Rapid City, South Dakota, September, 2021

Rapid City was beautiful from the beginning. From the air we could see the Black Hills , the Badlands, and the plains sprawling below as we flew in by way of Chicago. Betsy and I arrived late Saturday afternoon. We spent Sunday strolling around downtown Rapid City, even catching an open air church service in the Center of town. Shipmates and their families began arriving later in the afternoon, it was almost like a Christmas gathering of old friends. Several shipmates, spouses, and guests gathered in the hospitality room to help preparing welcome bags to and to produce table decorations.

A big shout out to the early birds and others who pitched in shopping for snacks and coffee, setting up and decorating the hospitality suites, helping arrange the ships store, and preparing the welcome bags at registration, including Glenn and Marian DePue, Julie Ruby, Russ and Paula Newman, Betsy Phillips, Ron Jordan, Gene and Suzanne Valla, Ed Kukuk, and Julie Russell.

Monday 30 August

Monday was spent registering shipmates and families for the reunion, getting organized and catching up with everyone. We had our welcome reception in one of the Hotel’s spacious events rooms, the group’s first opportunity to meet together. We were so pleased to see all the family that had come to support their fathers and grandfathers and friends. We even had a great granddaughter on deck to lend a hand.

Tuesday 31 August

The next day we were on our way to visit Mount Rushmore, a monument we all looked forward to seeing. First we swore in Ron Jordan, as Bus Captain/Sheriff with tin badge and deputy sheriff, Pete Russell. Pete’s emblem of authority was a clipboard. Their job to ensure we didn’t lose anyone on the tour. It was all as it was advertised: grand, beautiful and stirring. Even the bus trip was good.

On the way to Rushmore we stopped at the little town of Keystone. There were some interesting shops that managed to stir our acquisitive side. So we set about enriching the town, marginally. Purchases included such treasures as a T-shirt with the shape of a buffalo and the words, “Don’t pet the fluffy cow”. We then proceeded to Rushmore where the required group picture was taken with the four Presidents.

On the return trip we visited the Crazy Horse Memorial. It is a work in progress with the intended goal of a huge stone carving of Crazy Horse on horseback, arm extended directing the attack on Custer at the Battle of Little Big Horn. When completed it will be the focal point of a Museum preserving the culture and traditions of the North American Plains Indians.

We returned to Rapid City in time for a nap for those inclined. Later there was an opportunity to have dinner in town. Rapid City is a pleasant town with an interesting central square surrounded by a variety of places to eat within a short walk from the Hotel.

Wednesday 1 September

In the morning we had our Business Meeting. Bob Rowe was elected 2nd VP with the responsi-bility of encouraging Association membership. Sonny Howell was elected Chaplain after the passing of our much loved Frank West earlier this year. Other officers and directors remained the same. Nashville was selected as our next reunion site. Members voted to allow the reunion committee to plan future reunions on an 18 month schedule. This allows the committee to take advantage of seasonal cost breaks. The rest of Thursday morning and afternoon was devoted to investigating the many attractions offered by Rapid City including museums, shops, as well as restaurants.

The reunion banquet took place in the evening.  Dress was optional and varied across a wide spectrum of comfort. The music was provided by Glenn DePue. We learned that Glenn had been in the music business since leaving the Navy and had done everything from sound and lighting to promotion and production. The general sense was that his sound system and the music he provided was the best that we have ever had. Thanks Glenn!

Colors were presented by the local Navy Recruiting Office. After a rousing welcome to shipmates and members of the Association, a sincere thank-you was given to accompanying relatives and friends. The traditional TAPS ceremony took longer than usual, as the bell rang out 51 times for members who had passed away since the last reunion.

Thursday 2 September

Joe Hill was called on to complete an item of business that was initiated at the morning’s business meeting. Joe declared Pete Russell a Lifetime member of the Association as provided in the Bylaws, in recognition of his dedicated leadership in planning and executing our reunions. It was our pleasure to present this token of our appreciation. Also… thank-you Julie.

Given that the Navy’s birthday occurred during our reunion it was felt fitting to celebrate with the cutting of the cake. The oldest member was invited to do the honors, but the designation was not uncontested. So a compromise led to two oldest-timers handling the sword. It wasn’t pretty.

After dinner, the raffle prizes were awarded to the winners. The raffle effort raised $800 for the Ship’s Store. Thanks to Betsy Phillips and all those who assisted with the Store.

We also noted that shipmate Gene $500 challenge was met and met twice again. During the evening the total rose to $2,000. Thanks Gene for kicking this off, and thanks to those who met the challenge.

Friday 3 September

The farewell meeting on Friday was not short on emotion. The hospitality room was packed like never before, and chatter was plentiful, but hushed. After official goodbyes and a benediction by Sonny Howell Gary asked everyone to share one word that best described this reunion. The responses were heartfelt: Fun! Exciting! Family! Fabulous! Best! Caring! Fantastic! … and on it went. The one word most repeated was, “Family”. We are a great Family linked by a great ship, a wonderful Navy experience, an exceptional country, and a loving God. Let’s continue to cherish that family and meet again in Nashville.

Note: By now everyone should know that this was the last reunion for Joe Hill, a valued shipmate. We generally don’t do memorials, but given Joe’s dedicated service we have here. Joe was dedicated to the Association, a thorough and effective secretary-treasurer for many years.

Kansas City, Missouri, September, 2018

Once again, (a line from “My Fair Lady”) “We Did It!” In many ways, the KCMO reunion was the best of all. Even the weather was cooperative. The best part was the camaraderie and fellowship among shipmates, associates, and guests.

I want to thank Bill Berkley for setting up and manning the hospitality suite. Great job. Also, Betsy Phillips for operating the Ship’s Store. Those sweatshirts and hoodies came in handy. Want to thank Ron the Bus Captain man: Excellent job, and he didn’t lose a man (or woman).

Patty Howell did a great job with “Bingo Night.” Although one table (I won’t say which one, ahem … 🙂 seemed to win almost everything, the pizza, salad, and drinks were excellent and fun was had by all. Thanks to Aubree for her assistance.

The banquet went off without a hitch. Special thanks to the Navy Color Guard for the added touch of dignity and respect; even to “Sven” and his sidekick for the, uh, entertainment. I will long remember those out on the dance floor – and Al Jaques leading the way. Special kudos to Greg Dixon for the excellent photos he shot. It’s great to have a pro on board!

Thanks to Meredith Jaques for taking on the job of 2nd Vice President, a very important position. The 2nd VP has the principle responsibility of membership and liaison with the Rochester Museum in New York. Note to all: Please help Meredith contact new and former ROCHESTER shipmates. She may ask for your assistance in the near future.

A big thank you to shipmate Harold Sewell for all the woodwork items he made from the ship’s decking. They added beauty and sentimentality to the prizes raffled at the banquet. (Hope you are doing well.)

One of our shipmates offered to match donations up to $500 for the Association’s general fund. His challenge was answered with $540 in donations by several of our members. Thanks to this shipmate’s generous (anonymous) challenge, we raised more than $1,000.

The Hilton Hotel scored a TEN for hospitality and adequacy! I can’t say enough good things about management and staff. From General Manager Katz to the maintenance or housekeeping staff, they were the best. If you are ever in KC, you know where to stay!

Finally, to Pete Russell and the reunion committee: “You – Did it!” Most of my shipmates will remember the musical, “My Fair Lady.” After the diplomatic ball, Colonel Pickering admits

“Tonight, old man, you did it!
You did it! You did it! You said that you would do it,
And indeed you did. I thought that you would rue it;
I doubted you’d do it. But now I must admit it
That succeed you did. You should get a medal
Or be even made a knight!”

Indeed, once again, you did it! And I never doubted you would. Congratuations!

The reunion committee included Gene Valla, Russ Newman, Patty Howell, Meredith Jaques, “Moose” Schneider, and Ralph Spears.

Looking forward to seeing you all in Rapid City, South Dakota. I can hardly wait.

Garry Phillips

Charleston, South Carolina, March, 2017

View the photo gallery from the Charleston Reunion

Well, after having to evacuate Charleston this past October in the face of hurricane Matthew, we were able to re-schedule and gather together in “America’s Most Friendly City” in March for our “2016” reunion. By all accounts, a grand time was had by all. Here is a recap from our Association President.

From Garry Phillips: It has been our goal for several years to make the ROCHESTER reunion a little better than the last, and amazingly we have been successful. Our continued success in no way lessens the reunions that have gone before. Still, in some measure they seem to improve each time. Our recent meeting in Charleston followed that pattern and was truly outstanding.

Planning each activity in detail pays off in the end, and we think that we are getting better at it with each reunion. But more important, the camaraderie is the glue that holds the Association together. While we may be getting a little, it simply makes seeing our shipmates again a little better. My favorite part of the Charleston reunion was getting to visit with several members that I really hadn’t known before. On a personal note, on our way home from the reunion, I asked my wife if she had had a chance to meet Ed Whitten. We agreed that he had really brightened up the place! What a pleasure for me to get to know him. As you know, Ed passed away shortly after returning home from Charleston.

At Charleston we had a record number of children, grandchildren, and friends who escorted our shipmates and wives to the reunion. We were excited to have two “Plank Owners” who were aboard the ship when she was commissioned join us and cut the commemorative cake at the banquet – Ray Everett and Eugene Smith – way to go! Two special guests who attended, Helen Muci and Sharon Burke, are the widows of two of our shipmates. We enjoyed getting to know each of you and we extend an invitation to join us in Kansas City. The Association is honored with your presence.
During the business meeting at Charleston, the members elected Rod Neal as 1st Vice President. The 1st VP’s principal responsibility is publication of the Association newsletter. Retired Captain Neal was a LTJG assigned to B and R Divisions aboard the ROCHESTER from 1958 to 1961. Russell Newman was also elected a member of the Association Board of Directors. Russell served in OR Division from 1959 to 1961.

On to Kansas City, Missouri in 2018! With our intrepid Executive Vice President, Pete Russell, at the planning helm, checking every box, I’m sure that KC will be another record breaking success!

Here are a few photos taken of the model of the Rochester which visited the reunion:

Model in Hospitality Suite

Sam Andrus and Ship Model


Ship Model and Builder Lamm

San Antonio Reunion Photos Can Be Viewed in USS Rochester Web Album

THE ROCHESTER COWBOYSEveryone who attended the reunion in San Antonio should have received an invitation by e-mail to access and view a “Web Album” that we put together using Google Picasa. Currently, there are about 200 pictures in the album…including a great group shot taken at the Cibolo Longhorn Ranch dinner Thursday evening. Whether you attended the reunion or not…and would like to access the album, please e-mail Pete Russell, peterussell@cox.net

2014 San Antonio Highlights

“Good Things Come in Small Packages.” I know you have heard that old saying, and this time it rings completely true. While the San Antonio reunion was smaller than usual, it was definitely one of the best, if not the best of all. It is difficult to put my finger on the why button – but it was great. All our reunions have been good and have had their high points – whether the hotel, the tours, the hospitality room, the banquet – but this one was special. In the end, I think it was the camaraderie. No small credit for its success goes to the Reunion Committee, headed by the indomitable Pete Russell, and including Joe Hill, Bill Berkley, Lonnie Holder, and Dick Becker.

I was privileged to get acquainted with many of the Shipmates that I had only known by name before. I got to meet and talk with spouses and girlfriends, children, and grandchildren. I especially want to thank the children and grandchildren and caregivers that accompanied Shipmates to San Antonio. We old guys really enjoyed meeting you and we appreciate your dedication.

The membership reelected Joe Hill as Secretary/Treasurer; Frank West as Chaplain; Bill Berkley as Master-At-Arms; and myself as President. Pete Russell was elected as Executive Vice President (a position he was already filling temporarily); and Steve Van Westendorp was elected First Vice President, replacing Gordon Cargill. Dick Becker was reappointed Storekeeper. The position of Second Vice President remains vacant until it can be temporarily filled. Frank Dayak, Merlin Scheller, Don Moon, and Chip Chipley will continue to serve on the Board of Directors.

Some important issues were addressed at this year’s business meeting. First, membership voted to hold the next reunion in Charleston, SC. Then, after considerable discussion, we decided to open “Associate Membership” to all shipmates’ family members. This will increase membership and keep the ROCHESTER afloat for many years to come. The decision required us to change the Association’s Bylaws, and is reported below*. Another decision was to reduce the Ship’s Store’s operation since it is no longer self-sustaining. A few items will be available in the future, but stocks will not be replenished.

Thanks again to all who made this last reunion a wonderful success.

Let’s do it again in Charleston!


* Change to the Bylaws – Establishment of “Associate Membership”

Article XIII of the USS ROCHESTER Association’s Bylaws establishes the procedures for amending the by-laws. On September 29, 2014, the committee of the whole met in its Designated Business Meeting to consider, in part, a motion to establish a new “Associate Membership” for the Association. The motion, as amended, would establish a dues-paying, voting, Associate Membership for spouses and bona fide descendants and relatives of ROCHESTER Members (See Article III, Section 1). The amendment and motion were seconded, discussed, and passed by two-thirds majority, as required by Article XIII.

The Amendment shall be as follows:

Amendment I
“Associate Membership” to the USS ROCHESTER Association shall be open to spouses and bona fide descendants (including adopted or step children) and relatives of any military personnel who served aboard the USS ROCHESTER while underway. Associate Members are subject to the same privileges and requirements as “Voting Membership” as described in Article III, Section 1, of the “Constitution and Bylaws of the USS Rochester Association.”


2012 San Diego Reunion Highlights

The 2012 reunion in San Diego was great. Everything, including the banquet and tours, was fun and well planned. A hearty “Well Done” to Gordon and all those that helped him make this reunion a success. To all those who attended, it was great to see you again. To all those who couldn’t make it, we missed you greatly and hope to see you in San Antonio. The Association overwhelmingly selected San Antonio, Texas, for the site of the next reunion. We also voted to hire a company that specializes in military reunions to make the arrangements for us.

In the meeting, we also voted to delete the By-Laws rule that requires the member recommending the city to live within 150 miles of the selected site. Among other reasons for selecting San Antonio was that San Antonio is somewhat near the center of the United States – considering the 2008 reunion in Washington, DC, and the 2012 reunion in San Diego. Members remarked that San Antonio has excellent hotels, the famous River Walk, the Alamo, favorable weather in October, and is “military friendly.” More information will be provided regarding the 2014 reunion as it becomes available.

The Association elected three new board members, Frank Dayak, Keith Moon, and Chip Chipley. Frank Dayak had been temporarily appointed to serve out the term of Lou DiRusso who passed away in late September 2012. Merle Scheller is the other board member. We will greatly miss our beloved shipmate and friend, Lou DiRusso. Lou was a founding member of the Association. The Association elected two new officers including myself as President and Pete Russell as 2nd Vice President. The indomitable Dick Becker, outgoing President, agreed to serve as Storekeeper after the retirement of Larry and Mary Stone. At this point, let me pause to give Larry and Mary a big “Bravo Zulu” for their many years of service as the Ship’s Storekeeper. They carried a heavy load a long time and served the Association well with an efficient operation. I would like to thank my friend and shipmate Dick Becker for his service as President. Dick was instrumental over the past two years in the drive to locate former ROCHESTER shipmates and introduce them to the Association. Dick worked very hard on both the 2010 and 2012 reunions. He has held almost every office in the Association and now continues to serve as Storekeeper.

The Drake Family: We were particularly pleased to get acquainted with the family of our shipmate, Lawrence (Larry) Drake who served in A Division from 1952 to 1956. Larry passed away in 2011 and his family honored him, and us, by attending the 2012 reunion in San Diego. We want to thank his wife Dorothy; sons Charlie, Mike, and Mark; daughter Debbie; brother Chuck; and nieces Terri and Kim for gracing us with their presence and for honoring our shipmate.

The Bogan Family: ROCHESTER Plank Owner Ray Bogan served on board from 1946 to 1948 and passed away in 2009. His wife Betty had planned to attend the 2012 reunion but passed away one week before the reunion. Their son Rob and Rob’s wife Bev, in honor of his father and mother, attended the reunion and celebrated his parents’ lives with the Association. A nephew of Ray and Betty, Jack Meyers, also attended. We want to thank Rob and Bev and Jack for spending this time with us and for the donation of Ray’s plank which was given to grateful Art Riola. We want to commend you for honoring our shipmate in this way.

We hope to see you all again.


2010 Milwaukee Reunion Highlights

When I first began to assemble activities for our reunion in Milwaukee, I thought this will be easy. As I moved along and began to explore the possible activities that would be enjoyed by the attending shipmates, it became clear that my task would be a daunting one. The details that needed to be dealt with were almost overwhelming. One of my daughters reminded me that, in an event of such scope “Murphy’s Law” will surely apply.

That reminder was in the back of my mind throughout the event. If there were any missteps, I was certainly not made aware of any such thing. Thankfully, the members of the planning committee, Dick and Raejean Becker, Merle and Shirley Scheller, Bill Berkely, and Larry and Mary Stone were on the front lines solving any minor problems that may have arisen. At one of our meetings, it was decided that I would be available to deal with any major issues. Thankfully everything went as planned. I would like to thank my wife Janet for putting up with my grumpy moods for the last two years, Joe and Judy Hill, Pete Russell, Ed Willis, Gordon Cargill and Chip Chipley as they were all instrumental and more than willing to help in making our reunion a success.

At the business meeting, it was decided that San Diego will be the site of our 2012 reunion. The Wyndham Hotel was most accommodating of my many requests for free use of hotel facilities for our hospitality room, the ship’s store, and reception/banquet rooms. A proclamation plaque by the City Council of Milwaukee was presented to the association thanking us for visiting their city, but most of all for the service to our country aboard the USS ROCHESTER.

The reception was well attended and everyone seemed to have partaken of the fine bar potables and the scrumptious Hors d’ Oeuvres. All tours seemed to have been enjoyed by all, although the Friday city tour was unable to witness the spectacular opening of the Brise Soleil at the Milwaukee Art Museum, due to high winds. Kay Collins, our tour guide, showed her deep knowledge of the interesting history of the city of Milwaukee and the old ethnic neighborhoods, and the fact that the Miller Brewing Company brews many beers sold under different labels. One very interesting fact was the rivalry between two Milwaukee Settlers, Solomom Juneau and Byron Kilbourn, which resulted in many angled bridges spanning the Milwaukee River.

The report on the “RIVER CRUISE”: Visibility of the city was somewhat obscured due to darkness. The food was acceptable, but not outstanding, because it had to be prepared off site. “San Diego Planning Committee Take Note”! No visit to Wisconsin would be complete without the sampling of “Beer and Brats” and these were enjoyed during the city tours and of course, “Octoberfest at the Bavarian Inn”. The Midwest hospitality became evident when one of our shipmates misplaced his wallet. After a couple of phone calls, the wallet was found and was delivered to the hotel by one of the Bavarian Inn’s employees with it’s contents intact including cash.

The banquet turned out to be a truly gala event. The Presentation of Colors by the local chapter of the Sea Cadets, followed by a stirring rendition of our National Anthem and the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance was followed by the tolling of the bell, as the names of 45 shipmates who have passed since our last reunion was read. This brought tears to my eyes as this reminded me, why so many who have given so much to make America, albeit not perfect, the greatest country in the world. The banquet room was festively and patriotically “Red, White and Blue” decorated by the hotel staff. The food, in my opinion, was on a par with that of a four star restaurant, expertly prepared and exquisitely presented.

You may view many candid pictures of the reunion, see a short video clip and place orders if you wish. Please log on to www.RSVPvideo.tv or you may call John or Kathy Hall and place your orders by phone at (847) 249-4122.

As for me, and hopefully all who attended the reunion, this was a most gratifying event. The reminiscing of times spent aboard our beloved ship USS ROCHESTER with my old friends and making new acquaintances is something I will treasure forever. A fact of life “WE ARE GETTING OLDER”. Because of many different reasons, whether it is for reasons of health, economy, or travel distance, please consider visiting SAN DIEGO in 2012 and hopefully you too, upon your return home, can say “WHAT A GREAT TIME WE HAD”.