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:
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.
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
The reunion committee hopes for a large turnout. If you are planning to attend and haven’t submitted the official reunion registration form, click here now and get that done. Be sure to submit your registration fee and book your hotel room.
We are fortunate to have a shipmate and committee member — Lee Samuelson — who lives in the Charleston area. As official reunion host, he will be able to answer questions and make suggestions about how to get the most out of your visit to Charleston.
The committee, with Lee’s direction, will compile and make available a comprehensive list of group and independent activities from which to choose. It will include some of what you see on post; I’m providing this as both a preview for those who have already registered for the reunion, and incentive for those who have not. I hope you will browse this page, make note of my insights into activities and attractions I enjoy, and share with shipmates who need a little extra push to convince them that the reunion will not only be fun, but that Charleston is a wonderful place to visit.
My responsibility as a member of the 2015 reunion committee is communication. I thought it appropriate to share some of what Charleston offers. I know a good amount about this wonderful southeast community because I’ve visited there a dozen times over the past six plus years; my youngest son attending college there and then settling down nearby with his South Carolina-born wife.
My wife and I love Charleston, and have taken advantage of our visits there to experience as much of the area as possible. This post will highlight some of our favorite places and activities in hopes that it help you get the most out of your visit. And if you’re on the fence about attending — if hanging out with a bunch of virtual shipmates isn’t enough — knowing a little about what Charleston has to offer could push you over the top.
Patriots Point is probably the biggest attraction for a group of old sailors. The reunion committee is organizing a visit as our main group activity on Friday, April 24. Plans for our visit are still being made, but I can tell you that we will have plenty of time to tour the ships, submarine and other exhibits, and we’ll eat lunch off metal trays in the USS Yorktown CPO Galley. Be sure to sign up for this outing in the reunion hospitality room.
The photo at the right shows one of several vendors that sell intricate and artistic baskets woven from sweetgrass. You’ll also find some of these sweetgrass artisans along nearby streets if you venture out beyond the historic district and into the residential neighborhood just a few blocks to the south.
But in the market, besides sweetgrass baskets, you’ll find a wide variety of shops and kiosks selling everything from t-shirts, to jams, to jewelry and more. The three block long market is packed at peak hours with tourists looking for bargains on low-country souvenirs. This is an especially unique shopping experience.
I never took one of these tours because I’ve had some pretty knowledgable personal guides with me. I can tell you that the self-guided walking tours are a good way to do it if you have the time and energy, but if you prefer to learn about the history of this beautiful and historic city in comfort, you’ll get it more efficiently if you go on one of these horse-drawn tours.
The tour guides know their stuff and treat their passengers to the highlights of the city’s history as well as humor and interesting trivia.
With a history that includes the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and pirates, The Battery and White Point Gardens, also known as The Battery, is a great destination by car, but is even better by foot. Starting at the west end of Charleston City Market, walk straight south on Meeting Street to the park. The less-than-one mile walk takes you through a great neighborhood of beautiful, well-kept southern-style homes.
The park features cannons from the Civil War artillery battery and a wonderful panorama of the south and east areas of the harbor. And to make your walk even better, I recommend returning to the market via the shore, heading north on East Battery Street, which turns in to East Bay Street, and turning right on East Adgers Wharf through Waterfront Park. I estimate the round trip to be 2 miles, exercise I will surely need after so much reunion revelry.
Deb and I will probably include this in our Saturday free time activities in downtown Charleston; if you’re interested, let me know and we’ll be glad to take you along.
About a half mile walk from Charleston City Market is the beautiful campus of the College of Charleston, the oldest college in South Carolina. Unlike almost every other college or university campus you’ve seen, this one retains the old southern charm it must have had when it was founded in 1770. The buildings, many of them resembling large residences, and the ample shade trees draped with Spanish moss, make a stroll through the campus a visual pleasure.
On your walk from the market to the college, you’ll pass through the retail district of downtown Charleston, where you’ll find numerous stores, shops and restaurants.
Shipmate Jim Richardson has offered to provide a day of bareboat sailing on Saturday, April 24th. He will be recruiting sailors among us to crew this craft, hopefully a Bavaria 39 foot. A signup form will be provided on this website beginning in March.
With that said, if you prefer not to be a part of this salty crew, but have interest in enjoying on a more leisurely guided tour, I suggest the Blue Horizon. I discovered this option when my son treated Deb and me to it as his Father’s Day gift in 2012. Captain Paul Mitchell and his wife provided a grand tour of the harbor, pointing out significant Charleston landmarks and offered insights in Charleston’s nautical history.
I visited the South Carolina Aquarium on my very first visit to Charleston, a trip dedicated to registering my youngest in college. He chose Charleston Southern University because of their biology program; he had set his sights on majoring in marine biology. (He ended up earning a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and Theatre.)
We found this aquarium’s 60 unique habitats and 385,000-gallon Great Ocean Tank to be as enjoyable as what we saw at the world famous Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.
I don’t buy a lot of cigars, but when I do, I buy them at Lianos Dos Palmas in downtown Charleston. If you’ve ever been in a cigar shop, the first thing you notice is the cigar smoke. Not so much here; because they roll them fresh on the premises, the smell of fresh tobacco is prevalent. Walk in and watch the expert roller at work. The cigars they sell are high quality and very reasonably priced. Let me know if you’re interested when we’re in downtown Charleston and I’ll take you there. Otherwise, check their website for a map. It’s just a few blocks from City Market.
Visit the Lianos Dos Palmas Cigar Shop website.
Charleston Area Beaches
The weather is not likely to be anything like it was when I took this photo at Isle of Palms in June, 2012. We were in Charleston for my son’s graduation from Charleston Southern University. If you’re inclined to visit the beach, even if it’s just to take off your shoes and walk along the sand, there are two beaches within 20 miles of downtown Charleston.
Deb and I visited this site on one of our southeast road trips on our way back from visiting friends in Hilton Head. It’s over an hour away from the hotel, but if you appreciate pre-independence history and architecture, you’ll enjoy visiting these ruins. The church was built between 1745 and 1753; the walls and columns still stand. The original church was burned by the British during the Revolutionary War and rebuilt in 1826. It was burned again in 1865 by General Sherman in his march from Georgia to South Carolina.
The grounds and the ruins are one of the most picturesque scenes I’ve seen in my many travels to South Carolina and Georgia. I rank this site right up there with God’s beautiful sunrises over the Atlantic Ocean. Be sure to take your camera if you visit the Old Sheldon Church Ruins.
Just 11 miles from the hotel and approximately half way between the hotel and the Charleston Tea Plantation, Angel Oak helps make the drive worth it. This tree is estimated to be over 1,500 years old and its canopy covers 17,000 square feet. It’s pretty amazing.
Now, my wife had to drag me on this one. So guys, if you owe your wife a favor, consider the Charleston Tea Plantation.
The 20-mile drive from the Holiday Inn Riverview takes you through the typical low country terrain and scenery, something you should experience if you are from west of the Great Smokies. The plantation is owned by the Bigelow Tea Company and is the only working tea plantation in the United States. Your visit includes a guided trolley ride through the 127 acre farm, a visit to their high tech propagation farm (my horticulturist wife was really excited about this attraction) and a chance to see the extensive tea processing plant. The tour ends in the visitors center where you can shop teas to please any taste.