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USS Conserver 2022 Reunion Recap

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.

Diving Display by Jeff Washburn

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!

In Memoriam

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.
John Ackerman’s Crew and FaceTime Participants

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)
Perfect Attendance
Quiz Prize

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).

Our Webmaster, Romondo Davis, photographed everyone at the banquet and has posted his photos here on the Conserver website. You will find other reunion photos on the Conserver Facebook page.

We hope to see a lot more of you in Phoenix next year, Please check this Reunion Information page and our Facebook page for future reunion news.

Submitted by,

Dale Hower

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Virginia Beach 2021 Reunion – A Recap

Our family of Conserver crew members and their guests gathered at the Wyndham

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.

Business meeting

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.

The Banquet

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.

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Short Timer comment for Romondo

I found my short timer calendar from late 1973. At the time I was assigned to Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes, Illinois. I spent just over one year in a pilot program that brought senior second class petty officers from the fleet to serve as Assistant Company Commanders. During that year I worked for 14 different Company Commanders helping them train recruits during their first 2-3 weeks of boot camp. There were about a dozen of us Assistant Company Commanders out there on the streets and grinders and in the barracks and classrooms of RTC. We all became well versed in all phases of training (folding clothes, locker stowage, marching , the 96 count manual of arms, the 16 count manual of arms, etc). We were a Godsends to new company commanders pushing their first company. Our presence with a company also gave the old salts with four or five companies under their belts more regular hours during the first weeks with a company, the most time consuming part.

The photos are of my “wheel book” during that time. It became my short timer calendar. As the day of my discharge grew closer I must have lost interest in the countdown

because the X’s stopped on November 18, 1973 and IMG_0160 never started again. I was discharged on December 10, 1973. It didn’t last long. I reenlisted three months later, got married and swept my school teacher bride off to

Hawaii to begin my tour on Conserver and her new role as a Navy wife.IMG_0158IMG_0159

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Conserver T-shirt

Here’s a blast from the past that I discovered in the bottom of a dresser drawer.  MRC(DV) Thoenes had me do the artwork for a T-shirt that he had made for the divers onboard.  I rarely wore the shirt given that I wasn’t a Navy Diver and didn’t feel I rated it but MRC(DV) Thoenes gave me one for doing the artwork. Consequently it has weathered the past forty years quite well. It was produced sometime between May 74 and May 77.  It may well be the only  one that has survived.

Diver T 1Diver T 3Diver T 2Diver T 4

 

 

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Special Liberty

One of my memorable days on Conserver was the day I took a short cut to the berthing area.

As a newlywed my wife Thayes and I had very little in the way of furniture.  She had been renting a furnished house and I was a single sailor when we married.  We had just moved into our quarters at Navy housing in Pearl City.  I was granted special liberty to be home with my wife because  our personal effects had arrived and were being delivered. They consisted primarily of clothes, kitchen utensils, linens and such, all my stereo equipment and both of our record collections.  Not much really, but they were things we missed and would help make our house a bit more homey.  The few furniture  items we had were loaners provided by PWC.

 

I had duty the night before.  My special liberty started after morning quarters that memorable day in October 1974.   Operations Department held quarters on the port side of the main deck near the bow.  As soon as QMC Larose dismissed us, I headed for the berthing area to change and get ready to hit the beach.  The shortest route was down the forward hatch on the starboard side that led to the armory then aft.  It had drizzled early that morning, the hatch had been left open and the ladder treads were slippery..  I stepped over the hatch coaming and that’s the last thing I remember until I came to at the bottom of the ladder.

 

Doc Hansen  swathed my head in bandages to stop the blood flow from a gash on the back of my head.  I forget whether I walked to the ambulance that had been called or  was transported to it in a stokes stretcher.  I had a short ambulance ride to the Medical Clinic near the Makalapa gate where I got eleven stitches.  Someone from the ship had called my wife to tell her what had happened and where I was taken.   When she got into the ER recovery area I was a mess. Dried blood all over my hair and on my dungaree shirt.  They observed me for an hour,  prescribed 24 hours of bed rest and some pain killers then released me to my wife.

First thing I did when I got home was take a nap.  It lasted only until the shipment came. It was time to open the boxes and find the stereo equipment that had been dearly missed for months.    Neither stitches nor the throbbing headache were going to keep me from setting up my stereo system and listening to some tunes.

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Adventures in Chin Hae, South Korea 1974

Just a day or so before Conserver pulled into Chin Hae, ETN2 John Peterson and I were called to Radio Central to investigate problems with both high powered radio transmitters. They were down hard which severely curtailed our long range communications. I recall John and I worked a good many hours getting one back on line. The second one would have to wait. We knew the problem but the five 17 cent diodes that we needed to repair it were not in stock down in supply.

Shortly after we pulled in it was decided that I should try to get the diodes from a Korean ship. In short order the mess decks were filled with Korean vendors. I wrote down a introductory greeting and a description of the parts and had one of the vendors trnslate it into Korean for me. Off I went, note in hand, searching for the parts.

The first ship I went aboard was an old WWII LST. The translated greeting worked well and before too long I was on the bridge waiting to talk with the ET onboard. Maybe not so much talking more pointing and gesturing. He figured out what I needed and was off to his supply office to see if they had the diodes. Not 20 seconds after he left me, general quarters sounded. Sailors were battening down hatches, stuffing their pant legs in their socks, and donning helmets. I learned later that the Korean Navy has drills daily due to the proximity of North Korea. Fortunately things settled down quickly and the all clear was sounded. My Korean ET came back. Sadly, they had no diodes in stock. I was off to another ship.

This time I ended up on the quarterdeck of a destroyer. The Korean ETC had gone to electronics school in San Diego which solved my communication issue. He was about to head to supply in search of the parts when the word was passed that the ship was breasting out. Rather than send me pierside to wait, he parked me in the ET shop and off he went. No luck in his search but he did tell me he might be able to get them from supply in Chin Hae.

I don’t recall if I ever got the diodes from the Korean Navy supply depot or not. Perhaps SKC Holstein or SK2 Witala had to get involved, maybe not. My memory zeroes in on the adventure of the search.

Those transmitters continued to be a royal pain throughout the remainder of the WestPac. Back in Hawaii, John and I had the pleasure of hauling them off the ship for a complete overhaul when Conserver went to Dillingham for drydock.