Reunion
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January 2013

 

 

Jerry Gill said that his sweet, strong, and beautiful Dorothy died on Christmas day after 50_ years as a loving wife and mother. After 27 years, the breast cancer finally won. Dorothy Swann Gill, 72, of Roswell, GA passed away on Christmas Day 2012. She was born on Valentine's Day in 1940 to Adolph and Ruby Waller Swann in Roanoke, AL and grew up in Birmingham. After graduating from Auburn University in 1962, she traveled the world for 26 years as an Air Force wife then settled in Roswell. She was active in the Roswell UMC choir family for 23 years. She is survived by her devoted husband of 50 years, Col. Jerry Gill, 3 daughters and their families - Susan & Clay Saunders; Leigh Ann & Jim Kane and Beth & Andy Wren; 8 grandchildren - Hillary, Meredith, Olivia, Trevor, Max, Wesley, Drew, Sarah; and sister - Nancy & her husband, Tom Brechin.  Memorial contributions may be made to the Wounded Warrior Project at www.woundedwarriorproject.org in her honor. Neal Westbrook, Mike Rawlins, Jimmy Poole, Johnny Caughman, and Sam Barazzone attended Dorothy’s services.

Our class is quite proud of Mark Anderson’s recognition by the AOG as a Distinguished Graduate. Congratulations from all of us, Mark. It was well deserved! Mark will receive his 2013 DGA at the Founders' Day Dinner scheduled for Friday, April 5, 2013.  It would a wonderful tribute to Mark and his family for as many of his classmates as possible to attend.  Please watch for the appropriate AOG e-mails announcing the time and place of the presentation or simply go to www.usafa.org and register yourself and a spouse/guest for this special event.

Terry Storm’s Chairman’s Journal in this issue of Checkpoints is his last, since his term on the AOG Board of Directors is ending.  He greatly appreciates all of the support of our classmates in his efforts to enhance the effectiveness and cost-efficiencies of the AOG. We all thank you for your many efforts on behalf of our AOG and Academy, Terry.

Hector Negroni reports that the Class of 1961 DC Bunch held their November Luncheon at the Springfield Country Club, Springfield, VA.   Once again, through the courtesy of Charley Dixon, they were treated royally at his Country Club.   After a beautiful prayer by their Chaplain (Twy Williams), they had a status of the DC Bunch report by Lowell Jones and a report by Bill Foster on the activities during the most recent Air Force-Army game.   Bill was not able to give them a total description of the tanks that rolled over Air Force during the game, but he said that the Air Force cadets did not know what hit them.   During the meal, they discussed the normal litany of ailments and medical problems by our class members.  While they seem to be aging gracefully, their visits to the doctors are more frequent.   Charley Dixon gave them a scalpel-by scalpel account of his recent eye surgery.   He claims that his vision is 20/20, but his hearing has not improved.   They took turns yelling into his good ear.  For a bunch of 70-year-olds, they are doing pretty well.

Mark Anderson said that Jim Ulm, Bob Wagner, and he are starting to work on a reunion of their Reese pilot training class: 63B.  They have never held a reunion and decided if they don't get moving, it will be a small group!  Tentative plans are late spring, early summer of 2014 in San Antonio.  More info will be forthcoming to those involved.

John Boesch is 3 weeks into the "hip replacement flight."  All is well so far.  John is also currently serving as "tech advisor" to Frank Kiszley, who is soon to join that flight.  John has been sworn in as 1st VP for the local MOAA Chapter, and serves on the Board with (past President) Jerry Lefton.

Stu and Marnie Boyd are struggling with an addiction and need your help.  They are addicted to Les Miz.  Six stage performances and the movies of course—and they just got the original movie made in 1934, which runs for close to five hours and is in French (subtitles, thankfully). If one of you knows of a good program, let them know. 

Because people continue to inquire, Bob Brickey provided a very short update on their granddaughter, MiaBella Brickey.  Mia is doing beautifully in every regard.  She is enjoying school, ballet lessons, and her Soo Bahk Do martial arts in which she is not allowed to do the sparring.  She must always stay away from people who are ill, due to her immunosuppressed body, which keeps her new heart healthy. They are still ever grateful to so many who have expressed concern, prayers, and aid for Mia.

Pat and Marilyn Buckley continue to enjoy their endless summer in Satellite Beach, FL. Pat’s hip joint resurfacing is healing well, and he is approaching 3 miles at 6 mph on the elliptical strider as well as enjoying dips in the Atlantic Ocean for some swim exercise. Pat and Marilyn attended an alumni group television session to watch the Air Force/Army game. They had a good time, except the score! Being an optimist, Pat organized a Space Coast Alumni session to watch the Air Force/Rice Armed Forces Bowl game at the local Beef O’Brady’s. They and the 30 grads had a good time, except for the score, again! Otherwise, they have had relaxed time at home, except for all the doctor’s appointments. Pat and Marilyn will be going to the UK, Italy, and Spain in February and March. They will be at their Spanish home on the Costa del Sol (Velez-Malaga) from 26 Feb to mid March with two empty bedrooms (maybe) if anyone is in southern Spain and wants to visit.

Doug and Dee Cairns report that they are still in Montgomery, AL, enjoying full, uncomplicated retirement. Last year they enjoyed watching their eldest grandson, Chris, graduate, take a real job, get married, and move his bride from Wetumpka, AL, to the big city of San Francisco. That those two kids seem to enjoy living in the strange land of Congresswoman Pelosi is of concern to most of the Cairns family who are retaining their Southern roots. Cathy, Chris’s mom, is a nurse who directs a crew of cardiologists in town and maintains a watchful eye on Doug and Dee. Chris’s and Jordan’s wedding was cause for the other two grandkids to come for a month’s visit from their home in Italy. Nathan and Katye are teenagers and attend the DoD Naples American High School. This then became a grand “re-Americanizing” month for the kids since they have been over there for 8+ years, and counting. Rob seems to have become the indispensible man on the staff of CINCNAVEUR, so they may never come home.  Doug enjoys monthly golf with Steve Ho, Jimmy Poole, and Ron Jones.

Michele Cowan, AOG Customer Service Supervisor, realized that Trel and Dick Coppock had lost their complete collection of AOG Christmas ornaments in the 26 June wildfire.  She sought out a benefactor willing to purchase all she could find in her limited stock of past ornaments and sent them along to the Coppocks.  She found a generous spirit who, wishing to remain anonymous, purchased some 10 ornaments, including the Class of 1961 "jewel," and asked that they be sent to Dick and Trel with a simple Merry Christmas.  They arrived just as the Coppocks were decorating their tree in the (Saint) Nick of time.   The "usual suspects" prevail, and they are so very grateful to both Michele and their very own Santa.  The true Christmas spirit was indeed evident to Dick and Trel, and they are touched by such generosity.  They wish all classmates and their families all the blessings of the New Year.

   In June 2012 Randy Cubero was selected to run another charitable foundation called Parents Challenge, a 501C3, in Colorado Springs.  This charity provides low income families with financial assistance in the form of scholarships and grants to move their children to a better performing school or to enhance their child's academic performance in their current school with supplemental materials and programs, like tutoring and purchasing a computer.  Parents Challenge is part of the National School Choice Movement, which believes strongly that parents need to be more engaged and empowered in their child's education and that they alone should make the educational choices that will give their child the best chances for success. Randy indicated that it has been a real eye-opener to understand what has happened to our K-12 public education system, especially after so many years of running the Falcon Foundation and dealing with only top tiered academically performing students trying to enter the Air Force Academy.

Dick Davis enjoyed the hospitality of Carl Granberry and his new wife, Lura, a high school chum. Carl has a well-fed herd of horses on his Winona, TX, property.  And Heather, Dick’s horse, is joining that herd as a guest. They spent the day together, and Carl showed Dick his family’s metal-bending plant where they make rings for brooms and mops. He also showed Dick the improvements he has designed into his metal-bending operation.  They are formidable accomplishments, demonstrating applications of his education in mechanical engineering and Double E. Very impressive.

Bob Dean said he is into doing a lot of exercises.  To exercise his legs, he walks back and forth from the kitchen to the computer room 30 times a day. His bending exercises include bending over 5-6 times a day picking up Golden Retriever puppy poop. To exercise his arms, at 4:30 p.m. every afternoon he lifts a heavy glass of vodka with an olive in it 30-40 times. For some reason, he can't remember what he does after 5:30 p.m.

Tom and Anne Eller spent a couple of weeks starting with Thanksgiving in the UK with son Rob Eller and family (USAFA '96), then hosted their other children and grandchildren in Colorado for Christmas. Tom and Anne plan to spend several weeks in Kauai this winter before going to Atlanta and back to the UK at the end of May to celebrate their 50th with all of their children.

Richard Fairlamb has been Flight Captain of the Order of Daedalians Flight #23/DFW since mid-year 2011.   This flight has the same number as the F-4 squadron Richard commanded at Spangdahlem AB, Germany in the late 1970s—23rd Tactical Fighter Squadron.   Flight 23 is one of the largest of the 70+ flights in the international Order of Daedalians at 209 members—holding steady over the past few years.   The flight hosted the National Convention in October 2011 and has supported two academic university-level scholarships, a CAP cadet solo program, and CFIP high school AFJROTC cadet solo program annually during recent years.   Flight 23, under Richard’s leadership, was awarded the “2012 Jimmy Doolittle Award” by Daedalian National HQ.   This is the second time Flight 23 has received the Doolittle Award, the last time being in 1997.   Just to keep out of trouble, and out of local watering holes, Richard continues to generate some revenue as a Business Continuity and Recovery consultant and teacher, and finds a little time to keep VFR and IFR current in his 1957 Cessna 182.

Paul Hinton ran a Half-Marathon at Disneyland with his oldest granddaughter. The thing started at 0500, and they had to be in place at 0430. When he got up, he thought,  "Exactly what the devil is it that made you agree to this?" Save for the hour, however, it was a delight. It was grand but what a comment on time.

Highlights from Henry and Peggy Howe are the memories they have of their five-week trip down under last fall. They spent four days aboard the Coral Princess II on the Great Barrier Reef snorkeling some of the loveliest waters they had ever seen. They explored the Daintree National Park by four-wheel tour bus and encountered the salt-water crocodiles and flightless emus. Then they went to Darwin and lived in Karnda National Park with the kangaroos, wallabies, and more crocodiles. They spent a week driving (yes - on the wrong side of the road) through the outback around Alice Springs, Ularu (Ayers Rock), Kings Canyon, and Kata Tjuta. They topped off the Australian adventure with a week in Sydney seeing the local sights and the Blue Mountains. They visited only the North Island in New Zealand, where they spent another week climbing the trails around Mt Ruapehu and rafting on the Tarangi River, then lounging in the hot thermal pools. Their underground adventure took them into the glow-worm caves.

Sometimes Don McCarter feels his and Johnnie’s daily activities have become so routine that making a change is a real challenge. They have been blessed to have their kids living close by. They get to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries with everyone in attendance with no long distance travel. It is also convenient for them to participate in grandchildren’s activities. Each summer they travel to Hendersonville, NC, for a reunion with Don’s brothers and sister and their families. The group size increases every year. Johnnie and Don love the North Carolina mountains. They especially enjoy the trails in the national parks where the trails are blazed to prevent them from getting lost. Don’t laugh. A lot of people take the wrong turn in those hills. Walking, tennis, and workouts at the YMCA help to keep the body upright and mobile. John and Kathy Dates and Jim and Judy Tulis visit Florida occasionally, and Don and Johnnie really enjoy the time with them. Don took a master gardening course at the Florida Extension service and has been certified as a Florida Master Gardener. He spends a lot of time coordinating the activities of the community garden sponsored by their church, and he volunteers about seventy hours a year at the Orange County plant clinic. Gardening in Florida is an eye opening and mind-boggling experience.

In January, Sam Barazzone, plus Gwen, and Charlie Neel and Dean Jones wowed the cold-weather skiers and brought Breckenridge slopes to their knees. Lynda Neel and Jo Jones remained grounded.

As is their custom, Hector and Joan Negroni will be spending the winter (Jan-May 2013) at their Bonita Springs, Florida, home.

Al and Becky Nunn said that their daughter, Ashley, was married last October. Her husband, Charlie King, is the father of two children, Sophie, age 10, and Henry, age 7. They were married at "The Quack Shack" in North Carolina's Outer Banks. Becky and Al rented the "shack" for a week for her wedding party and "30 of their closest fiends" to stay during the preliminaries to the festivities. While there, Al was treated to an unexpected and unplanned ride in the Rescue Squad van and admitted to the local hospital after experiencing a period of disassociation. Diagnosis was Transient Global Amnesia, a condition which shows symptoms similar to those of a stroke, but is temporary in nature, with no after-affects, and occurs to perhaps one in 300,000 persons. He was the one this time and was released the next day, following the diagnosis. Wedding went off without a hitch. Ashley lives with her husband and his children in Falls Church, VA, so that's close enough for frequent phone calls and occasional visits. Al’s recently resigned from the Board of Directors of the American Red Cross there.  Becky continues her activities with theater, having directed four plays for the local theater group, The Lancaster Players. She is currently in rehearsal as director for "How the Other Half Loves," opening March 8.

Nelson and Teri O’Rear had a wonderful Christmas season, starting with spending several days over Christmas with their daughter and her family in Michigan. Then, they enjoyed several days when their younger son’s family visited them in Granger, IN, along with their older son’s family, who also live in Granger. They also celebrated their sons and daughters-in-law anniversaries with a special evening at a very nice local restaurant. Wrapping it up, on New Year’s Eve, their oldest granddaughter and her boyfriend flew from Virginia to spend a couple of days with Nelson and Teri in Granger and Chicago.

Thanks for all who contributed. We hope to hear from you others next time.

 

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Reunion Data

 

50th Anniversary Reunion, Class of 1961

 

This reunion on November 2-6, 2011, was probably the best one we have had. It definitely was the best attended. We all owe a great debt of gratitude to our Reunion Committee Chairman, Charlie Neel, and our classmates in Colorado Springs, as well as the USAFA and AOG staff (especially, Emma Ross) for all their hard work in making it so. Those attending included 110 of our living graduates (about 64%), with another 10% unable to attend because of medical issues. Also attending were another eight classmates. We were all especially pleased that eight widows joined us: Rosalind Apodaca Holloman, Dianne Bouquet, Margy Dingle, Karen Mandel Gilbert, Carolyn Moulton, Cathy Muller, Musa Wolcott, and Gayle Zompa. Additionally, many family members participated. A total of nearly 300 attended our banquet Friday evening.

Most arrived on Wednesday, November 2nd, to sign in and obtain our nametags and goodies. Later, we gathered for the Early Arrival reception in Marriott’s Aspen Leaf Room to visit and snack.

Thursday, we proceeded to Arnold Hall for the AOG and USAFA staff to update us. Prior to the update, Tom Eller announced to the class that Charlie Thomas had passed on the previous night, as a result of pancreatic cancer.

It did not take long to realize just how dramatic and dynamic the changes at our Academy have been. Several hundred cadets study abroad each year. Sixty cadets from foreign countries now are part of the Cadet Wing. Emphasizing this fact was a cadet who later introduced himself as “Joseph,” which seemed unusual until looking at his nametag. His last name would have been rather difficult to pronounce, but more importantly, he was from Rwanda.

The cadets who joined us for lunch in the large, open expanse of Arnold Hall (where we took dance lessons and later held our Ring Dance) said that they had volunteered so that they could ask us questions about our experiences and careers. It did not take long to realize that they were all bright and inquiring. Overall, the briefings and observations of cadets left a very favorable impression that not only our Academy is, but also our Air Force will be, in very good hands.

Despite the snow on the ground and the chilly winds, we then visited the Southeast Asia Memorial, the Heritage Trail, the 1961 Pavers (with a Polaris sign affixed to the paver of each deceased classmate, including Sid Abbott and Bill Gibbons), and the AOG building (Doolittle Hall). From there, we proceeded to the cemetery to dedicate our 50th Anniversary Gift to the Academy.

The dedication ceremony sequence of events was the Color Guard presenting the Colors, Tom Eller making the invocation , the Cadet Chorale singing an “American Medley,” and Tom Eller making the welcoming and introductory remarks, ending with his introduction of Lee Butler, who presented our gift to the Academy. In addition to the USAFA Superintendent (Lt Gen Gould) and Commandant (Brigadier General Clark) were others at the Academy, the sculptor (internationally renowned John Lajba), and head of the local construction firm that was involved, and the project manager from the Zahner Corp which fabricated the Winged Refuge. Additionally, Brice Jones was recognized for overseeing the unprecedented and improbably repeatable feat of obtaining 100 percent participation from the living 1961 graduates, as well as participation from other classmates, widows, and family members. Thanks to all for your faithful participation and generosity. Brice also presented to all attendees a hardbound booklet commemorating the ceremony. You can read about all the proceedings and contents in the copy of this book that you received. Those who contributed to our gift but were unable to attend will be receiving a copy from Brice.

Lieutenant General Gould then accepted our gift on behalf of our Academy.During his remarks, he briefly choked up when referring to USAFA graduates for their loyalty to our Academy, our Air Force, and our nation. That brief emotion cemented the honest feelings of a kindred soul and brother in arms. A flight of four F-16s from the Colorado Air National Guard conducted a flyby, immediately after General Gould completed his remarks.

The Cadet Chorale then sang the “Air Force Hymn.” Then, Lt Gen Gould and Tom Eller, assisted by cadets, cut the ribbon to our Winged Refuge gift. After moving to our Airman on the Meadow bronze statue gift, the Cadet Chorale sang “High Flight,” and Brice Jones read aloud the words on the plaque. Then two cadets, General Gould and Tom Eller unveiled the Airman. Two Air Force buglers then played an Echo Taps to end the ceremony, the Chorale and the class sang “Here’s a Toast….”, and everyone was free to visit our gifts and the graves of classmates, friends, and families. All of our class-related graves were marked with pennants donated by Richard Fairlamb.

That evening, we all enjoyed a casual buffet dinner and visited with each other at the hotel. During the buffet, a self-directed group of cadets calling themselves the Stairwell Singers sang for us. They were very good.

Friday had no official morning functions, but many attended the 1000 memorial committal service in the cemetery’s pavilion to place Bob Dingle’s ashes in the Academy cemetery. Bob’s widow, Margaret (Margy), and their two sons (Scott and Greg) were there, (and also attended our reunion). Since Bob had received military honors at a memorial service on December 8, 2006, full military honors were not repeated. The Base Chaplain conducted the services, with Margy, Scott, and our classmate John Moore speaking. John read his poem for Bob

Beginning at 1000, all reunion attendees were afforded the opportunity to visit the Cadet Area and the new Holaday Athletic Center, using our Reunion Nametags to provide full access to all the facilities.

From 1100 until 1300, all were invited to have lunch at the Garden of the Gods Club, as long as they were seated sometime between those hours. Most of us were unaware of this club, which proved to have not only spectacular views of the rocks, but also wonderful food served by an attentive service staff. If you have not been there and an opportunity presents itself, it is highly recommended.

At 1400, all classmates gathered in a large room in the Marriott Hotel to conduct a Classmates Meeting, with this agenda. Tom Eller explained that when a graduate dies, we spend $100 for flowers or donate that amount to the charity specified by the family. Similarly, we spend $75 for the wives when they die. Most of you probably know that some of our classmates helped found the AOG, but you may not know who they were, or the others in our class who have provided leadership positions in the AOG. Tom then asked our other class officers to present pertinent information.

Charlie Neel, Class Secretary, explained that all those who entered the Academy in our class will be included in all of our future activities since we are all classmates. Charlie also said that he plans to document the grave locations for all of our classmates.

Marcus Anderson, Class Treasurer, provided a financial report on the two funds the Class has with the AOG. The first is the Class Gift Fund, which as the name implies, is where funds are deposited to pay for Class Gifts. Prior to the major fund-raising effort recently completed for our 50th Reunion Gift, this fund had about $8,000 from donations to previous class gifts. Currently, the Gift Fund has covered the 50th Reunion Gift, with all living classmates contributing. All donations to the Class Gift Fund are tax-deductible, and these donations can be used only for Class Gifts to the Academy, the Cadet Wing or the AOG. The second fund is the Class Agency Fund and contains money we give to pay Reunion expenses and other expenses that occur between reunions (like flowers for funerals of deceased classmates and spouses). It also pays for such things as the 2nd Lt bars we presented to the Class of 2011 last May. Donations to this fund are not tax-deductible since they are used for products/services. There was about $20,000 in this fund prior to the 50th, and we'll have to wait till all the bills are paid to see where we stand following the Reunion. As to monitoring of the funds, Tom Eller and Marcus get monthly status reports from the AOG and approve expenditures from the funds. Some discussion followed about whether we should ask for periodic contributions to the Class Funds to cover future expenses. The issue was not resolved at the meeting. Class Officers will look into this and make a recommendation.

At 1615, we were all seated in the Cadet Chapel to begin our Memorial Service. Following an organ prelude and the invocation, the Cadet Choir sang “America the Beautiful”. Thom Schutt and Stu Boyd presented the scripture reading and the message. Then, the choir sang “Lord Guard and Guide the Men Who Fly”. Tom Eller then conducted the Roll Call of Deceased Classmates, including Charlie Thomas. Following a moment of silence, Taps was played, followed by the choir singing “High Flight”. Just as the song ended, an A-10 made a low pass over the chapel, easily seen through the windows above the altar. Another followed about 30 seconds later. Stu then provided the Benediction. Few left the services with dry eyes. It was a very moving memorial service.

 

 

Art Kerr had these thoughts afterwards: During our Memorial Service in the Chapel, Stu Boyd's message resonated with memories of Jack Wolcott's final days, and prompted thoughts about our Class of '61 motto. Stu said, referring to Scriptures, that we must "Finish Well," as we once did, as a class, in repetitive bayonet drill during Doolie Summer Training; and, most importantly, Stu encouraged us to look forward, recalling the legacy of classmates who have finally Finished Well: Gone But Not Forgotten. Our days are indeed numbered as Stu pointed out and we should strive to personally organize ourselves to match the legacy of our absent classmates. We can recall from Jack Wolcott's messages to us while he was on final approach, heading west, and from his memorial service message delivered by his daughter Katie, that Jack was always totally organized and that he prepared himself and finished well. While in touch with Jack after he had prepared himself and his family during his last days, I signed off with our motto, "Pro Nobis Astra." Jack's wife Musa said that brought tears to his eyes. At that instant "For Us The Stars" evolved with a new meaning of fulfillment: The Stars In Heaven Above. Pro Nobis Astra - Astra in Caelo Superius.

Cocktail hour for our banquet began at 1830, providing more time to mingle with classmates, families, and friends. Immediately after being seated, shortly after 1930, USAFA cheerleaders and The Bird entered and led us all in a mini Beat-Army pep rally. It was great to see their energy and enthusiasm—and it must have worked, as evidenced by the 24-14 score the next day.

Then, our own effervescent MC, Hector Negroni, welcomed everyone with a few well-chosen comments. Jim Wilhelm led us in saying the Pledge of Allegiance and singing our National Anthem. Mark Anderson provided toasts to our leaders, to our fallen comrades, and to those who were unable to be with us. Doug Cairns provided the invocation, and then we ate another outstanding meal.

Charlie Thomas passed away on 2 November, just as we were starting our reunion. Earlier that week, already in hospice, he had dictated the note shown affixed to the back of a print of a T-29. His signed note said, “With fond memories of our times together.”

All in our class flew more than 200 hours in the T-29 in the course of earning our Navigator Wings while we were cadets. During our banquet, Hanson Scott on Charlie’s behalf presented the print to Tom Eller. We plan to display it in the ‘61 corner of the Library in our AOG’s Doolittle Hall.

Tom Eller then made a special presentation, about which none of us were aware, regarding Bill Gibbons. As we know, Bill was killed in April of 1961 in a car accident. His roommate, Jack Taylor, heard about another cadet being graduated posthumously, so he checked to see if that would be possible for Bill. It was, so our class now has 218 graduates! Bill’s brother and family were present with Jack to accept Bill’s diploma with the same signatures, etc that appeared on our diplomas. You can read Tom’s and Jack’s comments.

(In the photo from L to R: Tom, then Ed Gibbons, Bill's brother; Carole Roman, Bill's sister; John Gibbons, Bill's brother and closest in age to Bill; Liz Edwards, wife of Ray Edwards, nephew and hidden from view. Also hidden from view is Sherri Edwards, Bill's niece.)

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Terry Storm, as the Chairman of the Board of the AOG, and Tom Eller, as our Class President, made comments about the 50th Reunion Award selection, approval, and presentation process. Tom then identified Brice Jones as the recipient and enumerated many of the outstanding things Brice has done to earn this award. Brice humbly accepted it, thanking those who nominated and voted for his selection. Both of Brice’s sons and his daughter were on stage when he accepted the award. He then introduced them to everyone and made his acceptance speech. Brice’s comments can be read here.

We were then entertained by the videos Jim Darnauer took during the May graduation of the Class of 2011, and videos that Randy Cubero had of our graduation in 1961.

Dean Jones, Wayne Jones, PB O’Connor, and Jim Wilhelm—our very own Greytag Geezers—then wowed us all as they sang familiar and nostalgic songs. Underlining how much the audience appreciated their performance, some of the women were throwing their underwear onto the stage! (No room keys were thrown, so perhaps it was obviously a matter of the women simply expressing admiration for these heartthrobs.) What an enjoyable way to end the banquet!

Hector then made some apt closing remarks, officially ending one of the most memorable days ever of our reunions, although everyone stayed around a while longer visiting.

Saturday was a blustery day, with gusts above 30 mph. Additionally, occasional showers kept everyone attending the Air Force/Army football game on their toes. As you know by now, Army set our Air Force team on its heels in the first quarter; however, Air Force then demonstrated its resilience and determination by winning 24-14. That made for a much better post-game mood as our visits continued afterwards at the hotel, with heavy Hors d’ouvres, dancing to the Geezers of Rock from Canon City, and an open microphone. Be sure to watch the video of Brice’s descriptions of the attempted kidnap of the Army’s mule, as well as the one of the successful kidnapping of Navy’s goat, listed below.

Sunday saw most departing after a leisurely breakfast.

Pictures and Videos. Many pictures have been provided for you to view. You can view them by clicking here. You can also download them from that site. Additionally, some videos are available for our activities during this reunion at:

(Day 1),  (Day 2), and (Day 3) provided by Steve Byerly, Tom Eller’s son-in-law).

Class of 1961 Graduation:  (supplied by Randy Cubero).

Thanks to Robert Apodaca for the video of Brice Jones describing the attempt to kidnap the Army’s mule, as well as the successful kidnapping of the Navy’s goat. Recommend that you watch them in that order. Army Mule and  Navy Goat: Additionally, some may not know that Tom Hill took the picture of the goat that later appeared in Life magazine. Once USAFA’s staff realized that he had taken that picture, he was questioned closely about the goat’s location; however, he knew only where it had been, and not where it was.

1961 Statistics:

      Rhodes Scholars – 1

      Dist. Service Medal – 13

      Silver Star – 24

      Dist. Flying Cross – 141

      '61 Jabara Award Winners

    •         Maj. Terry R. Jorris
    •         Col. Thomas A. LaPlante
    • Monte Moorberg - Air Force Cross

More Information. If you want more information on not only our reunion, but also our class through the years, go here.

Observations. This was a wonderful reunion that ran very smoothly, mostly due to the outstanding efforts of our classmates in Colorado Springs and the USAFA and AOG staff. Although some arriving by vehicle on Wednesday from the south and southeast of the Academy encountered periods of snow, the weather the remainder of the time did not include snow. In fact, we had much worse weather—a blizzard the night before and very cold weather during the game—for our 25th reunion in early October 1986. The Class of 1959 also had a snowstorm during their 50th reunion in April of 2009. It was great to have the generally undivided attention of everyone for our reunion since no other reunions were being held that weekend. Pro Nobis Astra!

Anecdote: From Bill Griffis: The following "news report" describes a snowball throwing incident on Thursday 11/3 following our Arnold Hall briefing, in which I attempted to hit the side of a SUV carrying Willie Wilhelm and others. Due to the slippery surface -- and the altitude (I was still adjusting from sea level oxygen content in Florida), I made a crash landing, much to the delight of Wilhelm and the other SUV occupants.

According to Wilhelm, this was one of the highlights of his reunion experience. Wouldn't you know I forgot to make my judo hand slap when I hit the deck.

 

      Reuters Alert

      November 3, 2011

      A snowball-wielding terrorist, cleverly disguised as a Class of 1961 graduate, attempted to carry out an attack on a passing SUV near USAFA’s Arnold Hall on Thursday, November 3. Fortunately for the occupants of the SUV, their sideways viewing anti-terrorist monitoring device detected the pending attack and, using advanced anti-gravity/ion technology developed by USAFA faculty, forced the terrorist to fall to the icy pavement. The attacker was subsequently apprehended by USAFA security personnel.

      A passing observer remarked that the would-be terrorist was heard to exclaim after pressing a button on an electronic device around his neck, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” Security officials noted that this incident marked a new strategy on the part of terrorists to employ the use of “geezer-aged personnel” posing as former military officers. No increase in the national alert level was required.

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

 

 

Appendixes

 

Dedication Ceremony Invocation, Tom Eller

Dedication Ceremony Welcoming and Introductory Remarks, Tom Eller

Dedication Ceremony Gift Presentation Remarks, Lee Butler

Dedication Ceremony Gift Acceptance Remarks, Superintendent Lt Gen Gould

Poem, The Fisherman, at Bob Dingle’s Memorial Committal Ceremony, John Moore

Class Meeting Agenda, Tom Eller

Class of 1961 Leadership Roles in the AOG

Memorial Service Comments, Thom Schutt

Memorial Service Comments and Benediction, Stu Boyd

Introduction for Bill Gibbons’ Recognition as a 1961 Graduate, Tom Eller

Bill Gibbons, Class of 1961, Jack Taylor

50th Reunion Award Process and Selection, Tom Eller

Comments by Brice Jones

Class Gift Citation

 

 

Bill Gibbons Introduction

Several years ago Jack Taylor, ’61 heard about someone graduating posthumously from the Academy and inquired of the Academy Registrar’s office to learn the ground rules. Ultimately we found out that our classmate, William Michael Gibbons, who died in an auto accident in April 1961 just weeks before our graduation, was eligible to be considered for posthumous graduation.

With the help of the Registrar Dr. Dean Wilson, the Academy Board approved Mr. Gibbon’s graduation. The Registrar’s office worked with us and with the manufacturer of the diplomas to create a diploma exactly like the ones the rest of the class received on 7 June 1961---etched metal plate on a walnut shield, complete with the same signatures: W S Stone, Superintendent; H R Sullivan, Commandant of Cadets; and Robert F. McDermott, Dean of the Faculty and bearing the original academy seal with the prop and wings on the shield, and in the traditional shiny blue box. The Class purchased the new-antique diploma and prepared to present it to a Gibbons family member during its 50th Reunion.

Without telling the family the nature of the event other than that we would honor William Gibbons, we proceeded. On Friday, 4 November 2011, during the reunion banquet at the Marriott Hotel in Colorado Springs, Tom Eller, Class President presented the diploma to Carol Roman, Sister; Ed Gibbons, Brother; John Gibbons, Brother; Ray Edwards, Nephew; Liz Edwards, Niece; Cheryl (Sheri) Edwards, Niece.

This placed another link in the Long Blue Line from over fifty years ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bill Gibbons

by Jack Taylor

Class of 1961

 

Alexander McCall Smith writes about fictional characters’ lives in Botswana. In his book, Tea Time for the Traditionally Built, his lead character, Madam Ramotswe observes, “We all have a time when the world was at its most exciting for us. Usually that time is somewhere in childhood, in that faded, half-remembered land – that we all once dwelled in; that time of freshness and hope.”

I would argue that our childhood years included the four years before June 1961. We were full of freshness and hope. And for me, one who always found a way to help make a day a lot less stressful and certainly much more fun, was my roommate, Bill Gibbons. By his example, he always made his classmates and friends happy, gave us a fresh outlook on our challenges, and certainly gave us hope that whatever they threw at us, the supervising officers, academic department professors and those in the military system, in general, we could and would prevail. I’d like to take a few minutes to tell you about Bill Gibbons.

He was my roommate for three years, 12th squadron, 1958 – ’61. As you know, he died on a Sunday in April, a month and a half before graduation, when he lost control of his car while driving back from Denver.

That Sunday evening, Bill didn’t sign in before the dinner formation. And he was absent throughout call to quarters. This was so very unlike him. I learned what happened when Captain Bobby Carter, our AOC, came to my room and told me that Bill was dead. The squadron was shocked and we grieved and felt this great loss. It was the first personal tragedy I would experience.

In the next couple of days arrangements were made to transport Bill by train to Philadelphia where he would be buried at George Washington Memorial Park, near the city. I learned that I could escort the coffin so I departed Colorado Springs on a Denver and Rio Grande overnight train to St. Louis where the Scott AFB mortuary reps met me. We transferred the coffin to a Pennsylvania RR train, another overnight trip to Philadelphia. A day later, the rest of 12th’s first classmen and Capt Carter came in to be honorary pall bearers at Bill’s graveside service. Interestingly, both my parents are buried at George Washington, not far from Bill, so I’ve had chances to visit his grave.

In the film, “The Bucket List”, Morgan Freeman’s character says to Jack Nicholson, both coping with life threatening issues, “You know, the gods asked the Egyptians two questions before they were admitted to the afterlife: ‘Have you found joy in your life and have you brought joy to others?”

Bill could have easily entered their afterlife. He had an absolutely grand time as a cadet and he had a marvelous way to make us laugh.

Bill had two years of prior enlistment in the Air Force, so when he arrived as my roommate, he had a lot more maturity and definitely and much more reasoned way of coping with the stuff that I found so challenging. And from that point on, he not only brought smiles to me but also to the rest of us down the dorm hall and in the squadron. He knew how to “tweak” the system. He was very smart.

While I struggled with academics, he often spent study time doing everything but study. He drove me nuts. From January and into spring our senior year, he spent the time painting in oils two of his favorite subjects. One was a picture of Brigitte Bardot…one that showed a lot more than the calendar photo that made Marilyn Monroe famous. Yes…anatomically correct. He liked “traditionally built” ladies.

The second painting, he dedicated to Jim Cassidy. Both Bill and Jim were going to be commissioned in the Marine Corps. After six years in the blue uniform, Bill figured he wanted other challenges. He would have been an excellent leader and officer in the Marine Corps. Jim has the original painting. Here is a copy of that picture. It shows, Bill’s second favorite topic: BEER! He spent weeks trying to figure out how to represent a foamy mug of beer against the backdrop of a tavern. Note the cheese bloc, and the knife. I’d say he gets an “A” in artistic arrangement. And he would have received an “A” on the Bardot painting as well - Talk about arrangement and realism! Jim and I would like to give this picture to Bill’s family as another memento of their older brother.

As I said, academics hardly challenged Bill. Instead of studying, he’d often spend time visiting classmates. But he did it with style. His favorite evening dress uniform was a red smoking jacket, not unlike Hugh Hefner’s, a beret, and carrying a Marine Corps swagger stick, with a pipe or some combination thereof.

Jim Cassidy can tell of the times when they would try to rid the world of as much beer as they could. For example, when he and Bill were at the Officer's Club in London, they were both competing for the attention of a beautiful young girl from Ireland. Jim prevailed as warm beer or Beefeaters gin got to Bill first. It must have taken a lot of beer!

Jim, Bill and several others of us would often spend time at a host’s home in Denver on weekends. The Drummonds had several children. One daughter was Laurie, about 13 or 14, and another just a little girl. They would curl up around Bill on the sofa where he would read the Sunday comics to them. They said that they always looked forward to “Uncle Bill” visiting because he would crush beer cans on his head. Doesn’t that sound like the perfect father?

Bill’s nickname was “Flash”. He got that name from an incident when we visited Fort Benning. At the time, Bill had a walking cast from an injury when he fell off of the high bar in gymnastics. One night, several of us decided to sneak out and go to the NCO club where we could get a beer and not be seen by any officers. We stealthily crept out of the barracks and all was going well until someone yelled, hoarsely, “It’s the OIC!” We all ran like hell, made it back safely – and with Bill in the lead….he couldn’t run, but he sure could hop, skip and jump fast. So from then on he was known as, “Flash”. By the way, the OIC turned out to be an Army warrant officer who had nothing to do with us. Don’t know which one of us had the lousy night vision.

Jim says he owed Flash a few beers for an incident at Minot during Operation 3rd Lt. The F-106 squadron wives thought it’d be great if one of the cadets took the daughter of the Squadron Commander to the Officer’s Club to a dance one Saturday night. Jim says she was very cute but only a senior in high school. No one volunteered… Flash suggested that since Jim was the youngest that he take her to the dance. He did and had a great time. When it was Jim’s turn for his F-106 ride, he rode with Major Scott, the father and squadron commander, and it turned out that he was the only one of them, and maybe the first one in our class, to go to Mach 2. He doesn’t know if the dance played a part in any of that but he feels he owed that to Bill.

This picture of Bill is the only one I have. It’s actually a picture of both of us but I was able to do a passable job cropping myself out of it. I had it printed and would also like to give this to Bill’s family. I don’t know if they have any of him like this.

Buck O’Neil, Negro Baseball League and Hall of Famer once said that funerals were for people who died too young; everyone else deserves a celebration.

We had a funeral for Bill Gibbons, but it should have been a celebration. After 50 years, let us celebrate Bill’s short life as he would have wanted it. The next time you have a beer, hoist it to him.

Rest in peace my dear roommate, comrade and our classmate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Class Meeting Agenda

ANNIVERSARY, biennial, triennial, quadrennial, quinquennial, sextennial, septennial, octennial, decennial; tricennial, jubilee, centennial, centenary. . .

 

Class arrangements with the AOG regarding funeral flowers/donations---Eller

Secretary---Charlie Neel

Treasurer---Mark Anderson

Historian---Hector Negroni

Scribe---Nelson O’Rear

AOG Senator---Richard Fairlamb

Brief on Out Year reunions---Jim Wilhelm and Randy Cubero

Class of the Month on AOG website---Tom Eller

Brief on Memorial Service---Terry Storm

Brief on Banquet Seating---Terry Storm

New Business---

Adjourn for bio-break and load buses

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Class of 1961 Leadership Roles in the Association of Graduates

Charles F Stebbins---President-Executive Secretary

Thomas J. Eller---President, Vice President (Acting President and Chair)

James E Wilhelm---President-Chairman

Richard M Coppock---President-CEO-Executive Secretary

James P Ulm---President-Chairman

Marcus A Anderson---Chairman

Terry L Storm---Chairman

Ruben A Cubero---Vice President

William E Aylsworth---Board Member

George L Butler

Larry B Freeman

Arthur D Kerr

Hector A Negroni

Michael J Quinlan

Byron W Theurer

Edward A Zompa

Founding members:  Charlie Stebbins, Hector Negroni, Tom Eller

 

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Welcoming and Introductory Remarks for Dedication Ceremony—Tom Eller

Prayer –see separate page

Welcome:

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am Tom Eller, President of the Class of 1961. We are pleased to have the largest gathering of classmates assembled anywhere since we graduated on the Parade Field, about a mile and a half west of here over 50 years ago. I will introduce our guests for this dedication here today. As I call your names, please stand. Please hold your applause until all have been introduced.

 Mr. Duane Boyle, USAFA Architect

 Mr. John Lajba. Sculptor

Mr. Al Burrell, AOG Gift Project Manager

Nancy Burns + Marty Jayne

Steve Simon & Mrs. Simon

Janet Edwards, USAFA Mortuary Affairs Officer

Lt. Gen. Gould and Mrs. Gould, Superintendent

Brig Gen Born, Dean of the Faculty

Brig Gen Clark and Mrs. Clark, Commandant of Cadets

William “T” Thompson, President and CEO of AOG

General (Ret) Steve Lorenz, President, the USAFA Endowment

Mr. Jeff Gosch; Project Manager, JBI Construction, 9439 Bandley Drive, Fountain, CO 80817

Mr. Kevin McLaughlin; Master Mason and on site foreman; JBI Construction, 9439 Bandley Drive, Fountain, CO 80817

Mr. Jerry Brady; concrete foreman; JBI Construction, 9439 Bandley Drive, Fountain, CO 80817

People from the Zahner Company in Kansas City, fabricator of the Wings of Refuge

    Angela Bolger, Project Manager, Zahner Company

        o 426 W. 87th Terr

            Kansas City, MO 64114

      Personnel on the program today:

    Dr. Joseph Galema and the cadets of the Cadet Chorale, the Honor Guard, and the Air Force Buglers

    Gen Butler and his wife Dorene, and their children Lisa and her husband Mike Herring and Brett Butler and his wife Patti, who all comprise the Butler Family Foundation. Brice Jones and his Guest Becky Lorie; and my patient and supportive wife, Anne and two of our three children: Julie Lafitte, Elizabeth Byerly, and her husband Steve Byerly.

I am sure that all of our class can recall the following. Having spent our Doolie year at Lowry in Denver, we had moved into the new site on 29 August 1958, brand new 3rd classmen.

On a bright and sunny 28 September 1958, a little over 53 years ago, we donned our solid white parade uniforms---white trousers, white parade jacket, white wheel hat, white gloves, M-1 Rifles, but no sunglasses and marched, sometimes at “slow march” from the cadet area down to the parade field, out Faculty Drive, Cross Drive, and east on Parade Loop for a mile and a half for the first interment in the new USAFA Cemetery—that of the remains of the First Superintendent, Lt. Gen. Hubert Riley Harmon, who had died in February 1957 before we became cadets.

I recall suffering snow blindness from all of the white uniforms and watching Don Madona of ’59, who was one of those holding the US Flag over the grave, pass out and fall flat of his back while others in ranks were also falling—one in 3rd Squadron whose sabre went through the side of his parade jacket.

That was the first military funeral we had participated in. That poignant scene took place about 200 yards south of where we right now. That funeral became the archetype for military funerals for us. As Lee Butler has reminded me, there are a number of parallels with our ceremony, including the fall season, music (on that day) by the Cadet Choir and Academy band, a fly over, and Taps played by a distant bugler.

 

Thus, as we gather here today, we are grateful to Brice Jones for providing the excellent keepsake program book for this dedication. The Class of 1961 Pennants on the graves of Class of 1961 members and their families were provided by Richard Fairlamb.

Here is an overview of the remainder of this ceremony: Lee Butler will present our gift. General Gould will accept on behalf of the Air Force. Following the singing of the Air Force Hymn by the Cadet Chorale, I ask that all of you move to the south part of this pavilion terrazzo, behind the seats and move toward the opening in the wall for the ribbon cutting for Wings of Refuge. Immediately following that ribbon cutting, please walk west past the turnaround and gather on the streets to the northeast, east, and south around the Airman on the Meadow. There we will hold the unveiling of the Airman.

At the conclusion of the ceremony you are free to more closely inspect both the sculptures and visit the graves of classmates prior to boarding buses back to the hotel.

I recognize Lee Butler to present our class gift to the Academy.

I recognize Lt. Gen. Mike Gould to accept this gift on behalf of the Air Force.

 

General Gould and Cadets Blach, and Rahan will now join me to cut the ribbon to the East Plaza, site of the Wings of Refuge.

Please move to vicinity of the Airman for the remainder of the ceremony.

Ladies and Gentlemen: Please give your attention to the Cadet Chorale.

I recognize Brice Jones for the reading of the information plaque.

General Gould and Cadets Alleveto, and Patience will now join me to unveil the Airman on the Meadow.

Please listen to the playing of Taps by the Air Force Buglers.

{Spontaneous singing of the refrain of the Air Force Song by the Chorale and the Class of 1961}

Fly By

You are free to visit the sculptures and the graves of our classmates

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Remarks by Lee Butler

Class of 1961 Gift Dedication

United States Air Force Academy Cemetery

November 3rd, 2011

 

General and Mrs. Gould, members of your terrific leadership team and talented staff, ‘T’ Thompson, my dear friend General Steve Lorenz, and other very special guests. Let me add my own welcome to you and to my classmates and their families who bring to mind so many treasured memories for me, Dorene, Brett and Lisa -- but none more meaningful than today’s gift presentation. Looking across these hallowed grounds, I am keenly mindful that while this is a landmark occasion for the Class of 1961, it is also poignant for us on many levels, both personal and professional. From the latter perspective, we have come full circle from that bright September afternoon in 1958 when we assembled here to honor a man we so greatly respected. Today, we return to honor all those who lie here, but on a very personal level, to mourn those we so deeply loved.

General Gould, you and your staff have been instrumental in making this moment possible. Special appreciation goes to Duane Boyle, the Academy architect; Nancy Burns and Steve Simon of the Alumni Affairs Office; and Janet Edwards, Academy Mortuary Officer. They all took ownership of our project some 27 months ago to shepherd it through the long approval process. Our hearts are touched as well by the presence of the cadet Honor Guard and Chorale, who bring an added measure of dignity and grace to this ceremony.

Equal acknowledgement is due Terry Storm and Al Burrell who, on behalf of the Association of Graduates, provided meticulous financial oversight and project management; we could not have been in better hands. That same accolade holds true for Jeff Gosch from JBI Construction whose talented team led by Kevin McLaughlin and Jerry Brady lived up to their reputation for first rate work. That excellence was mirrored by our Wings fabricator, Zahner, arguably the world’s best, represented today by Angela Bolger, who directed our project.

I must also make special note of a visionary whose faith in our class and iron-willed determination fueled a fund raising campaign that produced a jaw-dropping result: one hundred percent participation. Brice Jones set the bar at record height, only took “yes” for an answer, and eloquently described the outcome: a tribute to our indivisible brotherhood.

Finally, I want to acknowledge the irreplaceable role of our class president, Tom Eller, who helped worry every detail of this project; Mark Anderson, whose advice was invaluable in crafting the extraordinary detail you will see in the Airman statue; and Charlie Neel whose unwavering friendship was my constant companion.

As I survey this gathering of classmates, families -- especially the spouses and children of our fallen comrades -- and dear friends who are so much a part of our brotherhood, I feel very privileged to speak for you today. As many of you know, I have been engaged with the gift undertaking from its inception, and so can comment on its rather circuitous path. We began with Sam Hardage’s bold vision of a hotel on the Academy grounds, but the hurdles were too many and too high. We grudgingly fell back on an option from the Supt’s wish list, then at my behest switched gears and undertook an enduring tribute to our profession, to our colleagues and to our loved ones.

I must confess to a very personal stake in this outcome, one

born of my E-ticket ride as an aviator spanning thirty years, three thousand hours in a dozen types of aircraft, and two ejections within six years after earning my wings. As I fell into an Alabama cornfield just off the end of the runway at Craig AFB in 1963, and five years later to the day into the roiling seas off the coast of Vietnam, I not only had visions of my Maker, but was certain I was about to enter his kingdom. Happily, my prayers for salvation were answered by the Almighty, embodied in the first instance as an aging Alabama farmer who climbed down from his tractor to greet me with a sweet smile and a kind word; and in the second as a youthful pararescue man who plucked me half-drowned from my swamped life raft.

That dual confrontation with impending death became permanently imprinted on my psyche; it changed forever how I regarded my profession, my role as husband and father, and most recently, how I came to contemplate our gift. As you might imagine, the Airman standing on the Meadow at the approach to the Memorial Pavilion has more than symbolic meaning for me – he is the embodiment of my faith.

That said, the challenge was to transform my rather sketchy vision of deliverance, inspired by the closing lines of the iconic poem High Flight, into a work of art. For that, I turned to an immensely talented sculptor in Omaha, Nebraska, with whom Dorene and I had worked some years ago. Let me now intro-duce John Lajba for whom our class gift became not simply a commission, but a true labor of love. John immersed himself in the history of the Academy and its architecture; the extra-ordinary ties that bind this class; the detail of our flight gear; and the abiding faith that sustained us in peace and in war. His vision and artistry quickly won the confidence of General Gould and his staff, prompting their request for a concept of a second sculpture that would join spiritually with the Airman to create a defining artistic theme for the cemetery.

He responded with a work that is so exquisite, and so intimately linked to the Airman, that the class elected to incorporate it into our gift, rather than leave its realization to the vagaries of future funding. His gleaming steel Wings stand on what was a vacant East Plaza of the Memorial Pavilion that now serves as a comforting sanctuary bearing the name, Winged Refuge.

This, General Gould, is the mark we have come here today to make on this magnificent Academy. This is the first opportunity for most in this audience to see what had only been described, what they took largely on faith, but nonetheless supported unanimously with their contributions.

I should say, in all candor, there was some debate amongst our class as to the concept and placement of our gift, and understandably so with such original works of art. But now that they are fully realized my fondest hope is that we have put any lingering doubt to rest.

What other setting on this vast campus could be more meaningful? Where else in this majestic place can one more fully grasp the sacrifice of our brothers and sisters who fall in battle or more deeply mourn all of those taken too early from our ranks and from our side: classmates, friends, husbands and wives, sons and daughters.

However familiar the glass and steel of our alma mater’s storied buildings, its sweeping terrazzo, its fields of friendly strife, it is here on this field of honor where we honor all airmen, without regard to rank or specialty. Here is where we bear the full weight of our calling, where is taken the last full measure of our devotion. Here is where we confront our mortality; here is where we embrace our destiny.

For what all of us gathered here know is that only by the grace of our Creator do we count ourselves among the living rather than with the departed. We know that there is no accounting for this blessing; we wore the same uniform as did they, marched to the same drum, swore the same oath, loved the same flag, served the same glorious call of freedom. Yet here we gather, humble in the presence of those who are absent from our ranks, heavy of heart but proud in spirit, indivisible in brotherhood, celebrating a half-century since that June morning of 1961, come now to enshrine a tribute for the ages.

Generation upon generation will look upon this Airman and find comfort in the faith that he is heaven bound, secure in the promise from Psalm 91 inscribed in the marker for Winged Refuge: “He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt Thou trust.”

General Gould, on behalf of the Class of 1961 I commend this gift to you and now entrust it to your keeping.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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      Tom Eller Remarks for Presentation of 50th Reunion Award, 4 Nov 2011, Class Banquet, Marriott Hotel

      Thank you Terry.

      In responding the AOG’s request for our class to be the first to present such an award, class officers worked together to be the selection committee for our class—the officers include, Charlie Neel, Secretary; Marc Anderson, Treasurer; Hector Negroni, Historian; Nelson O’Rear, Scribe; and Richard Fairlamb, our Class Senator in the AOG Class Advisory Senate. We sent out a call for nominations in July.

      As you all know, classmates provided two nominees and our classmates voted to select which one of the nominees would receive the award.

      61% of the class cast votes and 78% of them voted for tonight’s recipient – clearly there was widespread involvement and support of the class for Brice Jones to be the recipient of the award.

Brice would you and your children please join Terry and me here at the podium. It is my pleasure to introduce Brice’s children:

Brice Victor, grad of Wyoming Tech, entrepreneur living in Austin, Texas. e.g., largest secondary–market seller of Ford pickup tailgates in America. Was vineyard foreman of William Wesley Vineyard for one year.

Monte, West Point 06, baseball team, star pitcher, Stryker company commander, one tour Iraq, currently out and doing a little consulting.

Mari, Colgate 09, two years Telluride Adaptive Sports Program, director of development. Currently re-located to DEN and doing a little consulting.

      Terry and I will present a medal to Brice. Brice will also be listed on the 50th Class Reunion Award--A Lifetime of Commitment to Core Values plaque to be displayed in Doolittle Hall.

      Here is the citation to accompany the award:

       

Brice Cutrer Jones is a Decorated Combat Pilot, a Successful Businessman, an Active Philanthropist and a Class Leader. Brice is a driving force in the creation and growth of U. S. Air Force Academy traditions of integrity, service, excellence, class unity, esprit de corps and an enduring “Long Blue Line.”

Decorated Combat Pilot. In 1964, Brice volunteered to fly A1Es with the 1st Air Commando Sq in Vietnam. During his 2nd voluntary tour, he was selected to be 7th Air Force Chief of A1E Combat Tactics. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, The Bronze Star and 14 Air Medals.

Successful Businessman. With his Harvard MBA, Brice integrated Wall Street investors, ideal land and talented people to establish Sonoma–Cutrer Vineyards in 1973. He applied modern system engineering and process integrity to create award-winning wines that won international acclaim.

          The Viticulture History of Napa and Sonoma Counties featured Brice and Sonoma–Cutrer Vineyards as The Chardonnay Pioneer.

          Since 1988, Wine & Spirits magazine annual poll of “The Most Asked–For” wines in America’s 3500 Zagat–rated restaurants has named Sonoma-Cutrer the number one Chardonnay, and in all but 2 years, the number one wine overall.

          The Chevaliers de Tastevins, (international organization of wine experts) inducted Brice as a member in 1998 in Burgundy. Induction in France vs. the USA was a special honor recognizing Brice’s promotion of international cooperation to improve quality on both sides of the Atlantic.

      In 1999 Brice negotiated sale of the company. The premium price of about 8 times annual sales or 70 times earnings was the highest multiple ever paid in the industry.

          In 2001 Brice and key management decided to create a noble Pinot Noir. By 2008 they were producing and selling two Estate Grown and Bottled Pinot Noirs that exhibit the soul of the vineyard and the expertise and spirit of the team.

          In 2011, after only three years in the market, Emeritus was listed in the Annual Wine & Spirits poll as the third–most–asked–for Pinot Noir in America’s restaurants.

Brice’s colleagues and employees maintain his dedication to integrity and honesty are the foundation of his success. To paraphrase one, Brice’s handshake is worth more than a written contract.

Active Philanthropist. Brice shares his success with his classmates, his community and the less fortunate.

      In 1985, Brice initiated a Sonoma–Cutrer Vineyards sponsored annual charity event for the Make a Wish Foundation, the Polly Klass Foundation, and the Magic Moments Foundation to support children in life-threatening circumstances. Over the course of 17 years, Brice grew the event to achieve net contributions over $1 million/year.

      More recently, Brice and Emeritus Vineyards have sponsored 5 Hospices of Sonoma charity events to benefit local charities, wounded warrior and local foster children support organizations.

      In 2009, Brice began donating two weeks each winter to helping Wounded Warriors learn to ski with their disabilities. In 2010 he provided financial support to bring an additional 16 Wounded Warriors to the slopes for a week. Brice is also an active Board Member of the Air Warrior Courage Foundation, an organization dedicated to providing support to Veterans in need.

Class Leader. Brice is a leader in developing a strong sense of unity and esprit de corps as shown by Class of 61.

      Brice directed and partially funded Class Histories for our, 25th, 30th, 35th, and 45th Reunions.

      Brice is a founding member of the 61st TFS (Mythical), a multitude of Classmates who have rejoined at West Point every 2 years since 1968 to support USAFA at the biennial Air Force/Army Football Game.

      Brice helped to establish and endow the annual Roger Stringer Award for Excellence in Inter Collegiate Debate.

      In 1985, Monte Moorberg’s remains were repatriated to Travis AFB, CA, Brice arranged for the USAF to fly Monte and two of his children to Andrews AFB to be met an Honor Guard of Classmates.

      Brice led the fundraising effort for the Class of 1961 50th Anniversary Gift to the Academy. The Class responded with a 100% participation rate. This record has not been equaled in the past and will probably never be equaled in the future.

USAFA Promoter. Brice actively promotes awareness of graduate heritage among alumni and cadets by his active participation in the AOG activities.

      He was a founding member and principal financial supporter of the AOG Reconciliation Committee to promote member participation: in the development and approval of bylaws; in the nomination of Board Candidates; and in AOG affairs.

      Brice initiated efforts to include Alumni in graduation ceremonies to give old and new graduates a sense of continuity and awareness of joining the “Long Blue Line.” As a result the 50 year Classes of 59, 60 and 61 have participated actively in graduation ceremonies of the Classes of 2009, 2010 and 2011 including presentation of their first set of 2nd Lt Gold bars at commissioning ceremonies.

In summary, as a cadet, combat pilot, businessman and person, Brice has demonstrated our core values of integrity, service and excellence throughout his life. Brice’s numerous and valuable contributions to the International Wine Industry, the U. S. Air Force, the Academy, the Class of 1961 and the Graduate Community clearly make him first choice for the Class of 1961 50th Year Outstanding Graduate Award!

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Invocation for Class of 1961 Gift Dedication Ceremony 3 Nov 2011---Tom Eller

[References to Psalm 8:1, 85:6, 97:9; Isaiah 53:5-6; Jeremiah 10:16; Revelation 10:6]

Acknowledgment and Adoration:

Our Lord God of Heaven and Earth, maker of the universe, of all that is in it, and of us, how excellent is your name in all the earth. We revel in your creation. You revealed particular aspects of your creation to Archimedes, Charles, Boyle, and the Montgolfier Brothers to enable lighter than-air-flight. Through Bernoulli, the Wright Brothers and others you have enabled heavier-than-air-flight. You placed the Class of 1961 to live at the right time to attend this Air Force Academy and to study in this beautiful setting. You allowed us to see both aviation and space flight and to serve our country as airmen. Everywhere we go you are there with us.

Contrition:

Yet, Lord, we are ashamed to admit that we continue to ignore you and go our own ways so often. We fail to measure up to your standards and desires for us. For this we ask your forgiveness.

Thanksgiving:

We thank you for your many blessings on this group—for the opportunity to attend the Academy, for safety in flight, for good health, for the many contributions to our nation from the members of this class, for the resources to travel to this reunion, for the many years of camaraderie, for the leadership and resources of those who initiated our class gift, and for enabling all of us to give.

Supplication:

We are mindful that many of our class and of our families have passed on and several are seriously ill. So we ask that you would continue to be with their families, their children and grandchildren. We ask that you would bless the gift we are about to dedicate so that it can provide comfort and solace to those who mourn in this place.

Finally, Lord, we ask that you bless the cadets and cadre who currently serve at the Academy and spread your sheltering wings over the many Americans who are in harm’s way today.

In your Holy name we pray. Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Memorial Service Comments and Benediction—Stu Boyd

I am honored to share some thoughts regarding those who are not here to answer today’s roll call. I share with you this afternoon not only as a member of our class, but as Wing Chaplain for Utah Civil Air Patrol. Some of you may wonder how my life moved from fighter pilot to Chaplain and Pastor. This may answer some of those questions.

Like all of you, I have experienced many changes in my life since I left the Air Force. As we have had a chance to share the changes in all of our lives, I have been struck by how many of us are involved with volunteering in our community in one form or another. I believe that “giving back” is part of the DNA of the Class of 1961.

Some time ago I heard a teaching related to living out your remaining years. That teaching was based on Scripture from Paul’s Epistle to the Hebrews. “And now I want each of you to extend that same intensity toward a full-bodied hope, and keep at it till the finish. Don't drag your feet. Be like those who stay the course with committed faith and then get everything promised to them.” (Heb 6:11, 12 – Message Translation) The title of his talk was FINISHING WELL. That idea caught my attention and has stayed with me over the years. As I have made decisions in my later years the concept of FINISHING WELL has been part of that process.

During the last several days the subject of bayonet training has come up more than. I am sure there have been hotter summers, but for me August of 1957 had to have been a record. Lieutenant Joe Yeager seemed to experience real pleasure in our pain. I can recall how senseless that training seemed to be at the time. I kept asking myself “what is a future jet pilot” doing with a knife on the end of gun. Yet it clearly made an impact on all of us.

After a morning of slashing and parrying, we were asked to finish our morning with a mile run around the parade ground. With our M-1 rifles held over our head at high port, each squadron set off. With every step the rifle got heavier and the pain got greater. There was one criterion. We were expected to FINISH WELL. That was defined as everyone completing the run together. For some, the eleven pound M-1 rifle over their head was too much and a classmate would take an extra weapon and carry it to the finish. For others, the heat and the exhaustion required us to put an arm around the shoulders of those too tired to go on and to carry them to the finish line. Some crossed the finish with three rifles over their head--others carrying a classmate. We did this day after day, and every day we all finished. We FINISHED WELL. The Class of 61 FINISHED WELL that summer – and we are a class that continues to do so.

We are assembled this afternoon to remember those who have already FINISHED WELL. Each of those whose name is acknowledged with an “Absent” is a classmate who FINISHED WELL. They left behind a world that was better off. Let me share a quote from Billy Graham. “Our days are numbered. One of the primary goals in our lives should be to prepare for our last day. The legacy we leave is not just in our possessions, but in the quality of our lives. What preparations should we be making now? The greatest waste in all of our earth, which cannot be recycled or reclaimed, is our waste of the time that God has given us each day.” The legacy our absent classmates left behind is something we all should strive to match. For all of us, there is still time to leave an even greater legacy.

Another of my favorite passages is from Joshua, Israel’s first great military commander. As the tribe of Israel crossed over the Jordan to claim their nation, they paused. Here were their instructions. “Joshua directed them, ‘Cross to the middle of the Jordan and take your place in front of the Ark of the Covenant of God. Each of you lift a stone to your shoulder, a stone for each of the tribes of the People of Israel, so you'll have something later to mark the occasion. When your children ask you, 'What are these stones to you?' you'll say, 'The flow of the Jordan was stopped in front of the Ark Covenant of God as it crossed the Jordan—stopped in its tracks.’ These stones are a permanent memorial for the People of Israel regarding what we did.” (Joshua 4:4-7 – The Message)

Each of our absent classmates placed a stone in the river as he crossed the river of life. We pause this afternoon to remember the rocks left by our absent classmates. Today we recall those stones and remember. We remember them. Their families remember them. And, as Joshua says, their children and their brothers and sisters in arms remember them.

Yesterday our class dedicated a final resting place for those who have been part of this Academy. In years to come some of us will join them. The Class of 1961 placed a rock in the river of that holy place, and all will remember a class who FINISHED WELL.

I believe the spirit of the class of 1961 was established on that parade ground at Lowry Air Force Base in August of 1957. For all of us our legs will get tired and the weights we are carrying will get heavier. We have the examples of the men we honor here today to give us the strength to carry on. We also know we have classmates who will come alongside to share our load. We too will someday leave a legacy – a rock -- that we will be remembered by. We share a time of remembrance and conviction this afternoon – Memories of those who have already finished – and a Conviction that we will all continue to strive to FINISH WELL.

 

BENEDICTION

There is a story about one of the Chaplains at Takhli Air Base, Thailand who would be in the arming area at the end of the runway as the F-105s would depart on a mission into North Vietnam. The time frame was 1966 and the losses over North Vietnam were high. Some of these men and their machines would not return. He would place his hand on each aircraft as the aircraft was readied for takeoff and bless it. I don’t know what he said and nobody ever recorded it. Here are my thoughts on what his final blessing may be been.

      May God grant you the power to embark on those things important to you be successful

      May God grant clear weather for your flight

      May God provide a wingman to protect you as you go

      May God be a source of courage when attacks come in your direction

      May God grant you a successful landing at your home base when your mission is complete

 

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Memorial Service Comments—Thom Schutt

 

Good afternoon and welcome to this service to honor the lives and memories of those classmates who are no longer with us. It has been good to be together once again toenjoy fellowshipand spend time with each other. I want to thank the Class Reunion Committee and the AOG staff for the extensive time and effort everyone has put into the planning and execution of the reunion activities. I also want to thank the Cadet Choir for their participation in this service.

This has been a wonderful time to:

Renew friendships

 Get updated on what has been going on in people's lives

 Reflect on the meaningful associations and experiences we've shared with each other

 Revive stories that have been told before and seem embellished each time they're told again

 

It is appropriate to gather for this meaningful service as a central part of our reunion activities. During the past few days we've enjoyed laughter and fellowship but have also experienced poignant times of reflection as our focus has been directed upward toward God; during yesterday's dedication service and this morning as many gathered to support Margie and her sons at the service and intermentof Bob Dingle's remains. And once again this afternoon, as we gather in this place of worship, we look to God to be present with us.Please join me in prayer.

 

"God, we have come apart to honor the lives and memories of classmates no longer with us. Guide the words that are shared and quicken them to each one here, that we will leave this service, comforted, uplifted, and eager to affect, in a positive way, the lives of those we interact with in the days ahead. We pray especially for Gina, Margie, and the family and friends of Charlie Thomas and Bob Dingle; and also the family and friends of those other classmates whose memories we honor today. May Your comfort and peace rest upon and abide with them. We ask that You fill the void in their hearts and their homes with Your presence. Now we ask Your leading during this memorial service. These things we ask in the name of Jesus. Amen"

 

At this memorial service, and at this particular time in our lives, it is appropriate to look into God's Word. I am reminded of the way King Solomon, in the book of Ecclesiastes, written near the end of his life,accurately described the physical things we are now experiencing inour lives. In the last chapter of the book, he writes of the time in all men's lives when:

 

 "...the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop, when the grinders cease because they are few, and those looking through the windows grow dim; when the doors to the street are closed and the sound of grinding fades; when men rise up at the sound of birds, but all their sounds grow faint; when men are afraid of heights and of dangers in the street; when the almond tree blossoms and the grasshopper drags himself along and desire no longer is stirred."

 

Did you recognize some of our symptoms?

 The keepers of the house would be our hands

 The strong men, our legs

 The grinders, our teeth

 The windows, our eyes

 The doors to the street, our ears

 Men rising at the sound of birds, troubled sleeping

 Almond tree blossoms, gray hair

 The grasshopper dragging and desire no longer stirred .... will be left for each to decide for themselves.

 

In my case, you may have noticed that I've been walking with a slight limp. I have recently found that I havea torn tibial tendon in my ankle. Since I have not experienced any trauma, I attribute the injury to the PWO Syndrome .... Parts Wearing Out. Some of you may be able to relate.

 

I am reminded that life is fragile. We all have an expiration date, and only God knows what it is.

 

King Solomon's intent in writing the book of Ecclesiastes was to reflect on his own life and his efforts to find the ultimate purpose and meaning of life. In earlier chapters of the book, he states that even though he became the richest man in the world, the real purpose and meaning of life cannot possibly be found in riches. He also concluded that even though he was gifted as the wisest man who ever lived, an educated man is not necessarily a happy man. Finally, realizing that all of his riches and wisdom had no lasting value, he threw himself into the pursuit of pleasure. He then alsofound that the purpose and meaning of life cannot be found in seeking pleasure.

 

Ultimately, in the last verses of the book, he stated what he found as he looked back on his life:

 

 "Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter:

 Fear God and keep His commandments for this is the whole duty of man."

 

I believe that is a message for us as well. That principle is repeated from a different perspective in Psalm 90:

 

 "Lord, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. You turn man back to dust saying, 'Return to dust O sons ofmen.' The length of our days is seventy years, or eighty, if we have the strength; but they quickly pass and we fly away. Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom."

 

I pray that this will be a useful principle for us to consider and apply to our lives today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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THE FISHERMAN

 

He cast his line out from the boat

Then reeled it back again.

How firm his hold, yet God controlled,

What happened at the end.

From dawn to dusk, he fished each day

Ever seeking out a prize

Accepting they who came his way—

No need to say goodbyes.

Though seas were calm, a sudden storm

Capsized his boat and gear.

Amidst despair and uttered prayer

He faced his greatest fear.

A sinking boat, a swirling sea,

A whirlpool made of air

Yet through the mist, he felt the kiss

Of One who’s always there.

He gathered strength and found resolve

To fight and swim some more.

With dimpled smile, that stayed awhile,

He reached toward the shore.

Upon the bank he saw the face

That buoyed him on and on.

It is the face that gives us grace . . .

And fishing, when we’re gone.

 

John Moore

December 2006

 

In memory of Bob Dingle who loved fishing almost as much as he loved his beloved wife, Margy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Brice Jones’ Notes: Acceptance Speech, 4 November 2011

 

Thanks Tom, and to Hector, Pat, Randy and Charlie

To say that this is a great honor is to undershoot the runway

I agonized over what I could say to a room full of people, any one of which might well have stood here as deserving— to say nothing of those who could not stand here.

Roger Stringer

I miss Johnny Stackhouse/Ben Briggs (taken too early)

Monte:

Monte and I hung around Fightin 4th all four years, went to Europe together, vacationed in California and other places together. Here, at the AFA, he was in football orbit, while I was mostly in the Tom Pattie/John Brusky orbit, which is to say: Going over the fence with a motorcycle, stealing the goat and attempting the mule, fake–machine gunning the Doolie on the obstacle course, and hoisting Pattie up the flagpole with Press–On’s pants, where they flew for three days,

With probably 1,000 data points to determine class standing, we were #127 & 128.

As Best Man, handed him off to Judy, then we went separately till I helped welcome him home to Arlington 25 years later. And now, 50 years later, we still stand here side by side again—we’ve just had different journeys; fate dealt us different hands.

In fact as I look back on those 50 years, it seems I had very little to do with the course of my life—almost every major data point in my life was determined by:

—what others did for me, including their prayers;

—accidents of timing,

—and God’s guiding Hand—which I’ll call Blessings

What I did on my own pretty much led to the two biggest disappointments in my life: divorce and withdrawal from the AF.

The former, everyone here can understand, but the second many of you might consider a stretch of credulity considering the following:

reported to first duty station (from pilot training) with a referral ER;

1st duty station was C-124’s

being refused the only two assignments in the AF I wanted: F-105’s or go to Harvard Business School (HBS).

Defaulting to F-100’s at Myrtle Beach where in due course after numerous conflagrations with the milk–drinking, slack–jawed, mouth breather, teetotaling wussy wing commander, he took it upon himself to write me a 3 ER (which unfortunately for him required a rebuttal, which the entire Staff Judge Advocate composed and got removed, only to see his staff wise up and write me a 5 and a 6 (no rebuttal). To say I had an attitude about got it.

But, those 5’s and 6’s did their intended work. When, after two years of trying, I was finally let go, Kenny Tallman (who hadn’t the faintest recollection of me being a cadet in 1st group when he was AOC) agreed to extricate me from C-124’s), called me from the Pentagon and asked if I would stay in for a job working for him on the Air Staff. YES. A couple of days later, no deal, the CHIEF, wouldn’t want a guy with such crappy ER’s on the Air Staff. I have often wondered what my life would have looked like…except for that slight twist of fate.

Which brings me back to :

(1.) Blessings, (2) accidents of timing
(3) Deliberate, unsolicited, voluntary actions taken by others on my behalf:

Blessings: By far the most important was being born to my particular parents. More and more I realize that. I was 65 years old when I realized my father bribed our congressman’s nephew to appoint me to the Academy. Otherwise, I was off to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Next, Susan Porth, my children who are good citizens, with excellent values, and who make me proud every single day, my health, and my numerous spectacular friends who have supported my life and endeavors for decades.

Then, the intersection in my life of several individuals:

Kent Klineman who inexplicably backed a 32 year–old kid from the AF with no business experience except an MBA, and certainly no farming experience, and who later, way beyond the initial terms of the deal, backed a unique concept: a winery for Chardonnay only; that he agreed to it all

Don Blackburn—Renaissance man, first winemaker at Emeritus, brought Burgundy style to the wine

Being fired by Brown–Forman—B-F freed bcj from his Purgatory and themselves from their hell…

BLESSINGS ALL

 

Accidents of Timing:

In a world drinking red wine 3:1 over white, all the desirable plantable vineyard land (for red wine grapes, of course) was gone in 1972 when I started trying to make a life in farming, and so defaulted to the only land available, but which unfortunately was unsuitable (too cold) for red wine grapes, and so planted whites.

White wine boom in 1976 came up around our ears while I sat on 800 acres of primo chardonnay grapes in the perfect climate for them,

The perfect storm of accidents of timing:

The phony money economy of the late ‘90s which permitted me to sell Sonoma Cutrer Vineyards (SCV) at a humongous price;

Don Hallberg, after five years of working on him, decided that was the exact time to offer me his 100-acre prime ranch, the best vineyard land of any size remaining in the Russian River Valley (only place for Pinot Noir);

And I had the money from the SCV sale to buy it;

And B-F decided they didn’t want to spend the $$ for it (it should have been theirs);

All of which permitted me to be able to keep going with a new entry altogether.

Foppiano, four years ago, inviting two ladies waiting for a table in a restaurant in Telluride to join ours, which led in due course, to Ms Rebecca Loire entering my life.

 

 

Other deliberate, Unsolicited actions taken by
OTHERS on my behalf:

My Mother saved my life in Vietnam (RVN), without a doubt. I was 55 years old when I read my sister Marilyn’s magazine article. She saw my mother on her knees in the middle of one night “Praying for Brice.”

Having initially been assigned to fly C-47’s (FC-47’s), in RVN, the squadon commander told me one day “you should be flying A1-E’s,” and promptly got the A-1E commander to give me an in–theater checkout in same;

Will Cannon, hootch–mate, told Big George Simler about his friend the only guy to ever get an in–theater checkout in the A-1, and Big George invited me down to dinner

Then, instead of going back to fly F-101’s at Suffolk County, Big George Simler kept me in RVN a second tour, mentoring my short career, but teaching me so much in the meantime; WHO one day said to me over lunch in his trailer day that Burgundy was the name of a place— which got my interest piqued and began me on the wine knowledge quest, so as to impress the general.

Bob Stone, who knew me not from Adam, but who saved me from permanent grounding and Leavenworth after an
“airshow” in Apple Valley;

Grover Jackson, told inquiring minds after busting up the courthouse in Homerville, GA, that “Myrtle Beach had nobody up that day. Check with the Navy.”

Mike Carns who found me on the ramp pre-flighting a bird to return to Myrtle Beach after Monte’s memorial service in Grand Island in 1967, and asked what I was going to do in the AF, and subsequently got me into HBS.

So, while clearly this award tonight is one of the 2 or 3 greatest honors of my life,

I owe it first to the Blessings of our Creator—and then really feel this one tonight should be shared by many, many others who one way or another have put me here.

But, most incredibly, maybe, I’d have never gotten out of the suit if a major I found at Wright Pat had agreed to send me to HBS instead of USC in computers, or if Major Winterhalter at Personnel had agreed to send me back to SEA in F-105’s. He offered any aircraft anywhere in the world, but I’d had too much of getting what I wanted, and he just wasn’t going to cave in one more time, Big George, or not.

And whatever possessed that C–47 squadron commander to look over at a new lieutenant one day and say, “You oughta be flying A-1’s” ?

But then I wouldn’t even have been in RVN at all then if Kenny Tallman hadn’t assigned me, a kid he’d never heard of, out of C-124’s—simply because the kid found his phone number and asked.

And I wouldn’t have been even in C-124’s, or even at the Academy at all if my father hadn’t made a $300 loan to our congressman’s n’e’er–do–well nephew.

 

 

 

SO WHAT THE CAPTAIN MEANS TO SAY IS:

What has made my life what it has been, are blessings, prayers from others, deliberate actions taken by others in my behalf, and accidents of timing,

So, those of you who have observed some generosity on my part now can understand why I feel such a strong desire to give back—I owe it! Colonel Conard, AF Station Commander in Lima, took me out of a hotel and into his home for two weeks on my graduation leave, and when I tried to thank him, he said, “My thanks will be that someday it’ll be your turn, and you just help the next one.” That, I’ve tried to do.

FINALLY, In the achieving our dreams category, I had three: as a teenager I dreamed of flying F-100’s. Second: I had dreams of stealing an F-105, I was that desperate to fly one. Third: after my AF career, when I was in business school, whenever I thought about the possibility of a vineyard and winery, my dream was always for a small, 12,000-case winery and surrounding vineyard—nothing big or grandiose like the 150,000 cases we produced at Sonoma Cutrer Vineyards. Last month we brought in the 2011 Emeritus Vineyards vintage, and it looks like we’ll make about 12,000 cases, all from our own vineyard surrounding the winery. 40 years after that Dream

It was an incredible journey— But, man, Oh, man, what a ride!—and wrapping up far too quickly.

Well now, those days of riding the crest of the Chardonnay wave, busting up Homerville, Park City,

and Apple Valley, burning down the O-Club, and flying upside down thru the hangar—

those days are gone forever.

BUT AT LEAST WE HAD EM!

 

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                                                                   Class Gift Citation

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Subject: Class of 1961 50th Reunion---2-6 November 2011

To: Classmates, Families of Deceased Classmates

I hope everyone is ready for our best reunion ever! We are looking forward to seeing ALL classmates, families of our deceased, non-graduate classmates and all of our families to participate with us. We can accommodate lots of folks if we can get firm numbers from you all.

Our Reunion Committee and the AOG have nearly all of the details pinned down for a fun filled weekend. You can get all the information, accomplish your registration and make your choices through various links on the AOG’s Class of 1961 Reunion web page:

http://www.usafa.org/Connect/Reunions_1961

The Registration Form should be up by this weekend. If you have difficulty registering, our AOG Reunion Coordinator, Emma Ross, will be glad to help you and can take your data over the phone: Please feel free to contact her at 719-472-0300 x 136.

Some nitty gritty details:

Our football tailgate will be in the big tent operated by the Athletic Department. There will be a special section in the tent for our class. You can order your tickets for the tailgate and for game seating in a special section via the link to the athletic ticket office on the registration form. Remember, the game and tailgate tickets are separate items that are not included in registration price total. To make sure your family gets seats together for the game, I recommend you order all tickets for “Adults.” The price is the same, but the ticket website won’t be tempted to put your grandchildren in the end zone and away from you. The website may say Value Reservation or Best Available, but both yield the same price for this game. I urge you to go ahead and get your tickets early, because, at some point, if our section is not filled by us, they will turn the seats over togeneral sales—this game is always sold out.

Please note that travel to/from the cadet area for the open house on Friday and to/from the game on Saturday is by POV. Given that the Army Game is usually a sell-out, be sure to plan ahead for car rentals.

For all those who wish to be sartorially hip, the class reunion website will soon feature a link where you can order ’61-logo merchandise. We will not be selling any class merchandise at the reunion itself (although the AOG and Visitors Center have tons of Academy stuff). Class-logo merchandise will be available from this site about 8 September. I’ll let you know how to do it when that part of the site is ready.

Don’t forget, this is Colorado. This is the latest reunion we have ever had, so weather may not be balmy. When our daughter lived in northern Norway, her Norwegian friends said, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.” So, please check weather.com for AFA (80840) before you come and bring appropriate clothing.

GO AIR FORCE, BEAT ARMY!

Tom

31 August 2011

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50th Reunion Plans, as reported by Charlie Neel: 23-25 May 2011 -- Mini-reunion at USAFA during "Graduation Week." Key events are TBD during a meeting with the Superintendent on 28 January. Besides having the class getting together the evening of 23 May, tentatively, it may entail being recognized at the Graduation Parade 0930, 24 May, presenting gold bars to the graduates later that day, and sitting on the field during Graduation on 25 May. Uniform TBD. 02-06 Nov 2011 -- 50th Class Reunion, Marriott Hotel. Key events: dedicating the class gift on Friday and beating Army on Saturday. Check our class web site for the latest information on these events. We are striving for 100% attendance of all classmates who started at Lowry on 5 Jul 57, those who joined our class from earlier classes, those who drifted on, lost souls, widows, next-of-kin and children, spouses: everybody associated with the Class of 1961.

CLASS OF 1961 PLANNING ALERT (as of 3 Feb 2011)

50th Reunion, 2 – 6 November 2011

Be it foot-stomped that ALL of our Classmates who joined at Lowry AFB on 5 July 1957, whether graduated or not, are strongly encouraged to come to the Reunion. We are trying to reach everybody – widows, children, those whom we gained from elsewhere, etc. We do not have everybody’s email or postal address, but we are working on that. PLEASE PASS THE WORD. Right now, to help us plan, WE NEED A HEAD COUNT of participants – Yes, No, or Maybe – for the reunion in Nov and the mini-reunion during Graduation week. A survey link accompanies this letter and will also be posted on the class website, http://www.usafa1961.org/

Reunion events include these main elements:

-- 50th Reunion will be on the Army Game weekend, from Wed, 2 Nov to Sun, 6 Nov 2011. Included will be dedication of our class gift, lots of personal chit-chat time, football game, USAFA Cadet and Staff updates, dinner w/ entertainment, memorials, etc. Many photos will be taken – group and individual – for inclusion in our “50th Anniversary Book” (see below). We have a contract with the Colorado Springs Marriott at a room rate of $99 + tax per room, per night. The Hospitality Suite opens in the afternoon of 2 Nov 2011. Please sign up via the survey link.

-- Mini-Reunion during Grad Week 23-25 May 2011 for those who want to come twice. Plans include “organizing” BBQ on 23 May and recognition and special seating at the Class of 2011 Graduation Parade on 24 May. Our Class Flag will be in the Color Guard. Graduate classmates will present Gold Bars to the Class of 2011 in the afternoon and evening of 24 May in squadron ceremonies. For the Graduation Ceremony on 25 May, we will have designated seating on the stadium floor, next to the Class of 2011. Please sign up via the survey link.

-- 50th Anniversary Book We are presently working on a 50th Anniversary Book. This will be a first class, coffee-table item you will be proud of. It is expected to include old stuff, new old stuff, updated photos, bios & family stuff, personal updates, and full coverage of the 50th Reunion. Final publication, therefore, will be in 2012, but we need to start getting the STUFF from you and your families SOON. Non-grad classmates, widows and families/children – please participate. Technical instructions on this subject will be out soon. Commitment to this project will require some up-front cash. Consider gift books for family and friends. Participation at the reunion is NOT a requirement to have your material in or to buy copies of our 50th Anniversary Book, but you do have to commit to an order. More books, less cost. Depending on order size and number of pages, estimated unit cost is $100 to $120 with a down payment of perhaps $50. Please sign up via the survey link.

-- Class Gift: Speaking of cash and commitment, thanks to you, we are nearly to the 100% participation goal for our Class Gift. Pledges are coming in, and there are only a couple of “undecideds” and Lost Souls still out there. See www.USAFA61fiftiethreuniongift.org/ The gift is to be dedicated during our 50th Reunion in November.

So -- put the dates into concrete on your calendars, reschedule your conflicts, help with the “head count” survey, dig up goodies for the Anniversary Book, find and invite lost Roomies, and stay healthy.

Tom

Thomas J. Eller, President,

USAFA Class of 1961