Reunion History

History of the USS Walke Association by Paul Bergeron written on 5/15/09

 

The beginning of the Walke Association took place in Las Vegas, Nevada in May of 1989 at the Palace Station.  As the years passed, I came to the realization that the ship might never have a reunion.  So, in 1988, I made up my mind to attempt to put on a reunion by myself.  A friend of mine that served on a tanker in World War II had set up a couple of reunions for his ship, the USS Lakawana, and had learned a few things on how to put on a reunion.  He volunteered to help me.

 

We took off for Vegas and looked at several hotels. The Palace Station best suited our needs and the price was right. After a week or so, I drove to Vegas again to sign the contract. I was bit nervous, as I had never attempted anything like this before.

 

We immediately started running ads in the American Legion magazines and others. The reunion was set for the 7th - 11th of May, 1989.  Within three weeks the calls and letters began to come in.  I had decided the USS Walke reunion would include all who ever served on her, regardless of the time frame.

 

I must admit, when the calls and letters begin to come in, I really began to get excited.  During the months leading up to the reunion I went to bed many nights with moisture in my eyes after the phone calls and heart wrenching letters.

 

We could only imagine what it would be like when we had the opportunity to see each other again. For many of us it has been over 40 years.

 

It’s May 7th, the first day of our reunion.  Upon arrival, the Palace Station had on their lit up Marquee, “Welcome USS Walke DD 723”.  The Marquee was next to interstate 15, so it could be seen from a long distance away as we arrived in front of the hotel.

 

We started to unload the Booze and refreshments from my friend’s motor home.  A cab pulled up behind us and this fellow and his wife got out of the cab.  I had not seen him since 1947.  I recognized him immediately, our barber, Louis D’Orsi from Everett, Mass.  He did not recognize me.  I called him by name.  He seemed confused.  I said, ”Louie, it’s Paul.”  He began to laugh and cry and so did I.

 

Before the day over that scene was duplicated many times over as others arrived. When the first day was over I had the feeling it was already a success.  I am sure those who were there will never forget that first day.

 

As young men we probably could not show such emotions, but age with the passing of years softened us up a bit.    

 

The tours during our first reunion were:  Lake Meade, Hoover Dam, a chocolate factory and Red Rock Canyon.

 

Our first business meeting was to elect officers. Those elected were:

Richard Nelson         Secretary

Robert Dawson        Treasurer

Robert Ennis             Historian

AL Millush                 Chief Master of Arms

Paul Bergeron          President

 

Total: 143 for the Banquet Dinner  

The Banquet Dinner was a success and sea stories were plentiful.  The top story was told by Louis D’Oris on how he became the ships barber.

 

 

Reunion # 2 - Boston,  MA   Aug. 30th to Sept. 3rd, 1990

Royal Sonesta Hotel on the Charles River - Hosted by Louis and Virginia  D’Oris

 

At the business meeting, 1989 in Las Vegas,  Louis and Virginia  D’Oris volunteered to hold our second reunion in Boston at the Royal Sonesta Hotel on the Charles River.  I must say, it was a great spot. The view of the Boston skyline was spectacular. The reunion dates were August 30th to September 3rd.

 

The first day of the Boston reunion the hospitality room was not set up.  We set up a little bar in our room.  We drove over the bridge to Cambridge to pick up drinks and chips.

 

Our master of arms, Al Millush, was assigned to room 723.

 

Our tours were: Quincy market, Old North Church, Charleston Navy Yard, Old Iron Side, The Constitution and the Destroyer Cassin Young, and Faneuil Hall Market Place.

 

During the business meeting the 1991 reunion was discussed.  It was supposed to be held in Galveston, Texas and hosted by Andrew Mc Kinney.  As it turned out, he was unable to host the event.  He was an attorney and unable to because of court cases.  I took it upon myself to have it in Vegas again with the approval of the Association.

 

Once again I set the date of Oct. 6th - 10th, 1991 at the Palace Station. This time it was in the new high rise they had built. The accommodations were great.  Had four ex-Captains of the Walke in attendance. They were:  Capt. John Mc Gillis, Marshall Thompson, Frank Zimanski and Bob Ennis.

 

Highlights of tours:  Valley of Fire and the Hoover Dam
 

On the night of Banquet I was approached by a man who was an ex-Marine who fought at Oklahoma.  On the 19th of August, the Walke had picked him up with 91 other Marines.  The Walke transferred them to a transport the next day.  They were to be part of the occupational force in Tokyo.  The man’s name was John Yiotle.  He wished to take the time to thank the crew of the Walke for their hospitality of his Marine group in 1945.  They were part of the 3rd Marine Division.  After the Banquet I turned the microphone over to him and he thanked the crew for feeding, clothing and allowing them to sleep in a clean bed.  George Lapaire’s ships log of 1945 confirms this story.  Many who were in attendance remembered it well including Captain Mc Gillis.

 

This all came about due to the large Marquee in front of the hotel welcoming the USS Walke.  When he saw it, he remembered the ship and the number of it.  It made for a great ending to our reunion

 

Reunion # 3 - San Antonio, TX   Oct. 3rd - 6th, 1992

Travelodge on the river - Hosted by Lewis & Mary Cutter

 

It was walking distance to the Alamo and Codallic bar restaurants.  The boat rides were unique.  There was shopping and restaurants on each side of the river.

 

Tours of the Nimetiz museum in Fredericksburg, on highway 290.  I mention this because you may wish to go through there one day. We think you would like it.  People are so friendly. The USS Walke has a plaque at the museum. I am told that this was the Admirals home town.

 

Toured the Alamo.  One of our people, Jose Nava, had an ancestor who died there.

 

It was at this meeting the Secretary/ Treasurer became one position per Ray Harves suggestion, and it was a good one at that.

 

No reunion in 1993

 

 

Reunion # 5 - Tampa Bay, FL  1994

Radisson Bay  Hotel Inn - Hosted by Gene  & Sally Kolka

 

Tours of St Petersburg, Tarpon Spring, Maderia Beach, Disney World

 

Guest speaker:  Clarence Dargie, who worked at the Bath ship building, Bath Maine, spoke of working on the USS Walke in 1945.

 

After the reunion, some of us toured a German Destroyer that was docked in Tampa Bay.

 

 

Reunion # 6 - San Diego, CA  1995

Hanalei Hotel  - Hosted by Marshall Thompson

 

It was the largest reunion to date.  He called it our home port reunion. John Knox, Guy Willis, Jerry Fulk and myself (Paul Bergeron) assisted him in some capacity. The dinning room could not accommodate our people for the banquet.  A large tent was put in place in the parking lot.

 

Tours:  San Diego Harbor, Destroyer Escort O’Callahan, DE 1051 and Wild Animal Park.

 

Mitoko Yamachi and husband Kazusumi flew in from Tokyo for the occasion. Once again she took the opportunity to thank the crew of the Walke for their kindness when she was a young girl.

 

Admiral David Frost was in attendance. He was a Lt. on the Walke in the 50’s.

 

 

Reunion # 7 - Kansas City, MO  1996

The Marriott Hotel - Hosted by Ray & Pat Harves

 

Tours: Truman Library, Independence,  Kansas City barbecue and The Traveling  Smithsonian Museum.

 

A special treat with the Harves’s.  Margaret and I, Allan & Louise Jefferis stayed with the Harves' a few days and had the experience of eating fresh asparagus right out of the garden.  It doesn’t get any better than that.

 

 

Reunion # 8 - Arlington, VA  1997

West Park Hotel - Hosted by Eli Hager & Joe Trainer

 

Tours:  Navy War Memorial,  The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (where Mitoko placed a wreath).  The Japanese Navy Admiral was present.  I believe his name was Yamamoto.

 


  Reunion # 9 - Las Vegas, NV  1998

Imperial Palace on the strip - Hosted By Paul & Margaret Bergeron

 

This was the best deal we ever made.  I agreed to a room price of $54 a night with a return of $10 per night, per room, which was put in a pot in the USS Walke fund to pay for the booze and snacks that we used in the hospitality room.  After the reunion I received two checks totaling $5200 that went into our Association.  We sold around 150 rooms.

 

It was at this reunion that a member of the USS Walke DD416 called me and asked if it were possible to join 723.  I put it before the members at the business meeting and it was approved unanimously. The request was made by John Upton who was a crewman when DD416 was sunk off of Saoo Island in 1943.  At our first reunion in 1989, two ex-crewman of the 416 attended.  One of them was John Upton and his wife Carol and Robert Swisher.  At that time there were only 23 or 24 of their crew left.  In 1998 there were only about 15.

 

Tours: Valley of Fire, The deluxe Hoover Dam tour, and the show Legends in Concert.

 

Our guest speaker was Allen Jefferis brother, Jim Jefferis, who was a Navy Captain.  He spoke on the traditions of the Navy.

 

 

Reunion # 10 - Chicago, IL  Aug. 29th - Sept. 2nd, 1999

Days Inn Hotel - Hosted by John Krilick and  Lloyd Earle

 

Wendella sightseeing boat, bus tour of city, lunch in China Town, Cultural Center, Museum  of Science, gour thru U—5O5, Coal Mine,  drive by U of Chicago, Robie House, Navy Pier and a Navy Band

 

For a report of this reunion go to Newsletter Volume No. 34 Oct. 1999

 

 

Reunion  # 11 - Biloxi, MS  Oct. 15th - 19th, 2000

Isle of Capri Hotel sets on the Gulf of Mexico - Hosted by Jose and Kitty Nava
                    A great spot next to Mobile Bay     

   

Toured the Jefferson Davis House, a small house donated to him by the owner of the plantation, where he did most of his writing. Toured the great little town of Fair Hope, Alabama where many painters of portraits reside.  Kitty Nava being one of them.  We toured the USS Alabama and the Submarine USS Drum. 

The Memorial service was held on the fantail of the USS Alabama.  Kitty led us in singing the Navy Hymn with the color guards.

We had lunch next to the
Alabama at the Aircraft Pavilion where many old planes are kept, including the SR71. We also rode on the Cotton Blossom Paddle Wheeler.

 

Reunion # 12 - South Portland, MA   Oct. 20th – 24th, 2001

Sheraton South Portland, Maine -  Hosted by Sarge and Joyce Norman

 

We took a ferry across Bailey Island for a Lobster bake at Cook’s Restaurant. Took the bus back to the Hotel.  Did some sightseeing of the country on the return trip. Toured L.L.Beans, went to Portland head light house and Kennebunkport. Crews from Bath Iron Works made a presentation because our tour was cancelled because of the events of 9/11.

 

See Volume 41 March 2001 for more information about this reunion.

 

 

Reunion # 13 - San Francisco,  CA  Oct. 3rd – Nov. 2nd, 2002

San Francisco Airport Marriott Hotel - Hosted by Ed & Mickey Jakez

 

Tours: Bay Dinner Cruise, Babylon Breach Party Show, Alcatraz & City Tour, Sausalito & Mair Red Woods or Wine Country,   Chinatown Tour with dinner and Fisherman’s Wharf & pier 39

 

See Newsletter #46 2002 for more information.

 

 

Reunion  # 14 - Green Bay, WI  Sept. 27th - Oct. 1st, 2003

Radisson  Hotel & Conference  Center - Hosted by Herb Carlson & 
                                                                                    Richard Williamson

 

Welcome Party and Karaoke.

Tours:  Appleton Papers(a mill that makes coated paper), Cheese Store, EAA Air Venture Museum, Lamers milk processing plant, Packer Hall of Fame and Stadium and a tailgate party.  

Silent Auction and Banquet.

 

 

Reunion # 15 - Charleston,  SC  Sept. 28th - Oct. 2nd, 2004

Charleston Riverview Hotel - Hosted by John & Chris Foster

 

Hotel was close to Citadel.  Architect of Charleston much like New Orleans.   

Tours:  City Tour, Patriots Point, Sticky Fingers Restaurant. 

 

We had lunch in the Chief’s quarters on board the Yorktown. Tour of USS Laffey our sister ship.  Held the Memorial Service on the fantail of the USS Laffey.  Bag pipe player from the Citadel played Amazing Grace during the service.

Tied up next to the USS Laffey was a coast guard cutter Ingham, also a submarine who name slips my memory at the moment.

The tour of the Citadel was great, the cadets put on an inspiring dress parade for us. The bag pipes and the manual of arms was very impressive. Gave me goose bumps thinking about it.  A reunion to remember.

 

 

Reunion # 16 - San Diego, CA  Oct. 12th – 16th, 2005

Red Lion Hanalel Hotel - Hosted by Jerry & Carol Fulk


For those of us who served on the USS Walke,
San Diego is a memorable place.

Welcome pizza party.

Tours
: Tour city on San Diego Trolley, lunch at Tom Ham’s Light House, then a Bay Cruise with a close look at the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan which was docked at North Island.

Toured a new destroyer, the USS Halsey DDG 97.  It was the Navy’s newest ship.  We visited the Veterans memorial at Mt Soledad. (In 2008, the Association had a plaque put up for the USS Walke DD 723)

 

The Memorial service was held at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, conducted by Captain Milton Collers, US Navy.

 

Also a visit to Seaport Village. 

The Marine Band entertained us at the Hotel as arranged by Capt Jerry Fulk.  I think Jerry is quite active in the Navy League.  At the banquet did the invocation.    After dinner we were treated to a dance routine by a group who called themselves The Hot Flashers.  All seniors, they were very good. It was a nice way to end the evening. The next morning we all had breakfast together and said our goodbyes.  A job well done by the
San Diego committee.

 

Reunion # 17 - Oklahoma City, OK  Oct. 19th – 23rd, 2006

 Hilton Garden Inn  - Hosted by Sarge & Joyce Norman

 

Welcome  Night party,  City Tour including OKC Bombing Memorial, Wake Memorial Service at 45th Infantry Museum w/Naval Participation and Harn’s Homestead  Museum with lunch.  National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum (includes lunch buffet at Museum. 

 

Orr  Family Farm Trip( So cold we almost  froze on the hay ride)    Mystery Dinner Theater at the hotel.  

 

On the free day a group took a bus to the Indian Casino.  After the banquet dinner the Chickasaw Nation Banquet Indian Dance Troupe performed.

 

Reunion # 18 - Huntsville, AL    Oct. 3rd – 7th, 2007

Port of Madison Holiday Inn- Hosted by Beryl & Virginia Witherspoon and 
                                                                                Marion & Shirley Williams

 

Welcome:  Light Southern Dinner,  toured the Botanical Gardens, U.S. Space & Rocket Center,  off to Lynchburg and the Jack Daniel Distillery, lunch at Miss Mary’s Boarding House.

 

Silent Auction, book exchange and Banquet.

 

From Paul’s notes; “Museum in Fayetville. Many items in the museum were donated by Admiral  Frank  Kelso, who’s home is in Fayetville,  Had live entertainment during the evenings.  We saw a group of ladies doing line dancing.  Our own Herb Billingsley was doing a pretty good job of dancing himself.”

 

Reunion # 19 - Seattle, WA  Sept. 25th – 29th, 2009

Holiday Inn Seattle-Renton - Hosted by John & Judy Henderson

 

Welcome and pizza dinner.  We took the Argosy Cruise and banquet lunch on the Puget Sound.  Walking tour of Pike Market. 

 

Visit to Space Needle and lunch at the International Zone, Boeing museum of Flight.  Old Salt’s night, a story telling time. 

 

Silent auction

 

A Memorial Service and banquet dinner is held at every reunion.

 

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