|USS FRED T. BERRY
|The 2003 USS FRED T. BERRY reunion took place at the Adam's Mark Hotel in
Mobile, Alabama on October 16, 17, 18 and 19. There were 48 shipmates in attendance and a
total of 99 persons overall. As in the past, it was a very successful reunion and it
seemed like a continuation from previous reunions. There were plenty of activities planned
but the central point of the reunion was the Hospitality Room provided by the hotel. In
fact, the Adam's Mark provided us with exceptional service and beautiful rooms, many as
high as the 26th floor. Most provided us with breathtaking views overlooking Mobile, the
Mobile River and Mobile Bay.
Activities started out Thursday morning with the opening of the hospitality room and early arrival of our shipmates. This is always a heartwarming occasion; renewing old friendships and taking up where we left off the year before in Niagara Falls. We had many first time attendees this year, most from the early 1960's Operations Division. Dick Enright had the ship's store in operation from the first moments and most of us were able to purchase shirts, hats and other items of clothing to replace our old items that have been worn down to the threads. There were new items this year in the form of children's tee shirts and sweatshirts. (Note: all items are available from the ship's store, which can be seen in the ship's website)
The scheduled tours started on Friday with a tour of the Pensacola Naval Air Station. We spent several hours at the Naval Aviation Museum, which included a tour of the restoration facilities on the ramp behind the museum. Lunch was eaten at the Mustin Beach Officer's Club on the base. That evening saw the first of two dinners served to us by the hotel. During this first dinner, Ron Howard (FN 60-61) presented a memorial plaque to the group. This is a memorial to all the deceased reunion association shipmates and will be displayed at future reunions. Names will be added as our shipmates leave us. Also at this gathering, the names of those we have lost in the past year were read. This was undoubtedly the most solemn time of the reunion. Following the dinner, the hospitality room was opened for continued personal reunions and sea stories.
Saturday saw a continuation of activities with a tour of Mobile that ended at the USS ALABAMA (BB-60) memorial park on Mobile Bay. Our annual banquet was held that evening. The high spot of the banquet was a delightful skit put on by a local group, and was a mini-Mardi Gras celebration. They wore very colorful, traditional costumes and the event was culminated with the crowning of a King and Queen of the "Ball".
Al and Eileen Truman were recipients of those crowns, and then presided over the rest of the evening activities. The raffling of door prizes took place at the end of the evening's activities. Elaine Brothers presided over the sale of tickets, which saw over a thousand dollars being added to the association treasury. The hospitality room was open after the banquet, to let us get together for unfinished story telling.
There was a breakfast buffet at the hotel on Sunday morning and, as usual, proved to be a happy and sad event. Sad, in that we would not be seeing each other for another year. After the breakfast most left to get an early start home.
Some of the business that took place at the annual business meeting was selection of the location for the 2004 reunion. An extremely close vote determined that San Diego, California would be the location and "Tiny Atkinson" will be the host. In an unusual turn, it was also decided to select the 2005 reunion location, which turned out to be Norfolk, Virginia. Tony Merendino will host that reunion.
In an interesting sidelight, there was another ship's reunion at the hotel during the same time, the USS FRANK KNOX, DD/DDR 741. One of their participants had been stationed aboard the FTB in the early fifties. His name escapes me at this time, but in an interesting irony, one of our men had also been stationed aboard her in the late 1940's, "Tiny" Atkinson. They even had a photo of Tiny in their scrapbook. Since the two groups were across the hall from each other, we both enjoyed each other's hospitality. Another guest was a former crewmember of the USS NORRIS, DD/DDE 859, Ed Klinske. Ed has contributed a nice photo of the FTB taken in March of 1952. It will be included in the photo page of the website eventually. I'm sure there were other people in attendance that should be mentioned but I have not been informed of their attendance.
The annual ship's reunions tend to be the highlight of the year for many of us as it allows us to remember a time when our lives took a much different direction. Serving our country was probably one of the most important times of our lives and this pride is demonstrated many times over as we rehash those days aboard the USS FRED T. BERRY. Each of our shipmates has vivid memories of days aboard regardless of which division they served in. Evening watches seem especially memorable, maybe because they tended to be tedious or boring and gave us time to reflect on our mission. For me it was standing deck watches on clear moonlit nights and watching the sparkles in the wake of the ship. I'm told this was caused by excitation of the phosphorous in the water by the screws' wake. Whatever, it was a wonderful time to meditate and reflect. These memories will, unfortunately, be lost in time. We can relate these experiences to our children and grandchildren but they will lack substance to them. These things, I fear, will only be appreciated by those who experienced them. As I had a former crewmember relate to me, "they were the best of times".
Webmaster Ron Fritz