Jacksonville 2004


About 160 pelicans came to the beautiful city of Jacksonville, Florida for the October 14-17 reunion at the Radisson Riverwalk Hotel. I arrived on Wednesday to perfect weather which lasted, except for a brief shower, all week. Members started arriving a day early on Wednesday the 13th and continued arriving through Thursday the 14th. Wednesday and Thursday turned out to be ideal for seeing nearby sites, trying out local restaurants and visiting with friends in the Ready Room. 

The highlight of the reunion was a Friday morning visit to VP-45, based at the Jacksonville Naval Air Station. It was raining when the buses left the hotel but the sun came out later in the morning and we had a beautiful day. CDR Richard T. Fite and his squadron were great hosts. We were given a royal welcome in the squadron briefing room, split into groups and escorted throughout the hangar and office areas. Some members went on board a P3 for the first time. It was refreshing to see and interact with the young and very professional officers and sailors. The squadron tour was followed by a picnic at a location on the base overlooking the St. Johns River. Subway sandwiches never tasted so good!

The Friday night reception was held at the hotel and even though a mix-up by the hotel created a food shortage (bar was free), members were provided a great opportunity to visit with their friends and shipmates.

After the business meeting on Saturday morning, some members enjoyed a lunch cruise on the St. Johns River. The entertainer (a Dean Martin or was it a Frank Sinatra impersonator) was unique and it was nice to sail along the river and visit with friends. One of my shipmates later told me he had purchased a CD from the singer for my Christmas present. Lucky for me, he was just teasing. We then returned to the hotel for several hours of free time prior to the Saturday night banquet.

At the banquet, we were honored to have CDR Richard T. Fite (VP-45 CO), accompanied by his wife Kathleen, as our guest speaker. Also in attendance from the squadron were CDR William A. Zirzow (VP-45 XO), accompanied by his wife Yvonne, and LT John R. Duarte (VP-45 PAO). Former VP-45 CO Alan Lee presented CDR Fite with a cap that had been worn by all the former VP-45 CO's in attendance. Former VP-45 CO Joe Notargiacomo presented CDR Fite with a special VP-45 pennant. CDR Fite's speech was perfect for the occasion and enjoyed by all. (A copy can be found in the spring 2005 newsletter).

Recognized at the banquet were former VP-45 CO's Alan S. Lee (XO & CO) '60-'61, John R. Chappell (OPS, XO & CO) '61-'63, Harley D. Wilber (XO & CO) '66-'68, Joseph M. Notargiacomo (XO & CO) '72-'74, RADM William T. Pendley (XO & CO) '74-'76 and Charles J. McKinney (XO & CO) '76-'78.  RADM Bill Pendley, USN (Ret), was also recognized as a flag officer along with VADM Walter B. Massenburg, USN, who remains on active duty. Roger D. Ferguson (PBY Pilot) '44-'45 was recognized as the member with the earliest service. After the banquet, our Navy guests were gracious with the time spent visiting with association members. 

Sunday morning after the breakfast buffet members reluctantly said their goodbyes, promising to see each other at the next reunion. 

A special thanks to Leo Cimino for his efforts coordinating with a local reunion planner to arrange the hotel and events and to Charlie Fields, who lives in the Jacksonville area, for assisting Leo.

Steve Riddle 

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