ALBUQUERQUE REUNION - 2001 - Bill Copeland

The 13th Annual USS Bennington Reunion in Albuquerque, New Mexico was another great reunion.

I think we should all send an e mail of thanks to :
Rupert Marshall -

If not for Rupert, organizing the Association back in 1988 we would not be having any reunions or even this web site.

Rich and Helen Stange -
Our host and hostesses in Albuquerque
Certainly without their hard work and long hours the 2001 Reunion would not have been the success it was.
Send them both an e mail of thanks.

The reunion was attended by over 200 shipmates and their guests, and was held at the Albuquerque Hilton / Fairfield Marriot a large hotel with a fantastic courtyard in the middle with an indoor pool, an outdoor pool and plenty of tables and chairs on the patio outside our hospitality suite, to sit in under the desert sky and enjoy the weather and our shipmates and friends.

Speaking for myself, one of the things that will stand out in my memory ............ is THE FOOD

I like Mexican food and I found something new, and even more tastier. New Mexican food. Yes, there really is something called New mexican food, I was told it differs from Mexican food mainly because they don't use vegetables ( tomatoes, etc. ) and no meat in their chile.
( They call it chile, to differentiate it from chili. ) Supposedly new mexican food is not as spicy as mexican food, but ............................ MINE SURE WASN'T ! It was great. If you get a chance, try Huevos Rancheros, and sopa pilla's, my favorites. Fortunately, for Dotty, the hotel was across from a truck stop featuring the Duke City Diner, she is not quite the afficionado of Mexican food I am. ( Dan Vernon told me if I liked the food in New Mexico, wait until I come to Louisiana ............ more on that later. )

We were pretty centrally located, in terms of going places and seeing things, we went to Santa Fe with Rich and Etta Boyd, Jon and Phyllis Easley went to the New Mexico State Fair, Bill Coughlin and Debbie went to Roswell to check out the aliens at area 51, etc.

One of the attractions was a nearby Indian Casino, and Ralph Clark was there the first day and talked them into giving us all free t shirts, $10 in quarters, and one hell of a buffet. Now of course, being a casino, they did have slot machines, etc. there. And, yes, some of us did give in, and play. I was sitting at my machine and Rupert came over and said " I just won $55" Hahhhh, I said, that's nothing I just won 2,000 ( nickels )

Now, I am not going to say Miss Texas name, but someone hit the nickel slots for ................... well, let's just say A LOT OF NICKELS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This was good practice for Dotty and me, as we went onto Las vegas after the reunion.

Of course the highlight of any reunion is seeing each other again, and it was great seeing familiar faces. But speaking of familiar faces, one face was sure different this year. Biff Scarborough, still unable to get hair on the top of his head, gave and grew it on his chin. I think it looked great, but having a full beard myself, I would.

However, Biff's AND MY beard was to be short lived. Friday night in the hospitality suite, at the urging of many ( well, a few anyhow ) women, we took it off.

Biff and I shaved our beards. ( I had mine for 26 years !! )

Our bus tour to the Atomic reunion on Friday was cancelled due to the tight security at Kirtland Air Force Base. ( I can't imagine why they didn't want a bunch of old sailors walking around looking at old atomic bombs. ) Instead we took a bus tour to the Albuquerque museum and "Old Town" for a little sightseeing and some shopping. We had lunch in the museum courtyard ( yep, more great new mexican food ) and entertainment by a local mariachi band. These guys were not only good, they were fun also.

Following our trip downtown we made a stop at the newly dedicated New Mexico Veterans Council Memorial. This can be best described as an amphi theatre type memorial with names enscribed on ceramic plaques on the wall. This was just dedicated the same morning, and later on when I was talking to Tom Daubert, President of the United Veterans Council of Greater Albuquerque, he expressed his thanks for our coming and mentioned we were the first official visitors, and he was going to enscribe a plaque and mount it in the visitors center acknowledging the USS Bennington Reunion's Association visit. Tom is a pretty nice guy and he came by our hospitality suite later on that night. BUT ........ even thoug he is an Air Force veteran, like any veteran you have to keep an eye on him, I saw him eyeing a USS Bennington baseball cap, and confronted him, he said, before I leave here .............. we didn't have any extra hats, so I gave him a USS Bennington t shirt and that seemed to make his day.

HOWEVER, if anyone is missing a hat, e mail me, I know just where to go !

Part 2 Business meeting and banquet

Saturday morning, after breakfast we had our annual business meeting, and a lot of business was conducted :

A proposal was made, and passed, for a donation of $1500 to establish a USS Bennington memorial room aboard the USS Hornet CV/CVA/CVS-12 in Alameda California.
This was a GREAT deal, as Rupert had looked into establishing a memorial room on the USS Yorktown CV/CVA/CVS-10 and they wanted $10,000.
A major reason for our "special rate" is due to 2 shipmates who have spent a lot of time volunteering on the Hornet.
George Barge -
and George Britt -
Now, if you know these guys, you know they have been painting and scraping and scraping and painting, but also, as true sailors they have been "comshawing" and working deals. I will have more on this later, but you can be proud of these guys.

Another proposal was made, and passed, by Bobby Quinn to establish an annual $500 scholarship at the high school in Bennington, Vermont. Again, I will have more on this later.

Another proposal was made, by Rich Boyd, and passed to establish a USS Bennington memorial bench in the Virginia National cemetery. ( wouldn't it be nice, if we could do this for each national cemetery in our own state. )

Another proposal was made, and passed to donate $500 to a fund established for the dependent children of people who died in the Pentagon attack.

Then Bob and Mary Holmes - got up and talked about next years reunion in San Diego. This should be another good reunion. Deatails will be forthcoming later on, but for now click on Reunion info on the web site to get hotel information. Also Mary asked me to clarify a misunderstanding :

"There was a little confusion that I think we need to clear up I had two people ask me about WHITE JACKETS. They thought I said WHITE when I said LIGHT JACKETS....I just want them to know we won't be dressing formal but it will get cool at night and they should bring a jacket.... "
Mary Holmes

After this, Dan and Shirley Vernon made a proposal to host the 2003 reunion in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and this was easily passed. Among other things they have planned are a day trip to New Orleans, a memorial service aboard the destroyer USS Kidd, and, Dan promises, some of the best food you will ever eat.

Put it on your calendar 2002 San Diego and 2003 Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Following Dan, Lou and Gloria La Tragna made a proposal to host 2004 in Niagara Falls, Canada. After some discussion and a vote, it was decided to reconsider and they will be looking into hosting 2004 in Buffalo New York, home of USS The Sullivans, the WW 2 destroyer. This is a proposal, only and anyone else can make other proposals for the 2004 reunion at next years business meeting in San Diego when a final vote will be taken.

Later on, Sat. night our banquet, was called to order in true fashion, with boatswain mate Ray Martinez piping "mess call" on his bos'ns pipe. Rich Stange had arranged for the local chapter of the Knights of Columbus to post the colors.

After the meal, the Knights of Columbus put on a TERRIFIC show, detailing the history of the US Flag. At the end of the display, we all gathered hands, pledeged allegiance and sang God Bless America.

Words can never describe the feeling that night, in New Mexico joining hands with your fellow shipmates, pledging allegiance to our flag and asking God to Bless America.

Rich has asked me to pass on the followinng request, from the Knights:


Following the banquet, we all retired to the hospitality suite to say our good byes to one another, and, early next morning, everyone was off to the airport.

Well, almost, everyone. Dotty and I had planned on heading further west. I had rented a pick up truck from Budget ( I figured, I was out west, I wanted to roam the prairies like a real cowboy, Dotty wasn't too happy about the pick up truck, even though I told her, hey it's going to be hot, you can sit in the back and enjoy the breeze. )

However, when I went to pick up the truck, they told me the Hoover Dam was closed to all trucks ( even pick ups ) and there was a hundred mile detour for all trucks to get to Las Vegas, and they reccomended a car instead. ( so much for riding the range in a pickup like the cowboys )

So, I settled for a new white mustang.

( More to come )


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