There was no football game at the center of our Homecoming Reunion; however, nearly 200 NNCA members reunited through tours, meetings, receptions and dinners. Two years after the initial planning meeting and signing of the hotel contract, the New England NNCA (NENNCA) Chapter opened the week with annual Board of Directors’ meetings on Monday and Tuesday. The majority of members arrived on Tuesday evening and the real fun began on Wednesday as we kicked-off walking, trolley and mansion tours coordinated by Cindy Longway and Kim Lyons; a BLS certification class given by Trish Culver and Ann Holler; and a Welcome Reception for over 220 attendees and family members.
Following breakfast, Brigitte Balog led the Awards Ceremony. After the celebration, briefings were offered, including Current Legislative Environment by Kathy Beasley and Ethical Challenges in the Operational Environment by Al Shimkus. As in Nashville, SCNNCA awarded CEUs for the educational offerings. The afternoon was filled with trolley and walking tours. Attendees also visited the Officer Training Command where many of our members began their Nurse Corps careers. Some of the attendees were able to identify their quarters in King Hall. Others searched the photos at the Naval War College Museum to find the wooden buildings that housed the Women Officer’s School. The day ended with a shopping trip to Alex & Ani where proceeds went to defer Reunion expenses and a “frigid” sunset sail on the Narragansett Bay for a few of our cold-hardy members.
The biennial Memorial Service was held on Friday. Anne Mitchell coordinated a very moving service where 149 former and retired Navy Nurses were honored. NNCA was fortunate to have CDR Jamie Stall-Ryan, Base Chaplain, as the officiant for the service. A new tradition was started where the names, service dates and photos (when available) of the deceased officers were presented in a video montage set to inspirational music. Many of our members commented that the photos and service dates helped them to identify friends and colleagues.
Tours and CEUs
The remainder of the morning was spent in a CEU offering given by Tina Meservey on Veterans Affairs. The afternoon was once again a flurry of activity as two walking groups, five trolleys and one schooner got underway for tours of the Newport area, Naval Station, mansions, Cliff Walk and Narragansett Bay.
The festivities were wrapped up on Saturday with the Annual Meeting of the membership and Farewell Reception and Dinner. The Navy Band Northeast opened the breakfast and annual meeting with patriotic music. They closed their performance by playing the National Anthem while the Naval Health Clinic New England Color Guard paraded the colors. Sandra Bibb, now the immediate past president, led a very upbeat and interactive annual meeting that also included a presentation by MG Peter Aylward, the Senior Advisor to the Vietnam War Commemoration. He was joined by RADM Mary Hall, Sandra Bibb, Robin McKenzie, Shirley Hill, and JoAnn Smith in presenting commemorative lapel pins to thank 125 of our Vietnam Veterans for their service. The meeting was adjourned as the group sang Happy Birthday to the Navy Nurse Corps with traditional cake-cutting ceremony of by “oldest” and “youngest” members in attendance, Jean Symons and Anne Mitchell.
Of course before dinner, many enjoyed additional walking tours or a day sail on the Schooner Madeleine. Everyone was exhausted by the time dinner started; however, reenergized in time to enjoy the harpist, enthusiastic presentation given by RADM Barbara McGann, and Newport Mayor Jeanne Napolitano reading her proclamation declaring April 30th Navy Nurse Corps Day in Newport, RI.
In addition to all of the events, there were several displays for viewing. Peg Nation gathered all of your class photos and set up a display to greet registrants. She also coordinated the Silent Auction that had great success in selling items donated primarily by RADM Hall along with several of our members. Shirley Hill and Tina Meservey coordinated the Memorabilia and Vietnam Commemorative display that included items from our collection. Additionally on display were storyboards previously prepared by Pat Sovich and Maria Rossi.
Mary Jo Majors, Merchandise Committee Chair and a NENNCA member, coordinated a merchandise display with the help of Barbara Robinson that included every piece of NNCA inventory…an advantage of having the Reunion and merchandise storage unit in the same city. The Committee also hosted Nomades Jewelers who outfitted many members with charm bracelets representing the Nurse Corps and Navy duty stations, and donated a portion of the proceeds to the Reunion fund.
Registration was led by Patti Hicks and her enthusiastic team (Jane Barry, Peg Zarek and Audrain Triplett) who were responsible for registering the attendees, providing refunds for cancelled tours, and assisting those attendees who had last minute changes to their schedules.
Even though the Reunion was an overwhelming success, we did have one major problem. Unfortunately, with room cancellations, we fell below the contracted room block. The room block varied from 15 to 150 rooms depending on the projected attendance and guest count. Our guest room attrition rate allowed for a 15% reduction without penalty fees…better than the customary rate of 10%. In the weeks immediately before the conference, we fell from over 90% to 77% of the rooms being reserved. The contract required that NENNCA pay the $107.00 room rate plus 7% RI sales tax for each cancelled room below 85% of the contracted room block. Fortunately, we were able to negotiate buying additional food items equivalent to the penalty fees rather than just handing over the money. Hence, the attendees benefited by receiving breakfast at the annual membership meeting along with additional food and beverages at other events. Failure to meet the room block requirements has occurred at several of our Reunions and NENNCA recommends that Reunion committees project low and keep in mind that many members will share rooms and some will choose to stay at their preferred hotels
As the Reunion Committee Chairman, I would to thank each of the committee members including Trish Culver, Jane Barry, Patti Hicks, Shirley Hill, Cindy Longway, Mary Jo Majors, Anne Mitchell, Peg Nation, Audrain Triplett, and Peg Zarek who so diligently planned and executed the conference events. The contributions mentioned above are not all encompassing. I did not include the receptions, dinner, baked goods, flowers, chocolates and the list goes on. We also had assistance from many of our NNCA colleagues and Chapters in setting up and taking down displays and through their generous monetary and silent auction donations. We extend a very warm “thank you” to each and every one who assisted in this memorable homecoming event!!