Based on the comments, emails and phone calls received, the 15th reunion held at the Holiday Inn Executive Center, Virginia Beach, VA, was a resounding success! The attendance was up significantly from past reunions with the most encouraging statistic being the number of First Time shipmates attending – 16!…that equated to 15% of the total association attendees! Other statistics reflecting the success of the event included: Commissioning Crew members: 7; Registered attendees: 188; MASSEY Association Members: 107; Banquet attendees: 198!
Wednesday was the initial check in day and the early arrivers headed for the Hospitality Room (HR) where the sea story valve was rapidly opened to max flow! Well Done to Tom Batzel and his wife, Dolly for their work not only keeping the HR humming but also in stocking the Ship’s Store with new shirts and windbreakers. A special thanks also to Diane Berry for her work in getting donations for the HR. Those Krispy Kreme donuts were wonderful!
Thursday was the kickoff of the scheduled tours with 94 folks taking the Williamsburg/Yorktown trip. Comments from those participating indicated that the tour was well done and very informative. A Welcome Aboard Reception hosted by the Holiday Inn Executive Center started off the evening in the HR with Bob Doll (44-46) and Gwen Hanlin once again providing great sing along entertainment. A nightly raffle kicked off on Thursday with Marjorie McCloskey badgering the MC until she won 2 free nights of lodging!
Friday started with 149 folks bussing in to Norfolk for a windshield tour of the downtown area. MASSEY shipmates were more than surprised at the transformation of the city into the“New Norfolk” with cries of “Where’s the Savoy Bar?” coming from every bus! The busses then swung into the Nauticus Maritime Museum on Norfolk’s waterfront where we were treated to a special showing of the movie – “The Last Battleship – USS WISCONSIN”. Talk about a tear jerker! There is something very special about living aboard a Man O’War that touches everyone and watching that movie had a lot of us dabbing the eyes! Next we crossed the Nauticus gangway on to USS WISCONSIN for the memorial service. It could not have been a more fitting setting to remember past shipmates and reflect on how fortunate we are to live in this great country. The sky was as blue as it could be, the sun shining down, and a gentle breeze..just a beautiful day! Dick Pearsall (64-66) hosted the service under the shadow of Turret 3 with Captain Bill Weimer, CHC, USN providing chaplain support. Captain Weimer did an eloquent job in his reflective thoughts on life and the meaning of being a shipmate. Past shipmates were remembered in a roll call by MASSEY honorary sideboys… Richard Thompson (44-46), George Dienes (53-56), Phil Smith (64-66), & Bob Shuckman (68-70) …representing each decade of MASSEY’s service to the nation. Jack Zagaros (44-46) and fellow Commissioning Crew members then led all those attending including CDR Lance Massey and his wife, Judy, to the starboard quarter of WISCONSIN where a wreath was cast into the harbor in remembrance of our past shipmates. The service concluded with the Navy Hymn with two verses written by Chaplain Weimer in honor of the MASSEY sailors.
The group then boarded the Spirit of Norfolk at Waterside for a luncheon cruise. Beautiful weather, great food, and endless sights to reminisce about – a perfect day! The harbor tour past the Atlantic Fleet ships along the expanse of the Naval Base piers was well done and got the sea stories once again in high gear. On return to Waterside, there was free time to go back to Nauticus Museum & WISCONSIN, tour the MacArthur Memorial, or shop at the new MacArthur Mall. Friday proved to be a most memorable day and a special Well Done goes out to Wayne Berry (64-65) for his superb work developing a very enjoyable tour schedule!
Friday night was the annual Business Meeting with the election of new Association officers and a status report on next year’s reunion highlighting the schedule. Phil Smith (64-66) was elected to succeed John Bertram (62-64) as Association President and Bernie Barilla (54-56) was elected as Vice President. Don Heenan (64-65) graciously agreed to remain on as Treasurer. Pete Hedley (63-65) gave a status report on preparations for the 2005 reunion in San Diego, CA and Branson, MO was selected as the 2006 reunion site.
On Saturday, 146 attendees went on a ship tour at Naval Base Norfolk. Given the number of folks, two trips were run to the two DESRON 22 host ships – USS DONALD COOK (DDG 75) and USS MITSCHER (DDG 57). The ship tours were a highlight of the reunion with some unexpected “UAs” lead by Mike Richards (63-65) getting “trapped” in the engine room on DONALD COOK and Joan O’Brien losing husband Patrick (49-53) to add a little adventure to the outing. Saturday night was the banquet with 198 guests attendees and it could not have been more enjoyable. Guests of honor included CDR Lance E Massey, USN (ret) & his wife, Judy, and their son, LCDR Lance B Massey II and his family. During the cocktail hour, we had a chance to circulate with our Navy guests – Commodore Tom Abernethy, COMDESRON 22, CDR Steve Evans, CO MITSCHER, CDR Mark Sedlacek, CO DONALD COOK, their wives, and the ships’ Sailors of the Quarter. Commodore Abernethy gave a great after dinner speech on the legacy of CDR Lance Massey, the ship’s namesake, and all those MASSEY sailors who served on his ship for 30 years. There were few dry eyes in the audience! Dinner dancing to the “Sound Investment” then kicked off with Francis Condon (44-45) winning the Fred Astaire award for dancing with the highest number of beautiful women. Cutting the cake commemorating 60 years of MASSEY’s proud tradition by CDR Massey and Jack Zagaros, the founder of the MASSEY Association, wrapped up the banquet events. Hundreds of pictures were taken of every decade of MASSEY sailors, wardroom members, and some interesting special groups (MT 53 vertical antenna veterans??) to round out a great evening. A special thanks goes out to Carol Richards, Dolly Batzel, Vicki Pearsall, Mary Bivins, and Dolly Standley for the added touch of flower bouquets on each table!
Sunday found 124 folks joining for breakfast before heading out on their separate ways. It was clear that those attending had a great time, particularly the First Timers. This bodes well for the MASSEY Association and for the 2005 reunion in San Diego. From the Virginia Beach Reunion gang – Tom & Dolly Batzel, Wayne & Diane Berry, and Dick & Vicki Pearsall – we say thanks for attending and making this a very special event. Be safe and see you in San Diego!