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USS Conserver 2024 Reunion Recap

Date: April 24-29, 2024

Location: Hilton Garden Inn Savannah Airport, Savannah, GA

The Conserver family gathered in Savannah, GA, to celebrate our 11th reunion. A total of 44 attended: 24 crew members and 20 guests.

To kick things off, we held another Meet and Greet in the hospitality room on Thursday evening. It was was well attended. Everyone enjoyed the crispy, pan-fried pot stickers with sweet chili sauce, chicken tenders with dipping sauce and crispy vegetable spring rolls, beer, wine, and soda. Old friends and shipmates reconnected and new friendships were formed.

The hospitality room was the gathering spot and frequently had a dozen or more shipmates socializing, reminiscing, and comparing Conserver experiences. A rousing game of Ship’s Captain and Crew was popular one evening.

On Friday, nearly all of those in attendance gathered at the city hall landing for a 90-minute narrated Savannah Riverboat cruise on the Savannah River. The majority sat in the open air of the upper deck to enjoy the beautiful blue skies and moderate temperature. The narrator for the cruise was well-versed in Savannah’s Civil War history, the shipping industry, and numerous other historical facts about Savannah. His presentation reflected his obvious love of sharing his knowledge with everyone.

On Saturday morning, Thayes Hower organized a Ladies’ Breakfast at the Another Broken Egg restaurant in nearby Pooler, GA. The ladies used the hotel shuttle to transport them to and from the restaurant. Eight attended and enjoyed a great breakfast and a welcome respite from the continuous sea stories bantered about in the hospitality room.

A business meeting was held prior to the Saturday banquet. The results of the 2025 reunion city survey were revealed.

Colorado Springs, CO, will be the location for the 2025 reunion.

Potential locations for the 2026 reunion were chosen:

  • San Diego, CA
  • Reno, NV
  • Napa, CA

Another email survey will be forthcoming to select the 2026 city from the three cities listed above. Depending on the city that’s selected and hotel availability, the reunion will be in late April/early May or late May/early June.

After the business meeting was adjourned separate group photos of the shipmates and their guests were taken by Romondo Davis. They are posted on the Conserver Facebook group page along with numerous photos taken by other attendees.

Keith Hansen circulated the room selling tickets for the 50/50 raffle. First time attendee, Merle Melling (RD2 1955-56), was asked to draw the winning ticket. The lucky winner of $250 was first-time attendee, Danielle Rodak.

I opened the banquet by leading the group in the Pledge of Allegiance. I spoke briefly about Carl Weegar who passed away last fall and then directed everyone’s attention to the Missing Man Table and the list of all who have passed over the years. We paused for a moment of silence to reflect and honor those on the list.

John Ackerman’s guest, Kay Starr, gave the blessing prior to the Southern Treat buffet dinner of Chicken Marsala, Beef Tips, Mashed potatoes, Buttered Corn, Green Beans and Apple Pie.

I had the pleasure of presenting award plaques to the following shipmates:

  • First reunion: Tim Heil, Jim Rodak, and Merle Melling
  • Fifth reunion: John Eubanks and Ben Lokey
  • Tenth reunion: Keith Hansen, Barry Wilk, Dale Hower, and Lee Samuelson
  • Oldest: Merle Melling (age 92)
  • Youngest: Fred Stevens
  • Traveled farthest: Ben Lokey
  • Served earliest: Merle Melling
  • Served Latest: Jim Rodak and Pistol Hurst

First-time attendees were invited to stand and introduce themselves and their guests to let everyone know their rate while onboard, how they heard about the reunion, and their current occupation.

Dale and Rita Geldert conducted their Navy Trivia Quiz, a feature at four previous reunions. As always, the rules of the quiz poked fun at Navy Divers and various rates and ranks. Each table answered the multiple choice and fill in the blank questions. As in previous years, the questions were difficult and the answers sometimes hotly contested. Dale did throw in a couple easy questions. The quiz is always great fun and as always the highlight of the banquet. Everyone at the winning table received an engraved USS Conserver tumbler.

Numerous items were donated for the silent auction and were on display throughout the reunion.

After the quiz, the silent auction was closed out. The auction and generous cash donations added $870 to the reunion fund. The donated auction items, cash donations, and generosity of those who bid on the items added to the reunion fund and have helped keep the registration fee at it’s current low of $60. Bravo Zulu to all who contributed items and made bids.

Romondo Davis took numerous photos of the attendees and the award winners. His photos are posted below and on the Conserver Facebook page as well as other photos taken by those in attendance.

Although many of you are not on Facebook, I urge you to join and become a member of the Conserver Facebook page. You’ll have access to the thousands of photos posted by members since 2013. Additionally, it’s a great place to reconnect with shipmates and keep abreast of future reunions.

Reunion planning has been turned over to Pistol Hurst, who did the hotel research for the San Antonio reunion in 2016, and Lee Samuelson, who coordinated the Charleston reunion in 2015. I urge you to consider joining them as committee members.

Speaking for myself, Keith Hansen, and my wife, Thayes Hower, it’s been a pleasure coordinating Conserver reunions for the past few years. Keith and I joined the reunion committee at the Las Vegas reunion in 2014. Thayes was drafted into the committee at the San Antonio reunion in 2016 by then chairman, Kevin Weaver, when he learned that she had event planning experience at one of her previous jobs. We’ve all made dozens of friends over the years and will continue to attend reunions to make even more.

We’re looking forward to Colorado Springs and being able to relax and spend more time with shipmates and their guests.

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