Here it is Christmas Eve 2015 and you have been expecting the report on Bar Harbor for quite awhile. I know I promised to get it out as quickly as I could but I am one of those kind of guys that can get distracted. I needed something to get me back on track. Today I received a call from our kiwi-ORLECK division leader, Bryan Davies, and what he said put me to shame. He said he goes to the site each day to see anything new I might have posted. Boy was that a wake-up call because I have gotten into habits of doing things that do not involve computers. Kind of good for me but then I am not living up to my promises.
So I apologize and even though I have more I want to think about and write about this reunion, I decided to post what I have and then update it from time to time as I think of things. I am still awaiting pictures from some of you who have some good ones I know. When I get them I will update the post and will note what I have done under the heading above. The pictures I got from folks I captioned and put them into galleries. The beauty of on-line publishing is in the ability to update and modify posts. So when I get pictures from you I can add them for others to see at any time. If you see any mistakes, let me know and I can fix them. If you have added stories to tell, I can do that too. So please don’t consider this as a completed work but instead one that is still in progress. I look forward to your input.
Some of what is written here you have seen before especially if you have been following the reunion events but the way I see it, there is no reason to re-invent the wheel when it works well. There are folks who have not read this anywhere and Bryan might be one of those and I know there are others. Even if you read something that sounds a little familiar keep reading for there is new stuff throughout this report.
At the 2014 San Diego Reunion, I was asked by lots of folk to plan a reunion in Bar Harbor, Maine. That was easy to understand because the Bar Harbor area of Maine is just awesome. The only problem is that Bar Harbor does not have a major airport and while a wonderful destination point for a vacation, it cannot handle large groups of reunion attendees very well. The hotels are smaller, the restaurants are smaller and the event venues that are available are not conducive to having large numbers of people. So with that understanding we decided to have a mini-reunion there, knowing that we would not have our usual large numbers of people attending because of the above. The hotel that I chose for us could provide us sufficient rooms for one hundred total people so we were limited by that. One of our events, a carriage ride into Acadia National Park was limited to two groups a day of fifty people each so we were limited by that also. The hotel did not have the banquet space sufficient to handle even one hundred people and it was very difficult to find restaurants that could either. So instead of this being our regular reunion we decided to do it in-between our major reunions (San Diego in 2014 and Portland, Maine in 2016 and have this one in Bar Harbor be a mini-reunion that basically would just be a vacation. We would have a limited program of entertainment and no business to be conducted was our goal. Just pure vacation and enjoyment was that goal and it is hard to find a better place for that. So we stuck this reunion in-between and held it from Sept 22-25, 2015. In hindsight, I believe we accomplished the goal.
By now most of you have come to understand the slogan I developed for this reunion; “Bar Harbor and Me, where I want to be!” I offered an ORLECK cap for any who attended who got it. Some got a little of it but you had to have both parts. ME of course is the abbreviation for Maine but I also intended that you see that ME also meant you and the combination of Bar Harbor in Maine with you was the meaning I was trying to convey. I feel fairly certain that those who attended were in total agreement that the slogan was right on!
We had a small intimate group, unimaginably wonderful weather for this time of the year in New England, great things to do, fine food and people in Maine who were so hospitable and treated us so well. We had 89 total people attending and it was perfect, except that we missed those of you where were not there. That would have made it much better at least in most cases. 🙂
Our hotel, the Bluenose Inn was unbeatable and that is no exaggeration. I cannot remember any reunion that we have done where we had better accommodations. We gathered our first night in “The Great Room” and that was so relaxing and we ate well that night and experienced the fine piano playing of Bill Trowell. The hotel’s management team (Don Haggett, Jim Ash and Tom Palmer) could not have been better. The daily staff at the hotel was friendly, helpful and made our folks feel right at home in these beautiful surroundings.
If you have not been to Bar Harbor, I will have a hard time describing the beauty and wonders of the area. If you have been to Bar Harbor, there is no need for me to do that because you could not have missed it. So I won’t even try but those of you reading this will get a flavor of the area from all the photos because as they say; “a picture is worth a thouand words” and so we have the equivalent of a half a million words for you to see. For those who cannot do math well, that translates to over five hundred pictures. I took a few but most were taken by the attendees and you can see them by clicking on each of their offerings. Ben Loder photos, Homer Castille photos, Bill Blush photos, Bob LeClair photos, Bob Orleck and various other photographers (see credits on these photos). Here are lots of great new pictures of the Bar Harbor reunion by Rick and Patti Butler.
The links that follow are from a Google search but are worth seeing. After you see them and then look again at the pictures from our group, you will better be able to appreciate what we saw and did. We experienced the natural beauty of Acadia National Park, enjoyed a nature boat cruise of Frenchman Bay with its islands, lighthouses and wildlife. While we did not see any whales because we did not go out far enough due to time constraints, what we saw and heard from the narrator was beautiful. What could be better than a horse drawn carriage ride on the carriage trails established almost a century ago by the Rockefellers? We ate at fine places overlooking the working harbors of Southwest and Northeast Harbor. Those who know about lobsters who were not there will know what they missed when I tell you we had 1 3/4 pound lobsters, steamers, clam chowder, and corn on the cob, red potatoes and fresh blueberry cake for dessert. I would suggest that you go visit those folks at The Upper Deck Restaurant where we enjoyed that meal. The owner’s Mom played and sang for us and she was a hoot and was great. They worked so hard and produced a wonderful evening for us. Our own Bill Rossfeld, USS ORLECK sailor (MM3) 1956-58 was our speaker and how unique and good it was. Bill was a lobsterman in this very area in the 1970’s. He returned to the dock where he worked from and low and behold he found his buoy. Each lobsterman has a uniquely colored marker buoy that is his color. Bill had his and as unbelievable as this may sound, almost 50 years later, he went into the old warehouse at the dock and there up on the side of the building was one of his old buoys and the owner of the building gave it to him. He did a show and tell with it during his talk he had a tear in his eye when talking about it. Others did as well.
If you think that was unusual with Bill, how about this. Bill and his wife Deborah became friends with Dean and Deb Godfrey and Deb’s father, Richard Acord, USS ORLECK sailor 1951-54 and sat at dinner with them. Would you believe that they discovered they live right up the street from Richard and Deborah plans to look in on Richard periodically since Deb and Dean live in Pennsylvania.
It would be enough to have done those things but we did more. We visited a museum that one could not imagine would be present in a rural part of Maine. The Seal Cove Auto Museum has such a collection of vintage automobiles that would please even the most discriminating collector of old cars. Not only that they rolled out four of those vintage vehicles and gave everyone a ride in a 1922 Model T Depot Hack-Ford, a 1928 Model A Huckster-Ford an 1886 Benz Patten Wagon-replica and a 1908 Rauch & Lang. Between rides our folks studied the beautiful vehicles in the museum and enjoyed muffins, coffee and good conversation waiting their turn to ride. With the great weather it was a festive time.
At the auto museum we did our drawing for door prizes and for free nights stay at the Bluenose Inn. Those winning the door prize of $25 gift certificate to spend at the auto museum were the DiMarias, Hales, Terrells and the Coopers although the Coopers declined the prize since they also won a free night at the hotel. I do not know who was drawn for the winner of that prize so if anyone recalls let me know and I will correct this post. As for the free nights at the Bluenose Inn, the winners were Betty Tuazon, Linda Buckley, Mike Cooper, Randy Bandor and James Brickner.
We all know what a great ship the USS ORLECK DD 886 is. We also know that but for the men who made her great she would have only been a large hunk of steel. The same thought applies to our reunions. While all of our reunion destinations have been wonderful, what really made them great were the people who participated in them. It was not the good food we had to eat or the things that we did at the fine places. While they were the draw that helped us decide to gather at a particular place and times as a group, it was the reconnecting of old friends and the making of new ones that has driven our high attendance records for a single ship reunion. We are a really special and blessed group of people.
While I never served aboard USS ORLECK and did not get to make friends there, I have through our reunions done the best I can to make up for not being there. I get great pleasure to see shipmates of forty or fifty years ago reunited and sharing stories. It is great to see shipmates from different eras connect and share their mutual love for their ship and their service aboard her. Our reunions have included family and friends and that has enriched our experiences. I know many long for the next reunion and have to endure the long wait between them. For me I get to make contacts over that interim period and have expressed to me their longing to come and possibly see some of their long ago shipmates and friends.
Bill Murphy said to me before the reunion happened that he looked forward to coming all summer long. I saw how pleased he was when he met up with some of the guys who served during his time. Others like Ray Easton experienced their first reunion and really enjoyed getting to see shipmates from his time and meeting others. Two of our attendee shipmates actually learned at the reunion that they were cousins. Bob LeClair came and met up with guys he had served together with who he had not seen in forty-five years. He is already registered and paid his fees to come back to the next reunion to see more of the same who were not at Bar Harbor but will be in Portland like Hank Carman.
I have seen some pretty incredible reunions of old friends over the twenty three years of our reunions. These are what make it worth spending uncountable hours planning and executing these reunions for me. I can only imagine what it means for those sailors and friends. And as we get older and we experience the loss through death and illness of many friends, we can enjoy reflections on those times at the reunion with these fine folks. Our Memorial Roster keeps growing and that is sad but as we meet in regular reunions we have the opportunity to once again hear their names read and for a moment reflect on the meaning that person had in our lives. We probably should have documented these personal reunions and feelings when they occurred, but we all know that they did happen and we saw it with out own eyes. Maybe some will reflect on this and send me a note about a meaningful experience that happened for them at one of our reunions. I am coming to the end of my doing these for our folks and I would love to hear what the reunions meant to each of you.
Mike Cooper had a couple of encounters worthy of note. Mike and David Thornton, mentioned below, met at the reunion and found out that they had a close mutual friend in Wisconsin. Mike then after the reunion went to Freeport and was approached by a lady who was the daughter of a USS ORLECK sailor. Mike put some of his thoughts in writing right here. If he tells you he had a three clawed lobster, don’t believe it.
We not only have the past reunions to be thankful for for many reasons but we have the ones happening now and the new things that are occurring. While Bar Harbor was not done as a major reunion, it did not differ in the special and even new things that happened. How great it is to see old shipmates and reconnect but also how wonderful is it when family of shipmates and others who hold a special place in the history that is USS ORLECK attend. I think of Estelle Young and how I connected with this lady years ago who worked in the shipyard that built USS ORLECK. That meeting led to her attending reunions and the field days our association arranged and executed in Texas. Now Estelle is unable to attend but she is honored by her family coming to our reunions. Her son, JC Young, his wife Kim and of course Madison (love her little smile) have become a very important part of our group that we enjoy so much.
David Thorton and his wife came to this reunion representing his father, Gilbert Thornton who served aboard USS ORLECK from 1949-51 and was unable to attend. David also went to the March 2015 Field Days of USS ORLECK and worked hard and then gave us a fine slide and movie presentation of this work in our hospitality room at Bar Harbor. My hope is that more sons and daughters and grandchildren come and help us keep our reunions large and exciting. Each USS ORLECK sailor should think seriously about inviting some of his family and if you do they just might come. History is important to study and learn from and especially becomes an exciting thing when you or your ancestors are involved in it. Sometimes we take for granted how important what we do or things we know are. USS ORLECK is one of the most decorated ships in American history and arguably based on her fourteen battle stars in Vietnam and her four battle stars in Korea, is the most decorated American warship since World War II. Now that should be enough for any father or grandfather who served on her to want to bring their children and grandchildren to the reunions to celebrate her service and theirs as well.
At past reunions I have been very pleased to have my two brothers, Don and Rick Orleck and my sister Shirley Orleck attend. My big brother Don passed away some five years ago but his wife, Venus, still comes and this time she brought her retired surgeon brother, Rudy Bruno. What a wonderful thing and I know my brother would be so pleased. She was at Bar Harbor and so was my cousin from my mother’s side, Linda Buckley. Each of them brought a friend so you see, we are open to growth on many fronts. I know these folks enjoyed themselves and plan to come back because they have already registered for the 2016 reunion. My wife, Barb, and I were blessed to have our niece Terri and her husband Phil come and what a great time we had with them. A very good friend of mine and his wife, David and Kathy Ayer came from Vermont and I know they had a special time and most especially liked the antique cars. Dave is in the automobile business on many fronts.
Others attending also brought family and friends. The Terrell’s came with their daughter and son-in-law, Linda and David Seaman and also their good friends, Bobby and Faye Hales. These folks are regulars and love our association and what we do as much if not more than most. Steve Davis brought his brother John and his wife Brenda. Roland Terry brought his friend Pam Moncur, his brother Arthur and wife Lorene. Steve found out at this reunion that he was related to another USS ORLECK sailor who also attended. Richard Roy and Steve Davis I am told are cousins and they did not know that before the reunion.
We have one sailor who if all sailor’s families followed their example, I doubt there would be any hotel in America that could accommodate us. Kenneth Pinner and wife Betty have over the years brought so many relatives and friends to the reunion. Henry and Linda Pinner have become a regular part of our group at reunion after reunion as have Darla and Nicky Johnson who were at Bar Harbor with us.
I have somewhat of an advantage on most of you since Barb and I have attended every single reunion that our association has had. So even though I have a horrible memory I have a lot of situations to recall so every once in awhile I get lucky in remembering something. What I do remember well are so many of the older sailors, now gone. One day I will think of one of then and on another day think of another one. They are great memories and while I don’t go about comparing folks, one thing has become apparent. Over the years the quality of the USS ORLECK sailor has not changed, just their stories and the places they have been and all the stories are the truth of course. As I write this piece my memory goes to Fred Worthen, George Waddle, Elmo Martin, Gerald Hanna, Emil Parque, George Elliott but tomorrow it will be others I think of. As I review records I see a name and a smile comes on my face when I recall them. I have just been saddened to learn from his son that Bob Mickelson passed away on November 29. I can’t help but recall how Bob’s accounts of life made me smile and sometimes laugh out loud. Bob spoke at our reunion at our opening night program and if you want to listen to that you can see it by clicking here. Bob begins to speak at 45 minutes 25 seconds into the program. Bryan mentioned Bob when he called me and told me how much he enjoyed his talk then. Bob will be missed.
My memory goes to a number of our WWII friends that are gone as are many from Korea. We have dear friends from Vietnam who are gone but so many other Vietnam veterans now are coming to our reunions. With their increased interest and attendance has come new life into the restoration process of USS ORLECK but she still is suffering from the bad start she got when returned to Orange, Texas in 2000. Vietnam sailors interest has given not only our ship more opportunity to survive as a museum ship but has also given our reunion association a chance to remain large and vibrant for a number of years to come. These guys and their gals are still young at least from where I stand. I am hopeful that one of them will step forward to lead the reunion effort for the next ten or fifteen years.
I know I have mentioned names in this report and I don’t want to slight anyone but I also don’t want to make this so long that no one will read it. So I promise I will look through the roster of those attending and I will post something if no more than a list of those who attended. Stay tuned for that but don’t hold your breath.
It was a wonderful reunion in Bar Harbor and you can be assured that the June 8-10, 2016 reunion in Portland-Boothbay Harbor, will also be wonderful. We have over 100 already registered and I look forward to seeing registrations come in each day when I go to the post office. When P.O. Box 213 is empty, I feel disappointed. For those who have registered but not have paid yet, I did want to give you information that you might want to take advantage of. Early registration at the reduced rate is good until March 1. If you register and pay before March 1, you will be charged $295 per person. If you register before March 1 but do not pay until after March 1 or if you register and pay after March 1, the charge will be $325 per person. Here is more. Anyone who registers and pays before January 1, 2016 will be entered into a drawing for free room nights at the hotel. Very few have done that so far so the odds of winning are very good. Getting the money early will help me because I can better plan when I know of people’s commitment to come. In addition, to those who register before January 1, 2016, I have a souvenir for you from the USS ORLECK. In the restoration process rivets were removed from a part of the ship and those who register and pay before January 1 will get one.
You don’t want to miss this next reunion. We have no idea how many more there will be. I heard people say things that confirm how good our reunions are and that is a wonderful thing. I heard some could not believe the beauty of the area and the fine hotel we had. One of our ladies said she felt like Princess Dianna there.
So in summary, I am very sorry for the delay in getting this report out but hope you enjoy it in any event. Please send me corrections, additions and pictures and I will see they get posted.
P.O. Box 174
Randolph, VT 05060