2012 Reunion: Cruisin’ On Sunshine

NNCA Reunion 2012 A Huge Success!

By Gloria Caffrey

The 2012 NNCA Reunion is now history, but for those who attended, the fond memories of sea air and friendships renewed will long remain. After nearly 2 years of trips, meetings, phone calls, and emails, the FNNCA Reunion Committee kicked off the event at the tropical Hilton Garden Inn in Dania Beach, Florida by hosting the annual NNCA Board of Directors meeting on March 23rd and 24th. While the board conducted their business, chapter members welcomed the excited “cruisers” in the adjacent hospitality suite with a warm smile, information on the Ft Lauderdale area, and of course, snacks.

Sunday, March 25th, from the 4 hotels in the hotel complex, we loaded the buses with cruisers, tons of luggage and our reunion supplies, and headed for the Port of Fort Lauderdale. There, 246 NNCA members and guests boarded the award winning cruise ship, Holland America’s ms Nieuw Amsterdam. While the cruisers found their rooms and toured this beautiful ship, the Reunion Committee set up the Welcome Reception room and, with the assistance of Lynne Cox and Laura Rebman from Cruise Specialists, prepared for check-in. Everyone received neck wallets and “goody” bags, which included a commemorative reunion coin and other surprises. Fourteen lucky guests also received door prizes, 4 of which were donated by the ship, and the others by our sponsors. Since we could not have a traditional Memorabilia Room, we tried something new…a digital photo memorabilia display which ran during the Welcome Reception and at other times during the cruise. Many thanks to our members who donated photos for this nostalgic display.

Monday, March 26th, we arrived at Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas, ready to hit the beach. However, the seas were too rough for the tenders, so we stayed on board the ship and left early for our next port of call. The ship was eleven decks of sea-faring luxury with spacious cabins, gourmet food and courteous, attentive staff. I can’t list all of the events offered on the ship (TNTC) but needless to say, there was something for everyone: spa services, swimming, computer classes, dancing lessons, wine tasting, games, culinary classes, concerts, spectacular entertainment in the evening, bingo, a casino, and the list goes on. Or, if you wanted to sit on your balcony or on the Promenade deck and read a book or nap, no one bothered you. You could even attend daily mass, which many of our members did, including getting palms from Hell (in Grand Cayman) . . . no kidding!

Tuesday, March 27th, a full day at sea and the day of our Memorial Service. Kevin Gallagher planned a very moving event that paid tribute to our country, our fallen, and our departed Nurse Corps colleagues. The service was held in the Main Show Lounge, where Jonathan Hawkins, a member of the ship’s entertainment crew began the service with a proud and respectful rendition of the National Anthem. We continued the tradition of the “memory table” and the reading of the names of our departed Navy Nurses, 187 (111 NNCA members) since our last reunion. The music included a bagpiper, CPT Chuck Jamison, USA, (Ret) who played “Amazing Grace” and “Danny Boy”, and “Homeward Bound” by the US Navy Band Sea Chanters Chorus. That evening, the first formal night, we emerged from our rooms in varying degrees of finery not seen since the Titanic.

Wednesday, March 28th, our first day off the ship. We dropped anchor in Georgetown, Grand Cayman, and tendered ashore. We toured the island, tickled turtles at the Turtle Farm, sampled rum and rum cakes, shopped, counted banks, swam in the aqua blue surf, and went to “Hell (the town’s name) and back!” Upon return to the ship, Lynne and Laura, from Cruise Specialists, hosted a cocktail party for all of their guests in the Show Lounge. Our reunion co-chairs, Terri White and Gloria Caffrey presented them with a plaque of appreciation, which included both sides of the commemorative coin. Gloria related a bit of family history…how her ancestors came to America on a Holland America ship, the Noordam, in the early 1900s.

Thursday, March 29th, we docked in Mahogany Bay, Honduras, walked or rode the cable car to the beach, and shopped the local markets. We heard there were some wild rides on the zip-lines and brave Navy Nurses who swam with the sting rays or sailed away on catamarans for an afternoon of snorkeling and lunch, chased by rum punch!! A few sunburns later, back to the ship!

Friday March 30th, our final stop in Costa Maya, Mexico, the site of many Mayan ruins. Well, the Mayan gods showered us with horrendous rains while touring the Chacchoben ruins, the only rain the whole trip. Soaked to the skin, we sloshed our way back to the buses and I bet more than a few visited the ship’s hot tubs to warm up their chilled bones. Those taking the longer tour of Kohunlich Ruins stayed dry but were late for our sailing time!! Friday evening marked the second formal night as well as a dessert feast at 9 PM on the Lido deck – an amazing display of delectable sweets for every palate!

On Tuesday and Saturday morning, the Merchandise Committee, chaired by Julia Pickering, set up a NNCA merchandise display in the Half Moon Room, which also served as our Hospitality Room during the cruise. Over $6,000 of merchandise was ordered.

Saturday, March 31st, marked our final day at sea, and the last day of our NNCA events. Robin McKenzie coordinated the celebration of both NNCA’s 25th anniversary and the Navy Nurse Corps birthday with a beautiful cake cutting ceremony that included RADM Mary Hall, Hazel Hogan and Jeanne Rubin (oldest) and Patty Wirth (youngest) Nurse Corps officers in attendance. This was followed by the Biennial Awards Ceremony hosted by Mary Ann Gardner.

Finally, Linda Daehn, the NNCA President conducted the annual membership meeting. The most significant event was the approval of the Board’s recommendation to raise the annual dues by $10 per person per year to cover operating expenses.

There were many kudos and atta-boys during and after the reunion, but success goes to the efforts of the entire Reunion Committee: Tom Burrell coordinated the Board of Directors meeting and recruited sponsors; Aurelia Nugent, Lou Ellen Bell and Anna Kondash spearheaded the goody bag collections and assembly, and ran the Welcome Reception. Sherry Dotson served as Treasurer, and managed the Hospitality Rooms at the hotel and on the ship. Vathrice Hartwell and Pat Fox found volunteers to staff all of our events; Pat Steining volunteered where needed. Jack Caffrey was in charge of publicity, designed the Reunion banners and helped PRN. Kevin Gallagher planned the Memorial Service. Robin McKenzie served as Secretary, compiled the digital photo display, organized the Saturday meeting, and arranged bus transportation to/from the hotels cruise ship and airport. Terri White, the reunion co-chair, managed ALL 4 hotel contracts, organized and managed the fundraising (Note Card sales which are still available), set-up data bases to track attendees, registration fees, and hotel locations, wrote thank-you letters, and did the “techie” stuff. I had the pleasure of serving as the liaison with the Cruise Specialists in planning the ship events, providing reunion information in the NNCA News, and serving as general reunion coordinator.

This reunion was truly a labor of love by the Committee for our Navy Nurse shipmates and their friends and family. We hope everyone had a great time and lasting memories that will continue to warm your heart. The Reunion was a great success!