In the Beginning
By Bob Dawson
While we were attending the Portland Reunion, the question was asked, 'How did the U.S.S. Walke Association get started?" There are a lot of new faces now and some of the old ones are no longer with us. My wife, Arlene, suggested that we put something into the Newsletter to review our past and how we got to where we are today. So here it goes:
Back in the mid to late 80s two friends in Bullhead City, Arizona, were thinking and talking about their Navy days. They wondered where the time went and how their old shipmates were making out in life. Wouldn't it be nice to see the old crew again. To find all of those old pals seemed impossible. Besides, maybe they aren't interested in "going back in time". If only it could happen for just a little while.
Low and behold, one of them, Harold Williams, lucked out. He read an article in a magazine that his ship was having a reunion. He wasn't going to miss the opportunity to satisfy that yearning he had inside. So, off he went. Upon his return he couldn't wait to tell his friend, Paul Bergeron, about the wonderful time that he had and all of the shipmates he met. Harold's excitement was contagious. Paul began to think how nice it would be "if only" someone would do this for the U.S.S. Walke. The more that they talked, the more intriguing the thought of a reunion became to Paul. Harold urged Paul to start a reunion and volunteered to help. They both knew it would require a lot of hard work with no guarantees. They would have to try and contact old shipmates, get their opinions and ask them for some financial help to get the ball rolling. Would some think it was just another scam? Where could we have it to attract the most people. Time to get started.
Many, many months later, things began to gel. The reunion would be held in Las Vegas in May, 1989. Much to their surprise, the response was very gratifying. Soon, after all the phone calls, letters, announcements and endless planning, the day of reality arrived. Shipmates began to arrive and immediately went back as much as 40 years in time. Strange faces began to look like buddies of yesteryear, name tags were the hit of the day. Wives, who were timid at first, (about three seconds), saw their loved ones begin to smile and, with tears in their eyes, embrace their brothers of long ago. The years kept slipping away until all were busy recounting old memories and feeling young once more. Paul and Harold had done what seemed to be impossible. They met each shipmate as they arrived. Some, Paul could remember, others were new to him, but soon would become friends. Many thought that it could never take place after the lapse of so many years. 75 shipmates, however, came to Las Vegas to take part in that first three-day reunion. Paul was so impressed by what he saw that, over these past 12 years, he has "chaired" two more reunions. That is 25% of all those we have had to date!
We all had a great time at that first reunion. Paul became the first President by acclamation. Also elected into office were: Vice-President: Andrew McKinney, Secretary: Richard Nelson, Treasurer: Robert Dawson, Chaplain: Ed Mathews, who began the first "fish bowl" to help defray the expense of the open bar, Historian: Robert Ennis and Photographer: Bronko Lapcewich. Our ladies were included as equal partners. A suggested dues of $15 was okayed by the members. Harold Williams was elected as an Honorary member of the crew. We all left vowing to spread the word to help the reunion cruise grow.
Next time you see Paul or his wife, Margaret, thank them for this wonderful opportunity to re-establish old friendships and make new ones. If it weren't for their efforts, we might all still be sitting at home saying "if only".
History of the USS Walke. Association by Paul Bergeron 5/15/09
The beginning of the Walke Association took place in Las Vegas Nevada In May 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 two, had made a couple of reunions of his ship, the USS Lakawana, he had learned a few things on how to put a reunion. He volunteered to help me.
We took off for Vegas. We 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 never attempted anything like this before.
We immediately started to running ads in the American Legion magazines and others. The reunion was set for 7 thru 11, 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 begin 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 Marquee lit up, “Welcome USS Walke DD 723” The Marquee was next to interstate 15, could see it from a long way 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, this fellow and his wife get out of the cab, and 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. Those who were there, I’m sure 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. Sea Stories were plentiful. Top story was told by Louis D’Oris on how he became the ships barber.
Reunion # 2 Boston MA August 30th to Sept 3, 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; the Royal Sonesta Hotel on the Charles River was selected. I must say, it was a great spot. The view of the Boston skyline was spectacular. The reunion dates were August 30th to Sept 3.
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 suppose to be held in Galveston Texas, hosted by Andrew Mc Kinney, as it turned out, he was unable to. 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.6 thru 10, 1991 at the Palace Station. This time it as in the new high raise 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; Hoover Dam;
Night of Banquet, I was approached by a man who was an ex Marine, who fought at Oklahoma. On 19 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 their group in 1945. They were part of the 3rd Marine Division. After the Banquet I turned the mike over to him, 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 hotel welcoming the USS Walke. When he saw it, he remembered the ship and the number of it. It made for a great ending for our reunion
Reunion # 3 San Antonio Texas. 3- 6 Oct. 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 is the way 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; 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 at Ray Harves suggestion. And it was a good one.
No reunion in 1993
Reunion # 5 Tampa Bay Florida 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 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 the 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 1996
The Marriott Hotel - Hosted by Ray & Pat Harves
Tours of; Truman Library, Independence, Kansas City barbecue and The Traveling Smithsonian Museum.
And a special treat with the Harves’s. Margaret and I, Allan & Louise Jrfferis stayed with then a couple of 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. 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 dollars a night with a return of 10 dollars 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 $5200.00 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. It was approved unanimously. The request was made by John Upton, who was a crewman when DD 416 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 lift. 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. 29 - Sept. 2, 1999
Days Inn Hotel - Hosted by John Krilick and Lloyd Earle
Wendella Sight—seeing Boat, Bus tour of City, Lunch in China Town, Cultural Center, Museum of Science, Tour thru U—5O5, Coal Mine, Drive—by U of Chicago, Robie House, Navy Pier — Navy Band
For a report of this reunion go to Newsletter, Volume No. 34 Oct. 1999
Reunion #11 Biloxi MS Oct. 15-19-2000
Isle of Capri Hotel sets on the Gulf of Mexico. A great spot next to Mobile Bay
Hosted by Jose and Kitty Nava
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. For those who don’t know dose portraits. 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 Maine Oct 20 – 24, 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 9/11.
See Volume 41 March 2001 for more information about this reunion.
Reunion # 13 San Francisco, CA Oct. 3 – Nov2, 2002
San Francisco Airport Marriott Hotel - Hosted by Ed & Mickey Jakez
Tours: Bay Dinner Cruise; Babylon Breach Party Show; Alcartraz & City Tour; Sausalito & Mair Red Woods or Wine Country; Chinatown Tour wit dinner; Fisherman’s Wharf & pier 39
See Newsletter #46 2002 for more information.
Reunion #14 Green Bay WI. Sept. 27 - Oct.1, 2003
Radisson Hotel & Conference Center - Hosted by Herb Carlson & Richard Williamson
Welcome Party and Karaoke, Tours; Appleton Papers, Mill that make 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. 28 - Oct. 2, 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. 12 – 16, 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. Than a Bay Cruise, with a close look at the aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan, 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 some 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 good byes. A well done to, San Diego committee.
Reunion # 17 Oklahoma City, OK Oct. 19 – 23, 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 preformed.
Reunion #18 Huntsville, AL Oct. 3 – 7, 2007
Port of Madison Holiday INN - Hosted by Beryl & Virginia Witherspoon Marion & Shirley Williams
Welcome; Light Southern Dinner, Toured the Botanical Garden, U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Off to Lynchburg , Jack Daniel Distillery and Lunch at Miss Mary’ Boarding House.
Silent Auction, book exchange and Banquet.
From Paul’s notes; “Museum in Fayetville. Many items in 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 September 25 – 29, 2008
Holiday INN Seattle-Renton - Hosted by John & Judy Henderson
Welcome and pizza dinner. We took the Argosy Cruise and banquet lunch on Puget Sounds. 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.
A Memorial Service and banquet dinner is held at every reunion.
Reunion information below added by Richard Williamson
Reunion # 21 Williamsburg, VA. Sept 22-29-2010
Williamsburg Woodlands Hotel: Hosted by: Gene Hansen
Wednesday: Check in & Welcome party
Harbor Cruise: Norfolk Station Bay & Fort Wool Historic Site
Colonial Williamsburg (on your own)
Shirley Plantation tour
Business meeting, memorial service
Reunion # 22 Branson Missouri Oct. 16-21-2011
Hosted by: Alan Fear, Bob Wall and Gathering Plus
Area Tour, Branson Landing
The Acrobats of China Show
Clay Cooper Dinner and Show
Showboat Branson Belle Dinner, Show and Cruise
Reunion # 23 Tucson AZ Sept. 16-21-2012
Hosted by: Alan Fear and Gathering Plus
Welcome in party
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
Fort Huachuca & Historical Museum
Tombstone: walking tour, (Gun fight at OK Coral, (we didn't get to see because of tour change)
Air & Space Museum, bone yard (used American airplanes)
Banquet: 68 attended
Reunion # 24 Fort Lauderdale FL Sept.25-29-2013
Hosted by: Barbara Stephens & Michelle Martin
Renaissance Fort Lauderdale Cruise Port Hotel
Registration, Italian Night Feast , Welcome Party
Billie Swamp Safari
Miami City Tour
Memorial Service on site of Intra Coastal Water Way