Class of 1949 65th Reunion

Thursday, September 18th
    My arrival from Lynchburg was delayed by an abortive attempt to get some business done in DC. I was unaware that some offices close before 3 pm and encountered locked doors.  Continuing on to Annapolis with other exiting traffic was slow and arrival at Governor Calvert House on State Circle was at 5 pm. Maryland Inn on Church Circle at Main and Robert Johnson House on State Circle were also used.
    Madelon and daughter Devon were manning the class check-in desk outside the James Room, which served as the Hospitality Room all three days. A large poster of a cartoon by Lou Serrille “guarded” the door and a big Welcome to 49ers was posted at the entrance! If your memory is good, the cartoon shows a pot-bellied “old fart” in white works looking into a mirror reflecting the image of a trim plebe of yesteryear.
     Souvenir bags contained a "49 is 65" mug, maps of Annapolis, reunion programs, and other reunion information. Along with the bag, each attendee received a name tag and lanyard.
    ​It was a busy time that evening, meeting and putting names to faces of people I hadn’t seen in many years. With nametags it should be easy, but, with choice of entrée for the banquet opposite side of the nametag, I managed to reintroduce myself to “Mr. CRAB” and “Mrs. FILET” several times!! My big problem was with the juniors accompanying Mom and Dad.
    A problem arose when I learned Jack Benoit had been hospitalized and canceled his reservations. Mickey was unable to be present for the “changing of the guard” at the Class Meeting on Friday, and Jack, as Executive Vice President, had agreed to serve in his stead. However, once  Ace Boughton, “President of Yesteryear,” arrived he agreed to fill in.
    I made a night-owl survey of Maryland Avenue, over to the harbor, back up Main Street to Church Circle, and then to the Governor Calvert House. THINGS HAVE CHANGED! Maryland Avenue is mostly antiques and souvenir shops. The harbor has a number of new names on old eateries, and going up Main Street, there were many empty shops and café spaces.

Friday, September 19th
    Attendees straggled into the hospitality room for a continental breakfast buffet. The room had four tables seating about 8 per table so there were no standees. A table was alongside a wall upon which was memorabilia of yore. I added mine.
    At 0900 (remember - short hand on the 9 and long hand on the 12) there was a Virtual Tour of USNA in meeting room at Governor Calvert House. Everyone seemed to enjoy the "tour."
    At 1000, the Class Meeting was held in the same room with Ace Boughton at the podium reporting the loss of 126 classmates since the 60th Reunion and 290 still surviving. It was noted the latter number may be in error because some deaths have not been reported for up to 10 years after the fact. Ace also reported the results of a recent audit of the Treasurer’s books with no discrepancies found. Latest status of the NFCU account was given as well as the balance of the 49 House Maintenance and Upkeep account at the Alumni Association. Two other accounts at the association are funded by an endowment by William Topkis Roos. One is for midshipmen special studies and the other an athletic award, “Pooley Award,” given to the most deserving JV football player. Both are administered by the Alumni Association with the approval of Bill’s widow, Joanne.
    Ace reported that all the “keys” of the president were being passed to me. In closing he asked all present to join him in thanking Mickey, in absentia, for his dedicated service to the Class the last 5 years and running three reunions, the 50th, 60th and now this one. As a token of appreciation Ace presented a plaque to Mickey and two sets of flowers to Madelon. One for her room (which she chose to put in the hospitality room) and one for the McDonald table at the banquet. Ace also had a painting he had done for '49 House.

    My first action following installation as class president was to present a CITATION FOR SERVICE SUPPORTING THE ASSOCIATION OF THE CLASS OF 1949 to John Easley Benoit for his leadership of almost 70 years in the Washington and Annapolis areas in furthering goals of the Class and the U. S. Naval Academy. The Citation was accompanied by a Navy blue base with a brass plate engraved “Jack Benoit, 1949’s Rock of Ages.” In two holes drilled atop were two blue pennants with gold ensign bars vice stars. My presentation referred to a luncheon at O’Donnell’s, where, with tongue-in-cheek, Jack complained that Bethesda Naval Hospital has reserved parking for admirals, captains, and commanders, but none for ensigns. So I had posters made in blue and gold reading “RESERVED FOR Ensign, USN (Ret.)” for his use wherever he chooses.

    My second action was to propose amendments to the class Constitution which were cited in my ALL49 message of Sept 14 to:
    Add to ARTICLE VI: DUTIES “The President will keep Class chapter and area leaders advised of actions by the Executive Committee.”
    Replace Second and Third Paragraphs in ARTICLE VII: ELECTIONS with “The President shall appoint the Officers and Members-at-Large of the Executive Committee to conduct the business of The Association. The President shall advise Class chapter and area leaders during the process of implementing these appointments.”
    These amendments were approved. I then introduced my selections for the Executive Committee, which are shown in the FROM THE TOP section.
   The painting by Ace and the Citation for Jack and his special award were put on display in the hospitality room with adjournment of the meeting.
    Everyone scattered for lunch, Noon Meal Formation, and other places. Mine was a half block to a snack shop with potatoes 25 different ways – and I still had a ham and cheese.
    At 1350 there was a briefing by the CEO of the Alumni Association, Byron Marchant ’79, in Alumni Hall, followed by a briefing by the relatively new Superintendent, VADM Ted Carter, ’81.
​   As ‘49’s class president I was invited to be a member of the reviewing party at the Parade of the Brigade of midshipmen Friday afternoon by VADM Carter. This was his third parade and, unlike the first two, had a distinguished guest, ADM Winnefeld, Vice Chairman of JCS. That is key because he, as a 4-star, rates a 19 round gun salute.
    My guest, Ursula Vosseler, was being visited by a step-daughter, Leslie Carol, from Monterey, CA so I got the Flag Secretary to allow me two guests for the reception at the Supe’s quarters after the parade. I reported to his quarters prior to the parade, met other members of the official party, and was briefed on procedures to be followed. One of the other class presidents was VADM Tom Weschler, Class of 1939, who I had worked with him 50 years ago getting a program approved for putting helicopters aboard destroyers. He had a Jewish aide at that time, Lou Colbus, who was a real demonstrative kick-in-the-ass. The first thing I said to him was that I almost didn’t recognize him without Lou. He really had a good laugh.
    Aboard the bus to Worden Field, a good-looking lady sat beside me. She was dressed in Navy blue with metallic gold around a Navy purse. Thinking she was wife of one of the other class presidents, I asked where she was from. “Here” she replied. Thinking she was in one of the Annapolis residential areas, I asked “Where.” She pointed down and repeated “Here!” I leaned over to check her name tag and behold! She was the superintendent’s wife, Lynda. We shared a few laughs and information the rest of the ride to Worden Field and took our assigned places.
    Recognition of ADM Winnefeld began with all guests rendering appropriate signs of a salute when wearing mufti. The saluting battery began firing, One, Two, PAUSE, then Three, Four, - - - Nineteen, TWENTY, TWENTY-ONE! No, the President had not arrived. Did I miscount? I assumed the main battery had a problem with the third round and the backup battery picked the count. With both batteries having 19 rounds ready, the backup failed to count the main battery rounds fired and didn’t stop until all its rounds were expended. Nobody in the official party noticed the error and I didn’t want to blow the whistle. Maybe I was wrong? My mind was recalling 69 years ago holding a Springfield 03 at present arms for the 100-gun salute. Or, maybe my count was right and one of my old gunner’s mates or ordnance men saw me and the extra rounds were meant for me? They missed! 
    Reviewing the 30-company brigade took a long time. Hopefully, my wiggling from one knee to the other wasn’t too noticeable; however, my attempt to help VADM Weschler to a chair was. (He is normally on a walker but was determined to stand without it during the review. Thankfully, after an aide who had taken his walker off the field returned with a chair.) After a short rest, he was up beside me again. Finally, the Navy band was saluted, being the last unit to depart the field, and the reviewing party returned to tent where I could flex my legs.
    Ursula and Leslie joined me at the reception in the superintendent’s garden. We met several of the dignitaries: former SECNAV John Dalton, USNA department heads, local and visiting flag officers, and many midshipmen of all classes. While talking with three 2015 young ladies I asked about their curricula and service aims. Each had a different major. I awed them when I said guys in my class had only one choice – language. Then telling them I had to take a pay cut from being an enlisted man making $66 a month to become a midshipman officer had them wide-eyed, then laughing at the $2 spendable after costs of uniforms and books were paid. Lynda must have noticed the good time we were having and joined us. The mids were impressed to have the admiral’s wife in our group and Lynda was perfect in her conversation with them. No condescending attitude, just encouraging words. When she went to speak with other guests and the mids left to revisit the hors d’oeuvres table, Ursula and Leslie said Lynda looked like “Wonder Woman!” I never watched that program, but, whatever the character, she was a mighty fine lady.
    Most 49ers were in Preble Hall, the museum, for a wine and cheese reception after the parade. Others had private get-togethers. But all got back to our rooms to get a short rest, shower, and get ready for the banquet at Governor Calvert at 1930.
    Table hopping was required to speak to 49ers that only attended that event, and many pictures were taken that Paul Clouse which put on DropBox on the internet. “Ctrl Click” on the following to view them.

    The meal was great with all the “FILET” and “CRAB” nametags disappearing. As coffee was being served Mickey thanked everyone for the support he had been given during the last 5 years and introduced Ace Boughton to commence an “open mike” session.

    Ace did a splendid job of recounting what classmates had achieved during their military service and their civilian careers. Recounting 69 years in 10 minutes was quite a feat. However, he followed this with tales during midshipman days that had everyone rolling in the aisles. Then he turned the podium over to me.
    My first announcement was that I refuse to follow his act again. He can keep “prime time” and I’ll move to “late late night!!” Pete Williams had sent a half of a football mounted on a plaque which was from the Army – Navy 21 – 21 tie in 1948. It had been given to him by the then Army team captain, Bill Yeomans, with the other half going to Scott Emerson, our co-captains. I informed everyone it was destined to ’49 House for display along with the “Pensive Plebe” sculpture done by Charlie Meyrick while a midshipman. His widow, Viki, had given it to me for use at the reunion as I thought appropriate. Being on display for others to see was my choice. Additionally, Tom Parsons came to the podium and donated a key chain type gold football with a Navy N given to members of the 1948 team. It also goes to ’49 House.

    Then a truly “open mike” session began mostly with tales of the old days. John Donlon even displayed ability in song writing by singing lyrics he had conceived for the Navy anthem. I asked both husbands and wives to send their tales for the website.
    The banquet was definitely a success that everyone enjoyed.

Saturday, September 20th
    A light breakfast in the James Room drew many together. Some saying goodbyes as they were leaving for other parts. Others were confirming where the Tailgate would be and who was going to the football game. Noteworthy, was that arrangements had been made not only to transport ‘49ers with tickets to the game, but also to pick them up at halftime if they needed to return early and after the game it they stayed. I opted for the Tailgate at Maryland Inn and the closed circuit television.
    Walt Marquardt gave me a quick summary of what he considered a good game – Navy came in second. I told him that every time I went to a Navy game it rained or we lost.
​   ​    Saturday night was a dinner on your own night. People grouped and others didn’t. I met with several at Governor Calvert providing information I had on people that didn’t make it to the reunion. My evening ended with Liz Dixon learning about her expertise on a tractor and battles with copperheads. I filled her in on her old school Randolph Macon Woman’s College which is now coed Randolph College.

Sunday, September 21
    There was a buffet brunch at Governor Calvert 0900-1100. That’s when I was able to get most of my pictures of attendees. It was also where our goodbyes were said. Some attended church services, but I was busy packing up and making sure the items for ’49 House would make it there. Bill Bennett volunteered to take care of everything, knowing Skid Hayworth well. My only problem was leaving my camera in my room on checking out. It was found by housekeeping later and, after several telephone calls, the McDonalds had rescued it and mailed it to me.
    Enroute home I stopped by Jack Benoit home hoping to find out how he was doing. No one answered the door so I assumed h was still hospitalized. I left his Citation and gifts inside his storm door and headed for Lynchburg. That evening I called back and Debra answered. She had found the Citation and gifts then surprised me by putting Jack on the telephone. His problem wasn’t serious and corrected quickly. He got a big laugh out of his gifts.
    All’s well that ends well.

Red Tolbert                                                                Posted: October 5, 2014