recreation facilities, shop at the Navy Exchanges, and relax in the Navy Clubs, all on the base at Yokosuka where facilities for the U. S. Pacific Fleet are among the finest in the Far East. Many made tours to near-by sightseeing areas — the giant Buddha at Kalrakura, the national park at Hakkone and its main attraction, towering Fujiyama, and of course, Tokyo, the worlds largest city, only an hour away by train. The weather was brisk and clear, not unlike late autumn back in the States. Preparations were made for the remaining months of our cruise with the SEVENTH Fleet, repairs made, and provisions, water and fuel taken on board.
Our preparations completed, the crew well relaxed and ready to go, we sailed south once more, this time into the picturesque Inland Sea separating the Japanese main island of Honshu and the smaller island of Shikoku, headed for the textile center of Imabari situated on the west coast if Shikoku. Since this small port is outside the usual operating areas of the SEVENTH Fleet, we went to Imabari as a reprvssentative of the U.S. Navy, part of the President’s “People-to-People Program” which enables people in all parts of the globe to see and meet the American Armed Forces. Our reception in Imabari was one of the friendliest that we had ever seen, and the people went out of their way to extend warm hospitality to their American visitors. CONSERVER men toured the town, browsed through the numerous shops and arcades and sampled Japanese food — rice cakes, raw fish and octopus — while curious townspeople and students asked countless qaestions about the United States (some of the children had only seen Americans in movies and were surprised that we weren’t all cowboys),and collected the crew’s autograph. The ship was open to visitors, and almost a thousand people were shovm through CONSERVER during our three-day stay. They were especially interested in the deep sea diving display and our salvage equipment. Explanations as well as a history of the ship printed in Japanese were given to all visitors.
In Japan, the next thing that comes to mind about America after cow-boys and Indians, is baseball, and the Japanese have adopted our national sport with great enthusiasm, especially, as we found out, in Imabari. When the town officials paid their first visit to the ship, they could not depart without challenging the CONSERVER softball team to a game with a team from Imabari, a team made up entirely of girls. We accepted, but for the sake of international relations, decided that we would not beat them too badly. The next day, over a thousand spectators, including the It-Mayor, turned out to watch the great event, for the people of Imabari are very proud of their girls’ team. And we learned why. The final score is embarrassing, but it must be told that the girls managed to run wide circles around CONSERVER‘s courageous team; we were able to get only five men across home plate (our opponents were just being polite). After seven innings and 15 runs by the girls, we held up the white flag. We learned then that the girls had recently won the Japanese championship, and although our faces were red, we believe they could almost give the New York Yankees a run for their money.
The next day, seeking to restore the tarnished image of American sports, refinished another local team (all male), this time on the basketball court, and again to our astonishment, the final whistle showed us the losers by eight points. But it must be said that both defeats did more to bolster the prestige of our teams and 100 victories, and all hands were gracious losers. After all, Olympic games are only a few months off, and America will have another chance to regain its status. We were presented medals and flowers by the local teams in the Japanese custom, and we reciprocated by presenting each of them with embroidered CONSERVER patches.
We departed Imabari sadly, but knowing that this small town in Japan had seen something more of our country than just a Hollywood movie set. We. too, will not forget the great warmth and friendliness which we were welcomed by the people of Imabari.
Once more we turned south, this time heading down to Okinawa and the mild climate of the Ryukyuan Islands. Since one of our missions with the SEVENTH fleet is to assist in training other ships, we spent the next week towing targets off the east coast of Okinawa, providing gallery practice for locally-based aircraft and ships. We came into Buckner bay Okinawa to pick up provisions and sealed again for Japan after two days.
Just prior to leaving Okinawa about six o’clock in the morning on 23 November, we received the tragic news of President Kennedy’s assassination over the ships radio from the Armed Forces News Service in New York, and during the day at sea we had continuous news coverage piped throughout the ship to keep the whole crew informed of the latest developments. In the uncertain hours of that day the immense importance of our mission and our great responsibility as members of the United States Navy was brought home to each man. We share our country’s great sadness.
Sasbo, our next port, is on Japan’s Southern Island of Kyshu, a main shipbuilding center and modern city. Sasebo is familiar ground for many and when it was not raining the crew made use of the base facilities and Exchanges to wind up Christmas shopping and generally relax. Thanksgiving day was celebrated on board with a traditional menu of roast turkey and baked ham, complete with pumpkin pie and ice cream, all prepared by our cooks who worked into the wee hours the night before. All agreed it was just like home, with the obvious exception that our loved ones were not there.
In Sasebo came word that a Philippine Navy ship had stranded in the northern Philippines, during a typhoon. Our schedule called for visits to more ports in Japan and Taiwan, but our plans were necessarily changed and we made all preparations to leave for the Philippines to salvage the unlucky ship. Through familiar waters once more we set out from Sasebo, steamed down the Japan Current past Okinawa and Taiwan, through the Bashi Channel, and finally along the mountainous coast of Luzon, the largest of the Philippine Islands, enroute to Subic Bay and the US naval base just to the north of Manila.
Having arrived in Subic, we are now preparing for the salvage job ahead, loading provisions, fuel and water, as well as salvage equipment in addition to that carried a board. We had looked forward to Christmas in Hong Kong, but possibly to salvage project will last sometime. However, our next newsletter will fill in the details.
Thus far, our duty in the Western Pacific has been most interesting and a great success. The seas have been mostly calm (the old-timers are secretly disappointed because they haven’t had a chance to show off their sea legs yet), the skies fair (except for occasional rain), and the winds balmy. We in the CONSERVER send a fond Aloha across the seas in the Western Pacific and again wish you a Merry Christmas and the happiest of holiday seasons.
Lieutenant Commander, U.S. Navy