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60th Reunion Celebration Part I

So I (Gary Hyde) think it is time to wrap up our 60th Reunion Celebration Part I.  Here it is.

Let me start with a little background.  Back in January 2021, because of the Covid pandemic, the Supe cancelled all reunions at West Point for 2021 and the AOG announced that no reunions could be rescheduled at West Point at a later date.  I thought that we should reschedule the reunion at some other location as soon it was safe to do so and suggested to the Class Committee that we have the 60th Reunion in Central Florida in January 2022.  I felt that by that time, this Covid thing would not be a problem.  The committee agreed and off we went. 

Initially, Class members responded very positively and at one point we had over 260 as a possible headcount.  But I was wrong about Covid.  Along came the variants, like Omicron or Unicorn or whatever it is, and things went south.  Mainly because of Covid, the final headcount dropped to only 91.

However, in spite of all the challenges, problems, and bad news during the lead up to game day, in the end things went very well, with only one exception that I will explain later.   I am pleased to report that those that were able to make the celebration had a very good time.  Plenty of things to do.  Plenty of time to interface with other Class members.  Perfect room layout for hospitality, dining, memorial room, and meetings.  Outstanding support by the hotel staff.  Excellent dinners prepared by the hotel kitchen staff.  Very popular group events.  

We have much to be thankful for and many to thank for the success of this reunion celebration.  Let me go through some of these. 

       I will start with the one exception to all things going well at the event and explain why even in an emergency situation, there are things to be thankful for and people to thank.  After Gerry and Pat Carroll checked in and were on their way to their room, Pat had a heart issue and collapsed.  There is nothing good about that, but we can be thankful for what transpired after the attack. 

o   First, we can be thankful that he collapsed before getting on the elevator, that the elevator was just across the hall from our hospitality room, and that Bob Kewley and Babbs Mallory happened to be in the hosp room at the time.  Kewley recognized that Pat was unresponsive and not breathing.  He began chest compression immediately.  Shortly after that Babbs also recognized the symptoms, removed Pat’s shoes, and began foot massage to aid blood circulation.  The EMS team later stated that all this was exactly what needed to be done and may have saved Pat’s life.

o   Second, we can be thankful that the EMS team arrived so quickly, that they performed excellent triage, and that they took him to the preeminent heart hospital in Central Florida.

o   And finally, we can be thankful that the hospital staff provided the best care and treatment and that Pat is back home and doing fine.

       We should all thank Bob Hampton for what he has done to memorialize and remember our deceased classmates.

o    Let me give you some background.  In 2014, Button and I joined other classmates and wives on a visit to Israel hosted by Gleichenhaus.  One of the places that Peter took us to was the Israeli West Point.  The school had a room dedicated to graduates that had been killed in combat.  There was a memorial page for each one with picture and short bio posted on the wall of the room.  I was very moved by the experience and vowed that we would have such a room at our 55th.  

o   I asked Hampton if he would help me write memorial pages for each of our deceased classmates regardless of cause of death.  He said he would.  He took the 1st Regt and I took the 2nd.  I was working on my first bio – Joe Paone, A-2, when he called back and said he had finished with the 1st Regt.  So I told him to start with M-2 and work back.  Shortly thereafter he called back and said he was finished with the 2nd Regt.  I told him I was not going to let him tell everyone that he did all of them, so I would do Paone’s.  In spite of this, I think he threw my single bio away and used all of his. Oh well.

o   After that he agreed to set up the Memorial room for the 55th.  This he did and it was very, very well done.  Hampton had all the bios on the wall and memorabilia spread around the room.  Not only Class members appreciated it, but we saw hotel staff in the room walking the walls and, as I recall, Button saw one in tears.

o   Since the 55th he has done a memorial page for each classmate that passes away and sends it to Weiss for insertion in the Class website.

o   When asked, he immediately agreed to handle the Memorial Room for the 60th.  Those of you that were here know how moving it was to visit the room.  Memorial boards for each company for all classmates that had passed away since the 55th.  Notebooks with all deceased classmate’s memorial pages.  The room decorated with West Point memorabilia.

o   He did not stop there.  He did poster boards with historical data and pictures.  He had one of these at the hotel check in desk and outside the hospitality room, dining room, and memorial room.

       Thanks to Phil Mallory for leading the planning and coordinating activities for the Memorial Service.  The service was very well done and very moving.  It was recorded and is available on Facebook.  Classmates that could not attend the reunion have commented about how well done it was.

       Special thanks also to Chaplain Chris Cairns who conducted the service.  He took time off from his Army clerical duties to conduct the service.

       Jim Oaks is also one to thank for his many contributions to the reunion.  A very busy guy at the reunion as you will see.

o   He organized, coordinated, and rehearsed the 61 choral group that provided the entertainment for the Saturday dinner and sang at the Memorial Service.  Because of Covid and other health concerns, the group ended up as a quartet.  So we owe thanks to Steve Denney, Mike Hale, and Coralinn Maus who joined Jim in the quartet. 

o   He spent a lot of time coordinating the interviews of 20 classmates by reps from the USMA Center for Oral History (COH).  The Center, that our class helped establish with our 50th Reunion Class Gift, is a privately funded organization that relies on the generosity of donors.  The mission of the COH is to record, preserve, and present the stories of Soldiers, statesmen, and others who have influenced the profession of arms, in order to inspire, educate, and develop cadets, enhance the public’s understanding of the experience of the Soldier, and create new primary source material for scholars.  Jim spent many hours working with the reps from the COH and with each classmate to fit the 90 minute interviews into times that did not conflict with each classmate’s reunion scheduled activities. 

o   In addition to all that, he set up the sound system for the dinners, memorial service, and class meeting.   Plus, he organized and conducted the Zoom meetings for interested classmates that could not attend the reunion.  They appreciated these very much. 

       You can thank Mike Urette for the very special 60th Reunion Souvenir Challenge Coins. 

o   I was not in favor of having a reunion handout for everyone.  I figured everyone had all the ball caps, etc that they wanted.  Mike said he really would like a coin.  So I asked him to figure out how to get them and get some quotes.  When I saw the proofs, I knew he was correct.  The coin was indeed very well done and proved to be very popular with class members. 

o   We also have to thank the Class Committee for agreeing to supply a complimentary coin to any class member that wanted one.  This we have done.

       Speaking of coins, we owe Hampton another big thank you.  He is the one that came up with the idea and concept for making a souvenir coin necklace.  The coin necklace is very special. He not only came up with the concept, but also agreed to make a necklace for each of the widows that wanted one.  But, he did not stop there.  He agreed to make a necklace for other wives that wanted one.  These have all been delivered.

       Chan Eiland deserves thanks for taking on the thankless task of collecting what folks owed for the reunion.  This she did with grace and courtesy.  Hard to turn down a nice person like Chan.  Her efforts saved me from having to hire debt collectors.

       Witherspoon led the team that watched after the hospitality room.  Thanks to him and his helpers for keeping the cold beer stocked, snacks out, and liquor resupplied.

       I think those of you that took the sunset cruise on the Dora Queen will agree that the DQ crew did a great job for the Class and also deserve a big thank you.  Not only did the cruise go very well, but how they got the weather to cooperate I have no idea.  Every day was cold and cloudy, except the evening of the cruise, which was clear with a great sunset.  I want to thank the DQ management also for how they handled the cancellation of the Friday cruise when so many class members cancelled attendance at the reunion.  Even though the payment in advance for the cruise was non-refundable, the owner said she fully understood why we cancelled and offered a full refund.  A class act I would say.

       The Willow Tree German restaurant also took good care of us and deserves our thanks.  At one point there were so many that signed up for dinner there that I had to split the group into thirds and go on three different nights.  Because of the many cancellation, we ended up with less than a third of the original number and ended up with only one dinner there.  The Willow Tree staff took great care of those that joined the group for that dinner and real German entertainment – oom pah pah music and all.

       Ron and his boat captains at Scenic Boat Tours delivered entertaining and interesting pontoon boat tours on the chain of lakes in Winter Park.  Many thanks to all of them.

       The reunion hotel, Sheraton Orlando North, staff also deserves thanks and atta-boys.

o   When we decided to hold the reunion in Central Florida, I screened a dozen or so hotels and selected seven to receive an RFP.  In the RFP I included numerous requirements and 21 preferred concessions I called a wish list.  The Sheraton provided the most comprehensive proposal and met several key wish list items.  For example, the Sheraton was the only hotel that offered a room rate at the Govt rate and only one that offered discount rates for all room categories, including suites.  The proposal included complimentary meeting/banquet/hospitality spaces, parking, and internet access.

o   In the end, Alana, the sales manager got us the dining, meeting, hospitality room, and memorial room spaces that were ideal for our purposes.

o   Andres and his service staff did an outstanding job setting up for and serving the meals.  He also responded very quickly to all requests for room setups in the hospitality room and memorial room.

o   The chef and his kitchen staff provided five excellent meals at reduced prices.

       Also thanks to the guys that acted as “Event Coordinators” for the primary group events.  Mick Maus and Bill Williamson for the Winter Park Boat Tour.  Paul Vallely and Jack Veatch for the Willow Tree German Restaurant.  Mike Eiland, Todd Counts, Bruce Cowan, and Gary Lord for the Dora Queen Sunset Cruise.

       Thanks are also due to Ed Brown.  Ed and Rina were not able to attend the reunion.  However, he worked with me continuously over the months ahead of the reunion to review, monitor, and organize the registrations, maintain commo with class members, and help answer the many questions and comments that came in.

       Finally, Button and I want to thank all those that joined us at the reunion and helped make it so enjoyable and successful.  You all made our day! 

Well that is a wrap for our 60th Reunion Celebration Part I.   

Now, because so many of our class members were unable to make Part I there will be a Part II, Son of 60th Reunion if you will.  We will have that sometime during the next 12 months when it is safe to do so.  STAY TUNED!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last update:
3/07//2022