USS Estes Association Reunion 2003 Report

USS Estes Association
44 Longstreet Road
Weldon, NC 27890-1114

Reunion Report
Norfolk VA Sept 24 - 27, 2003

Noah & Jane Joyner with Dick & Marge Steenbergen reported to the Sheraton Hotel on Sept 23rd, five days after "Hurricane Isabel" roared through eastern North Carolina & Virginia with damaging 80 mph winds and torrential rains. Their mission was to prepare the hospitality room., check meals, programs and events that were scheduled. The Tidewater of Virginia had sustained lots of storm damage ie one tunnel was flooded, many trees down and many people without power. The navy had taken most of the fleet out to sea to ride out the storm and were now back in port. The week ahead looked weather free and promisng.

A couple of early arrivals were seen in the area. Charles & JoAnn Brewer with their grandson, Andrew, from Louisville, KY, Jim & Axzine Woodward from Stockton, CA came to check the area over as we think Jim was in the Norfolk area during his naval career. Great to see you fellows.

Our reunion will be dedicated this year to the Korean War, 1950-1953, this year being the fiftieth anniversary and final year of organized Department of Defense activities. The USS Estes played a part in this war and we will have vets to share in our activities.

Sep 24: The first reunion day was devoted to making the hospitality ready in order to welcome travel weary shipmates, family and friends. Navy exchange & local grocery outlets were visited and proper supplies were purchased. The hotel set-up the hospitality room to our request and ice was furnished for the thirsty. Two coffee urns were steaming, alongside were various items for drinks of all kinds, even some snacks. The coolers contained many types of sodas.

The hospitality room opened officially at 5:00pm. Many albums of memorabilia were on hand for memory visits, they were also invited to bring their items for viewing. The 5ft. model of the Estes was center stage and brought scrutiny and comments. At 6:30pm "Papa Johns" delivered assorted pizza and everyone enjoyed our traditional feast of pizza and continued stories. Two first time attendees were Frank & Donna Doyle, Ocean City, NJ and Barent Gibson and Norma Oliver of Brownwood, TX who came riding a Honda "Goldwing" motorcycle.

It is now realized that our attendance at this years reunion will be less than others, because of many factors and circumstance. Nine persons were at home due to health problems, but let's face the fact that we can't all be there 100 percent of the time. We send our very best to all of those who can't be with us this year. We note that we are also sharing the hotel with another reunion group from WWII, the 474th Fighter Group (P-38 Lightnings) from the ETO. They have about 150 personnel. Earlier in the month Amphibious Forces (LCI's & LSM's) had their reunion here at the Sheraton.

We think that this is a wonderful spot for our reunion, most all planned activities are within walking distance of the hotel. The battleship Wisconsin BB-64, Gen MacArthus Memorial, Chrysler Museum and other places of interest nearby.

Sep 25: Today began bright and sunny with guest taking different directions to places of their choice for breakfast. Waterside Marketplace was a favorite spot for some early risers for a fast food type menu with all the usual breakfast items.

At about 11:00am most members were seen walking in the direction of the ship "Spirit of Norfolk" designated as our luncheon cruise ship. Just arriving by taxi from the airport was Julie Veltri and taken by Jane & Noah to the oncoming event.

We boarded and departed at 12:00 noon, almost immediately lunch was buffet style with plenty food favorable to the palate. Our trip was also narrated by our guide who gave us detailed info on all the sights on the shore and ships that were moored. The open deck was delightfull and many chose to relax in the sun. A trio of variety entertainment was lively and entertaining. Some of the group joined the dance portions. A most enjoyable fun filled relaxing trip.

It was noted that one of the newer ships that have joined the fleet, the USS Ronald Reagan, CVN 76 (aircraft carrier) was at pier. Most of the fleet having just returned from the mid-east and more recently to escape the force of "Isabel."

Wally Bender (Capt US Army - Sig Det) aboard Estes 1944-45 joined us for this luncheon and we were delighted to see Wally again. The remainder of the day was spent as free time and hospitality fever. Remember, when you have a hospitality room like we do, it's for eating, drinking, story telling, relaxing and trying to recapture some of those days that are gone forever.

Later in the evening around dinner time a few of us sneaked off and had dinner at nearby "Hooters," why I say 'sneaked' is when you mention this in public, you may note raised eye brows and other such disavowing indications, mostly from the ladies. The men are usually all smiles. But we suffered through the bevy of beauties without serious harm.

Sep 26: Hospitality room was restocked and iced down, breakfast was again by groups going in different directions and taking that short brisk walk on a wonderful morning.

About 11:45am everyone was on their way to the fourth floor (Claremont Room) for a luncheon and our annual business meeting.

Chaplin Steenbergen gave benediction and the following lunch was served:

Chef's Choice (Buffet Style)
Tossed Salad w/ dressing
Baked Chicken
Chopped Sirloin of Beef
Potato Du-Jour or Rice
Vegetable Du-Jour
Chocolate Cake & Apple Pie
Coffee & Tea

Jack Price a new member from nearby Suffolk, VA joined us for our meeting portion and gave us some info on various aspects of reunions and his experiences with same on several ships. We will call on Jack for further assistance as we discussed some problems keeping attendance and interest alive.

Dave Konshok, who has been very instrumental in conducting the "Mini Reunions" we have had in the past, mostly in the mid-central area of the country, was re-capped for membership and gave the tale of dwindling interest. At their last one in Duluth it seems they only had the planners with a couple extra. Harry Wenner who has been in on these reunions from the beginning, also echoed tales of woe, you must have attendance at these reunions in order to bargain for your group and this is missing this year.

Frank Lance, member from Queen City, TX, came before the membership to propose a reunion in Texas at either Austin or Amarillo as base operations and a trip to Fredericksberg, the home of the Adm Chester Nimitz museum. The museum has a commerative plaque wall, perhaps we could place the Estes there. We need a contact man in the area a reunion is to be held in order that we may form our program with some degree of surity. Frank agreed to help to his ability and the proposal was to be passed on to the members for a vote. Frank will be kept advised.

Jack Price also gave some info on a river excursion (Mississippi) and promissed to send some information. Delta Cruises is also available on the internet. This is an item that will be placed before the membership with results to be announced.

Noah Joyner, after seventeen years at the helm of the Estes Association tendered his resignation at the conclusion of this reunion. In private, with the co-founder, Dick Steenbergen, he sought his answer in taking the helm. Dick gave a negative reply. We agree that we shall solicit the general membership for anyone interested and report same. Our technical assistance is always available. We will continue to accept membership fees ($20.) and pass them on to a successor less amounts spent for material and postage.

Twenty minutes was allocated in selling gift raffle tickets for the items to be raffled at our final dinner banquet Saturday night.

Sep 27: Final day of our reunion shown bright and sunny. From our hospitality room we could see a drydock on the river with a ship in repair. The ship is USS Mount Whitney, LCC-20, flagship in the Atlantic and just back from duty in the mid-east. Her sister ship USS Blue Ridge, LCC-19, has the same mission in the Pacific. These ships replaced all the AGC's (all 18) that were in the Navy from 1943 thru 1970.

At 5:30pm our hospitality was closed as we were already in the process of decorating our banquet room for the evening. Again Jane and Marge took care of the many decorations and placement of items. A new flag was flown for the first time, as of July 1, 2003, Secretary of the Navy, England signed an order for all Naval vessels to replace the Navy Jack with one flown in the Revolution, Red, White Stripes with a Serpent and words at the bottom "Don't Tread on Me." That's something new for us old sailors. It is not clear if this will become a permanent custom or not.

One wall of the banquet room was decorated with flags NWDE, the international signal call sign of the USS Estes, assigned at commissioning and serving the same purpose as your social security number. The ship's model with all it's array of dress-up items, we remember deceased shipmate Jacob H. Christmann, Seaman, Second Division for his lasting contribution that we may be able to gather with a true symbol of the service we rendered our country through three wars and one of the longest the "Cold War."

At 6:30pm after a few remarks of welcome and with the arrival of shipmate Toney Mihelie who could only spare this time with us due to other family committments, glad to have you with us Toney and say hello to Rose for us.

Chaplain Steenbergen rendered the benediction and the following food was ready:

The Virginian

Peanut & Butternut Squash Soup
Tossed Salad with Pecan, Strawberries, Tomatoes, Red Onion, with Vinaigrette
Fresh Fruit Ambrosia
Potato Salad
Rosted Pork Loin with Balck Cherry, Cranberry Orange Sauce
Fried Chicken
Fried Catfish
Glazed Sweet Potatoes
Macaroni & Cheese
Southern Style Collard Greens
Corn Bread Muffins
Pecan Pie, Peach Pie & Chocolate Cake
Coffees & Tea

As in years past Marge Steenbergen continues to do something just for the ladies. This year she used assorted large candles 4 or 5 inches tall and knitted a decorative beaded dress cover which made a lovely gift for the room of your choice. She also sent some to the ladies not present, we thank her again for all these years of dedication to this organization.

Our cash 50/50 raffle was next on the agenda we had $500 to draw for the lucky winners which were as follows: ($100 each)
Drawn by Andy Brewer: -- Horace Bowden - Big Spring, TX
Drawn by Frank Doyle: -- Ken Bode - Tulsa, OK
Drawn by Donna Doyle: -- Dave Konshok - Park Rapids, MN (Present)
Drawn by Barent Gibson: -- Jim Hines - Indianapolis, IN
Drawn by Norma Oliver: -- Walt Harrington - Wakefield, MA (Present)

Note:The above drawers were first time reunion attenders.

The Gift Raffle was next on the agenda and we had another long time reunion attendee and daughter of Shipmate Jim Andrus & wife Helen, Tami Lawing volunteer to draw the winning tickets. She did a super job and the event went well with many nice gifts going to the winners. Thank all of you for making this an event that we all can benefit from. The monies raised from this event always went to the hospitality room or any part of the on site reunion that needed some assistance to see that everyone had a great time. Thank you Tami.

Marge Steenbergen on the last gift to be raffled, presented a large Colonial Flag (US) for auction with proceeds to go to the Gift Raffle Fund: After the opening bid till the final bid of $120. the beautiful flag went to Berent Gibson or Norma Oliver, we guess the decision on that will be made in Texas. Congratulations everyone and thank you again Marge.

Before closing the 2003 Reunion, Noah Joyner assured the membership present that he would render the final report on the reunion as well as bring to the attention of the membership his resignation along with Dick Steenbergen and work with those willing to assist in any activity for 2004. If there is any that are truly interested and willing to put forth the effort, we shouldn't have any problem getting a reunion for next year.

We must commend a brave lady for attending this reunion with her husband, because she knew he wanted to come. Val Spangler & Bernie from Ocean City, MD. Val came along using a walker to assist her in getting around. Jane Joyner acquired a wheel chair from the hotel and Val was able to attend and be with Bernie at all of our functions. Get well soon Val.

Gene Rodenbeck as he has done in Washington, DC rang the ships bell in honor of our dead this year. We had reports on only two deaths but we always recall in memory our shipmate Jake Christmann, builder of our ship model. The following names were read and honored with the bell.
Frederick H. Trauerts - BM3 - 1944-46, Wife Caroline -- Spring Hill, FL
Sylvia Ward - Wife - Dwain Ward - 1951-53 -- Ottumwa, IA
Jacob H. Christmann - S1C - 1944-46 -- Stoughton, MA
Pete Veltri -- Washington, PA - Widow Julie (Present)
Their presence will always be missed.

If there was something missing in this report, blame the author, Noah, he tries to remember everything but as of late is beginning to have some problems. On behalf of all our staff, Noah, Jane, Dick, and Marge we hope that you enjoyed yourselves because we thought it was great to serve you in honor of your "Service." Thank you.

Noah & Jane Joyner
Dick & Marge Steenbergen

We add this footnote:

Jo Ingram, wife of shipmate Charles C. Ingram, YN1 (Ret'd) R-Div. 1950-54 notified us that he had passed away at 12:33pm. Oct 4, 2003, Salisbury, NC. Charles & Jo came to a few of our reunions and we were happy to have them join us, however being a career sailor he had many ships and attended their reunions. Somewhere along the way he got interested in planning the reunion and continued that with his last ship, the USS Cleveland, LPD-7. He always paid his membership dues and was a good supporter of the Estes cause. We shall miss Charlie too.

Shipmates, Family & Friends Present for the Reunion
Frank Lance
Murray & Marion Borenstein
Julie Veltri
Harry & Lois Wenner
Noah & Jane Joyner
Barent Gibson
Gene Rodenbeck
Joe & Jean Walker
Arnie & Jane Brandt
Russ & Dorothy Graesch
Jim & Axzine Woodward
Tami Lawing
Doug & Renee Rouse
Jack Price
Dick & Marge Steenbergen
Wally Bender
Frank & Donna Doyle
Charles & JoAnn Brewer & Andy
Larry & Pamela Gass
Norma Oliver
Walt & Nancy Carver
Dave & Irene Konshok
Walt Harrington
Bernie & Val Spangler
Jim & Helen Andrus
Kevin & Donna Flannery
Toney Milhelic
Mike Joyner

      Shipmates    22
      Wives 15
      Widows 1
      Frends 1
      Family 7
        46 Total


We have over 420 shipmates on our roster, in the past seventeen years we have gone from 13 to 575 to where we stand today. Many of our older shipmates of the forties are no more and fewer still. Shipmates from the fifties are now the larger number but are feeling the age syndrome. We need all the shipmates we can find, those of the sixties are there and the right age group to share some of their energy. Contact your old buddies, we found approx. 20 members by using Military association magazine ads. The internet is a viable tool. Let's all pledge to find at least one Lost Shipmate for 2004, your input is urgently needed.


We wish to thank and commend all of the Estes Shipmates and accompanying members for not only their conduct and cooperative manner for this reunion but all the past reunions. It is our good fortune to have the most trouble free gatherings, not to say that we did not have some small glitches that required some extra effort. We were also fortunate to have some individuals that were willing and able to step forward and assist monetarily, in fact without some of those friends, and you know who you are, our job would have been difficult.
USS Estes Association: E-mail:

44 Longstreet Road
Weldon, NC 27800-1114

USS Estes Association Reunion 2003
USS Estes Association Reunion Info
Return to USS Estes Association Home