31st Annual Merchant Marine Convention & Reunion – 2017

AMMV 31st NATIONAL CONVENTION Reno, Nevada Sunday, March 26, 2017

Final Report

Sunday March 26, 2017: Attendees and guests arriving in Reno by air were greeted by a welcome message on the monitors at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport. Also, an article appeared in a local Reno newspaper about the WWII Merchant Marine and the upcoming convention. Both of these treats were arranged by AMMV member Charles Montanaro and publicized our event well enough to bring “informational walkins” to the Hospitality Room.

The 31st AMMV National Convention opened with afternoon Registration in the Hospitality Room. Throughout the convention, the Hospitality Room offered many interesting displays and exhibits. All registering attendees took time to sign form letters addressed to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs in support of the new bill, H.R. 154.

The Board of Directors meeting was held later that evening. Topics discussed were membership numbers; organizational non-profit status; the looming retirement of our National Office Administrator; the need for By-Law revisions (especially in the area of voting procedures); and the 2017-18 fiscal budget. The subject of the 2018 National Convention was raised, but no volunteers came forth to sponsor it.

Monday, March 27th:  Opening Ceremonies kicked off at 09:00 on Monday. Joining us were Reno City Councilman Paul McKenzie and Nevada American Legion Department Commander Robert Terhune. Presenting the colors were Frank Mendez and Richard Romo. Christian Yuhas, who served as Master of Ceremonies throughout the event, opened with the Pledge of Allegiance. Sally Langwah then performed the StarSpang l e d Banner and Heave Ho. Father Sinclair Oubre provided the opening invocation. Next came the introduction of National, Regional, and Chapter officers.

Business opened with National President Capt. Chris Edyvean providing a report which included the topics of membership; review of various AMMV committees & committee members; review of outcomes of 114th Congress legislation issues; outlook for the new bill H.R. 154 in the 115th Congress; status of efforts in obtaining Veteran status for U.S. merchant mariners who sailed in support of the Korean conflict; and the dissolution of AMMV’s relationship with NAUS. (NAUS officially closed its doors on December 31st and merged into two existing military advocacy organizations.) Following the Opening Ceremonies and President’s Report, the convention broke for lunch. The Ladies’ Lunch was well attended with Roy Langwah performing as Willie Nelson. The lunch ended with many participants dancing and waving bandanas while Willie sang “On the Road Again”.

The AMMV National Elections were held immediately after lunch. Captain Chris Edyvean was re-elected as National President and Nelson Cauble was re-elected as National Secretary. Nelson defeated challenger Stanley Blumenthal by obtaining 81% of the recorded vote. Newly elected officers were Christian Yuhas as National Vice President and John Pitts as National Treasurer. The term of service for these officers is July 1, 2017 – June 30, 2019. A round of applause was given to retiring National Officers George Salovich (not in attendance) and Morris Harvey for their years of dedicated service to the AMMV.

The next order of business was organization resolutions. Copies of approved Resolutions appear elsewhere in this NEWS. Stanley Blumenthal, Gulfstream Chapter, submitted a Resolution titled, “Building A Large Cruise Ship on President Donald Trump’s Watch”. After much heated discussion, the members in attendance chose to table this until the following day to allow time to research the statistics offered in the Resolution. Member-at-Large Father Sinclair Oubre presented a Resolution for support of initiating a cause for Sainthood for Capt. LaRue/Brother Marinus, Master of the Meredith Victory when it rescued 14,000 refugees during the Korean conflict. Oubre’s Resolution passed unanimously. Capt. Chris Edyvean, Midwest Chapter, offered a Resolution regarding support for NOAA’s east coast sanctuary expansion. The membership decided to table this Resolution until after David Alberg (NOAA Sanctuary Superintendent) spoke that evening so that questions could be properly addressed.

Monday’s evening speaker was Father Sinclair Oubre, Apostleship of the Sea-USA. Oubre, who spoke in detail about the life and work of Captain Leonard LaRue (aka Brother Marinus), and explained the multi-step process that achieving Sainthood for Brother Marinus would entail.

Tuesday, March 28th: Business sessions resumed at 09:00. Blumenthal’s resolution was voted down; however, some volunteers offered to help rewrite a version which might gain organization acceptance. A brief presentation of social media followed. The AMMV Twitter, Facebook, and website were presented on the screen. Capt. Chris also demonstrated how to use the “Support H.R. 154” link found on the Navy League website, which sends an email to one’s Congressperson based on the entered zip code. Unfortunately, the wi-fi capabilities at the hotel were running slow during this timeframe, which hampered the presentation.

In the afternoon, many attendees opted for the Reno bus tour, which made several stops. Rumor has it that some attendees may have won some money! Meanwhile, the Hospitality Room was open as Sally & Roy performed ‘meet and greets’ and did a few songs. AMMV member Keith Lawrence stopped by to promote his book, “Memoirs of an African-American Navigator”. The Hospitality Room stayed open late into the evening to accommodate late registrations and members returning from the bus tour.

Wednesday, March 29th: AMMV member, WWII MM Vet, and international motivational speaker Dave Yoho kicked off the morning with a phenomenal speech geared to inspire our membership to push harder for the new WWII Merchant Mariners bill H.R. 154.

Author William Geroux was next with an overview of his book, “The Mathews Men: Seven Brothers and the War Against Hitler’s U-boats”. Local Barnes & Noble representatives were on site with copies of the paperback release. Geroux provided a fascinating account of the service of Mathews, VA area Merchant Mariners during WWII. He concluded his speech by telling the story of the M/S City of New York (also featured in his book), which had been torpedoed and sunk 75 years to the day earlier on March 29th, 1942. WWII MM Vet Dr. Leonard H. Conly would be posthumously recognized at the Farewell Banquet for delivering the “lifeboat baby” in a storm at night while awaiting rescue. AMMV member William A. Carlson, U.S. Navy Armed Guard, also survived this ordeal. Carlson, in attendance, was introduced by Geroux and received a standing ovation for his WWII service and sacrifice.

Following lunch break, NOAA Sanctuary Superintendent David Alberg gave an informative presentation about the history of the National Monitor Marine Sanctuary and NOAA’s plans to expand this sanctuary to include the wreckage of many WWII merchant vessels. Following Dave’s talk, the earlier Resolution to support NOAA sanctuary expansion was revisited and approved by the membership in attendance.

Next, a revised and simplified Resolution of support for U.S.-built, flagged, and manned cruise ships, under the name of member Bob Weagant was presented, moved, seconded and carried by the General Assembly.

The final speakers/presenters were artist Doug Alvord and his fundraising manager, Randy Murray. Doug supplied a small-scale version of “The Brave Never Die” memorial sculpture for viewing, and outlined the details and timeline of the planned full-size version of this work. Randy discussed fundraising needs and spoke about an organization he founded called Hometown Heroes: Americas Veterans Stories, which documents video biographies of Veterans for future generations; their website is hometown-heroes.org.

AMMV National Secretary Nelson Cauble provided the invocation prior to the serving of the Farewell Banquet. Following the meal, the first presentation was the ‘Remembrance Ceremony’ of the 75th anniversary of the sinking of the M/S City of New York. Capt. Chris reviewed the history of the ship’s operator, American South-African Lines. He explained that the company was renamed Farrell Lines in 1948, continuing as a U.S.-flagged shipping company until 2000. The company reemerged in 2010 under the parent company Maersk Line Limited, displaying the original Farrell Lines flag. Introduced was AMMV Southwest Florida Chapter member Capt. Dru DiMattia, who is a present-day ship Master with Farrell Lines.

Returning to the storyline, Capt. Chris explained that at a time in WWII when our government hid the losses of merchant vessels from the public, the story of the City of New York and the miracle of birth at sea was broadcast around the world in effort to boost the morale of Allied troops. The lifeboat baby was nicknamed “The baby Hitler couldn’t get”.

Called up to the podium next were City of New York survivor William Carlson, and WWII MM Veteran Dr. Leonard H. Conly’s descendants, Len Conly, Jr. (son) and Darren Conly (grandson). Dr. Conly (posthumously) and Carlson each received American Legacy Recognition plaques from AMMV for being part of this historic maritime incident.

Capt. Chris then introduced Glenna Smith, from the office of Nevada Senator Dean Heller. Glenna presented certificates of official Senate proclamations in the names of Carlson and Dr. Conly. The final presenter was Hank Ryan, MARAD Regional Director for Ship Operations. Hank read a citation from MARAD for Dr. Conly, and then presented the Conly family with a beautiful shadow box of medals, which included the Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal. Our featured speaker for the evening was Captain Harry Bolton of California Maritime Academy, Master of the Training Ship Golden Bear. Capt. Bolton brought four CMA Cadets with him to attend the evening events. Bolton spoke on several points regarding the academy and its training ship, emphasizing the success rate of CMA cadets.

The 50/50 raffle was drawn, with Andrea Gray the winner of $330. A few other items supplied by some of our guests were also raffled off. Next, Dave Yoho briefly took the podium and presented Capt. Chris with $12,500 in donations to the AMMV organization. The crowd expressed their thankfulness with a loud round of applause.

The final segment of the scheduled program saw a wide range of organizational awards given to chapters and individuals.

“Outstanding Chapter Newsletter” awards, each supplemented with a $25 check, were presented to representatives of the following AMMV Chapters: Ohio Valley; Golden Gate; Sacramento Valley; Midwest; Razorback; Gulfstream; and Oregon.

“Member Appreciation” plaques were given to the following members for their notable contributions to the good of the organization: Frank Mendez; Larry Starn; Bob Ulrich; Ken Blue; Eugene Barner; Debbie Rogow; and Richard “Ben” Benjamin.

“Outstanding Volunteer” awards, supplemented by a U.S. Merchant Marine flag, were presented to: Sindy Raymond; Carole Gutierrez, Dave Yoho, Patti Scafidi, and Michael Helbig (Gutierrez & Helbig not in attendance).

Finally, a new “top tier” award, designed to be an annual presentation, was introduced. Capt. Chris announced this as the 1st annual Harvey-Wichita Award, which is intended to recognize and honor past AMMV National Presidents Morris Harvey and A.J. Wichita by name at each year’s presentation. The recipient in the category of “post-WWII member” was Sheila Sova.  Sheila was presented with a flag and a copy of “A Careless Word, A Needless Sinking”. The book was in its original packaging, and wrapped in a paper cover autographed by every WWII Vet at the convention. Shelia fought back tears as she spoke to the audience about her father and why the work she does is so close to her heart. The second Harvey-Wichita Award, in the category of “WWII Vet”, was presented to Nelson & Shirley Cauble for their many years of strong organization service. Capt. Chris highlighted the message of which Nelson customarily ended his National Secretary’s reports: “Together we can, and together we have, made a difference”.

The convention closed with another stunning performance from Sally & Roy, who opened their set with Heave Ho.

Photos from 31st National Convention