This year's 31st Salt Lake City, CA25, Association Reunion has come and gone, leaving with me memories of another year of hard work on behalf of our great Veterans and Association. It was easy though, to realize why all the planning, road trips, negotiating, contract signing and errands were so important, when I finally arrived at the location of our Reunion, the Queen Mary, in Long Beach, California, and witnessed the incredible joy a Reunion brings to our Association's Veterans, their families and our Second Watch, as interact as a group. It's truly a special relationship we share with each other. For me, it has and will always be a labor of love.
I will share with you a conversation and promise I made to my father, Arthur Mercer, a Salt Lake City Shipmate and retired CPO Gunner's Mate. Before he passed away in 2016, while we were laughing and discussing the many Reunions, he and I had attended over the years, I promised, as long as there's a Salt Lake City Veteran wanting, able and willing to get together, even if it's just the two of us in a Hotel somewhere or on a plane to some distant land, I would make it happen, if physically possible for both of us. In hindsight, probably not the best promise I've ever made, but for those of you who know me, know my word is my bond and if I say I'm going to do something, you can take it to the bank. It's just something I picked up from my father over the years and it's become a way of life for me.
So, let's talk about Long Beach and the Queen Mary. Last year, when I was asked and agreed to plan this year's Reunion, I wanted to change it up a bit and not do the usual Reunion formats, we've used over the years. Don't get me wrong, those have all been wonderful and very enjoyable, but I just wanted something different, having planned two previous Reunions in San Diego, California and the change felt good. The Queen Mary seemed to fit the bill. Clearly, out of the comfort zone, at least initially, for some, it offered our Association many amenities and options as a Hotel, but for us, a unique historical perspective, because it was obviously on a floating ship, that had served during the same time period the Salt Lake City was in service. Plus, when you factor in the hundreds of sightings and rumors the Queen Mary is haunted, it seemed like the perfect location. What could go wrong…right? Interesting fact: One of our attendees, Patrick Hurton, sailed to America on the Queen Mary at the age of 12, when his family emigrated here from England. Talk about crazy coincidences.
Our time together was filled with many activities and adventures. The weather cooperated completely and was perfect for Southern California. The Reunion started with a Welcome Reception in the Victoria Room, which extended out onto the rear deck of the ship, with views of downtown Long Beach and the harbor. Every morning, we met in the Mauretania Room, which was also served as our Hospitality Room, for a Continental Breakfast. During the week, our activities included a Long Beach Harbor/Dinner Cruise, a visit to the Aquarium of the Pacific, Hotel Historical tours and a tour of the U.S.S. Iowa Battleship in San Pedro. One of the highlights of the U.S.S. Iowa tour was watching the interaction between our tour docent and Al Jowdy. Our docent was a Cruiser Veteran too and was excellent in his job. However, he hadn't met Al Jowdy, the Association's "ace in the hole". It was almost comical to watch Al "school" our docent on the workings of a 5"/38 Caliber Naval Gun. At that point, we realized Al had a future as a volunteer docent on the U.S.S. Iowa anytime he wanted the job. On our final night, we had our Banquet event in remodeled the Sun Deck Tea Room at the front of the ship. Large windows provided beautiful city scape views of downtown Long Beach and it's nightlights. Music was provided by the great Jay Fitzgerald, owner of The D'Jay Company.
At Thursday's General Membership Meeting, Rich Noar recognized Association members he felt consistently go above and beyond for the good of the Association. He presented them each with engraved cast figurines of a Naval Honor Guard Sailor. Those honored were Al and Jeff Jowdy, Randy Oppenheimer, John Mercer, Kathy Jones, Sandy Eskew, Mike Asea and Janet Veit. Thanks to Rich for the recognizing these members and for him too, for going the extra mile, in getting the figurines made and transported to Long Beach.
During the meeting, the membership selected Jacksonville Florida as the location for next year's 2019 Reunion. Jeff Jowdy and Mike Asea, were elected as President and Vice-President respectively and Al Jowdy, will continue, with his wife, Louise, as the Association's Secretary/Treasurers. Many thanks to Jeff, Mike and Al, for stepping up in order to plan another Reunion to honor our Veterans, their families and the ship they represent.
In closing, let me give a personal thanks to my usual suspects, those who always seem to be there to help me plan my events and are as solid as a rock. Sandy Eskew, our Historian, Website Manager and Newsletter Publisher. We wouldn't know anything, if it were not for her efforts. Al Jowdy, the money-man, for his consistency over the years (no doubt, probably has lots to do with Louise), Randy Oppenheimer, for his expertise and commitment to detail, in putting together our Reunion Brochures, Janet Veit, my Vice President and go to person, Mike Asea, for his exceptional displays of the ship's memorabilia, for his creativity, design and unlimited energy (where do you get it from my brother?), you are the true MacGyver and finally to Jeff Jowdy, for his love for his dad, family and faithful dedication in capturing our Reunion's events and memories year after year. You are all superstars and the backbone of the Association. I also want to thank my daughter, Alexia. She helped me in so many ways in planning, organizing and supplying this Reunion. I could not have done it without her. Since the loss of my beautiful wife Doreen, in 2013, Alexia has supported me in all my Reunion activities and been there for me in more ways than she'll ever know. I love you Alexia….
Anyway, to my Salt Lake City family, thank you and know, I'm looking forward to next year in Jacksonville and seeing all of you again. Please continue your support for this great Association and for supporting and having confidence in me, as your President.
Respectfully, John A. Mercer, President (2018)
U.S.S. Salt Lake City, CA25, Association
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Picture of Rich Noar & the Statues of the Naval Honor Guard Sailor