Location: Holiday Inn & Suites Phoenix-Mesa/Chandler, AZ
Number of Attendees:
23 Crew Members
The Conserver family gathered once again for the 10th reunion. Attendees and guests were free to spend their time socializing with shipmates and guests, new and old, and to enjoy visiting the area’s attractions. This year we had an informal Meet and Greet in the hospitality room on Thursday evening. We enjoyed hors d’oeuvres catered by the hotel. Jim and Colette Davenport generously donated a case of assorted wines from their Hard Hat Winery inventory.
The Conserver family gathered at the Hilton Nashville Airport Hotel from April 27-May 1, 2022, for their ninth reunion. For five days shipmates reconnected, met new members of the family, and generally had a great time enjoying all that Nashville has to offer.
A total of 33 attended; 21 members and 12 guests. Sadly, it was the lowest attendance we have ever had. That didn’t stop everyone from having a great time. Thank you to my fellow reunion committee members: Thayes Hower, Romondo Davis, and Keith Hansen, and all others who lent a hand.
Conserver reunions have established a tradition of being 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 Nashville’s attractions. Many attendees visited the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the Johnny Cash Museum, the Parthenon, the Ryman Auditorium, the Grand Ole Opry, and the restaurants and honky tonks on Broadway.
Many thanks to Jeff Washburn who set up an extensive static diving display in the hospitality room. Additionally, he and his guest, Mary Jones, brought brownies, venison summer sausage, venison chili, cheese, crackers and sweet breads. As in past reunions, Jennifer Simmen brought peanut butter chocolate chip cookies and white chocolate macadamia nut cookies. First time attendees Jack and Sandy Dempsey brought Tennessee barbecue, coleslaw, baked beans and mac-n-cheese. We ate well in the hospitality room this year!
A memorial table was set up in the hospitality room to recognize those members of the Conserver family who have crossed the bar since the Virginia Beach reunion. Photographs of Dick Renick and Terry Ackerman and their obituaries were on display throughout the reunion
Prior to the Saturday evening banquet, a business meeting was held in the hospitality room. The following items were discussed:
Romondo Davis revealed the results of the 2023 reunion location survey. It will be held in the Phoenix. AZ, area. Assistance in the hotel selection process from crew members in the Phoenix area will be appreciated.
More volunteers are needed to man the hospitality room at the next reunion by setting up a watch bill. Just like old times!
Three locations were established for the 2024 reunion: Gettysburg, PA; Annapolis, MD; and Savannah, GA. A survey to select which city will be forthcoming. We’re hoping for a better response to this survey. Only 32 crew members participated in the 2023 selection survey.
An additional future survey will attempt to determine the reasons why this year’s attendance was a record low 33 in hopes of stemming the downward attendance trend and the possibility of holding the reunion every 2 years instead of every year.
Following the business meeting, Thayes Hower and Rita Geldert transferred all the silent auction items to the banquet room to encourage additional bidding and simplify closing out the auction. Also following the business meeting, five members of John Ackerman’s crew enjoyed a Facetime call with their former skipper since he was unable to attend this year.
After everyone was seated in the banquet room, Romondo Davis, our very capable Master of Ceremonies, welcomed and thanked all for attending the reunion. First time attendee Richard Dunne lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance. I spoke briefly memorializing Dick Renick and Terry Ackerman. Romondo gave the blessing prior to a delicious plated banquet of espresso rubbed New York Strip Steak or a pan seared French Chicken Breast, a salad, and a raspberry cheesecake dessert.
Keith Hansen and his daughter, Jennifer Simmen, sold tickets for the 50/50 raffle and had young Judy Simmen draw the winning ticket. The lucky winner of $260 (one-half of the $520 collected) was Dale Geldert.
I had the pleasure of presenting award plaques to the following shipmates:
Perfect Attendance: Lee Samuelson: he’s attended every reunion.
Attendance at their first reunion: J.R. Crosby, Richard Dunne, Jack Dempsey
Attendance at their fifth reunion: Robert (Pistol) Hurst and Fred Stevens.
Oldest attending the reunion: Richard Dunne
Youngest attending the reunion: Fred Stevens
Traveled farthest to the reunion: Ben Lokey
Served earliest: Dale Geldert (63-64)
Served latest: Robert (Pistol) Hurst (91-94)
For the past three reunions Dale and Rita Geldert have conducted a Navy trivia quiz. Dale’s pre-quiz rules which were read aloud by Rita were peppered with good natured barbs about divers, bos’n mates and snipes. No bones were broken and no blood was shed. Everyone seated at the winning table received a large engraved drinking mug and pin. This year’s quiz and the accompanying good natured back and forth between Dale and the divers, bos’n mates and snipes once again made this the highlight of the banquet.
Romondo Davis reviewed the storytelling “rules” and invited the new members to start the tales. Others followed with their stories and remembrances. I won’t relate to you all of the great stories we heard, but some will undoubtedly be re-told in Phoenix. Come and contribute one!
With that we closed out the silent auction, determined the high bidders for each item, and collected payment. 29 items were contributed by shipmates and their guests and every item sold. The auction raised $585 which has been placed in the reunion fund. The auction item contributions and generosity of those who bid on them play a large part in sustaining the reunion fund. Bravo Zulu to all who contributed and all of those who purchased items.
The three top selling items in the auction were Jennifer Simmen’s ten zippered bags ($110), Jeff Washburn’s Johnson Automatic Towing Machine brass plaque from the Conserver ($100) and a bos’n pipe ($50).
Terry Ackerman passed away on November 17th, 2021. She was the beloved wife of Conserver commanding officer, John Ackerman. Terry accompanied John to our reunions until recent years when her battle with multiple myeloma prohibited her from traveling.
The Reunion Committee has provided this web page to enable donations to a memorial fund, proceeds of which will go in Terry’s name to the International Myeloma Foundation. Please give what you can, no amount is too small. Your donation is a great way to honor Terry.
The Donate button below can be used to pay by credit card or PayPal account. If you wish to pay by check, make it payable to the “USS Conserver Reunion Fund” and add “Terry Ackerman Memorial Fund” to the memo field. Send the check to:
Dale Hower, Treasurer
10407 Santana Street
Santee, CA 92071
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.
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:
First attendance at a reunion:
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):
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.
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:
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:
Attendance at five reunions
First reunion attendance
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
Jess Ashlock – A “walk-in” who happened to be in Branson.
Oldest and youngest attending the reunion
John Ackerman (81)
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.