Buffalo, NY 2016
Come and see the PVO "Blizzard in Buffalo"
(Pictured left to right): Secretary Jerry Roettgers and President Frank Bertino will eagerly be awaiting your arrival!
Come and see the PVO "Blizzard in Buffalo"
(Pictured left to right): Secretary Jerry Roettgers and President Frank Bertino will eagerly be awaiting your arrival!
Quote of the reunion…”Comradery was superb – best of all the 66th reunions.” Henry Miner
The beautiful St. James River, the Landing and the five mile Riverwalk was the site of our
Jacksonville reunion, as the Adams Mark Riverfront was our host hotel for the week. We had well over 175 veterans and their families in attendance.
This was the first reunion under the presidency of Frank Bertino, so we felt it necessary to go back to our beginnings, Camp Blanding. Here at Camp Blanding we had a very special memorial service along with a wreath laying ceremony. The trip to Camp Blanding brought everyone back to basics and then to tears. A newscaster and a reported were at the museum to interview our veterans, so we made not only the evening news headline but also the front page of the Jacksonville paper. A most deserved tribute for the veterans of the 66th.
We also toured the city of Jacksonville, seeing glimpses of its old majestic southern mansions, visited the Busch Brewery, and spent a lovely day in the historic city of St. Augustine. We ventured out on the St. James River for a dinner cruise and “entertainment”. Enough said about the entertainment; you just had to be here to believe it!
This was the also first reunion that had planned dinner themes. Our first evening was “Back to the 40’s” complete with men wearing their Eisenhower jackets and a special presentation by the “Andrew Sisters”. The men and women of the 66th danced the night away. We also enjoyed an “Aloha Evening” where we were entertained by hula and fire dancers and on Saturday evening we witnessed “Red, White and Blue” celebration, complete with the arrival of our own “Uncle Sam”.
This reunion was our first under the our new leadership. New friendships were forged and existing friendships were cemented forever. With the addition of our hospitality room, everyone came to know each other and the PVO family atmosphere was born.
We reluctantly said our goodbyes on Sunday, eagerly awaiting our next reunion in 2007.
Quote of the reunion… “Into everyone’s life a little rain must fall.” Wayne Klein II
Our 2007 reunion in San Antonio was hosted at the beautiful Hilton - San Antonio Airport. Members started to filter into the Hilton on Sunday and by Wednesday, most everyone was present. There were a total of 157 members, wives and families.
Day one we visited the largest of the missions. Mission San Jose, which is referred to as “Queen of the Missions”. Next stop was at the SAS shoe factory and 1910 General Store, where the shopping began! Then to the historic Menger Hotel for a tour and buffet lunch. After lunch, we visited the Alamo, the Shrine of Texas Liberty. The chapel is the most photographed facade in the nation, and is best remembered for the battle that was fought there, forever changing the lives and attitudes of the Texans. We all enjoyed our “Welcome to Texas” evening banquet.
Thursday, it started raining as we left the hotel and it just got worse. Amidst the daily hubbub of the busy metropolitan downtown, sequestered 20 feet below street level, lies one of San Antonio‘s jewels “Paseo Del Rio” - the Riverwalk. Because of the torrential rains, our river cruise and trip down to the Riverwalk was cancelled. We did get to the El Mercado for lunch and shopped in the pouring rain.
Thursday evening, we were to enjoy an “Evening on the 7A Cattle Ranch”. The 7A has been in operation for over 100 years and had been designated as a “Heritage Ranch” by the State of Texas. The creek rose so high at the ranch that our BBQ was cancelled. We had 157 hungry, western clad, cowboy hatted PVO members in the hotel lobby with no means of supper, so we did what needed to be done. We ordered 40 pizzas, mixed a ton of salad, made cheese platters and had ourselves a big pizza party in our hospitality room. Everyone had a grand time. People got to meet other people and visit and it was a wonderful ending to a rainy day.
Friday’s tour of Fort Sam, The Medical Museum and lunch was good but a hot day. After lunch we drove past the homes of General Eisenhower, General Stillwell, and General Pershing. We visited the Old Post Museum and learned the history of Fort Sam Houston.
Our Friday night dinner ,“ Laughter is the Best Medicine” was loads of fun and laughter watching everyone play pin the tail on the donkey, along with whoopee cushions, fake moustaches and chattering teeth. Everyone also enjoyed the caricature artists capturing their images. It was a another great time at the hospitality room.
President Frank took the first step in helping to make our PVO one family. He held the first PVO business meeting to include men, women & families, where everyone could speak. Congratulations were bestowed to Ralph and Maria Perroncello . A plaque was presented to them for perfect attendance to all 20 reunions. We also acknowledged Alex and Marjorie Yarmosh for their attendance at 19 reunions. Alex Khartinoff, HQ 66th Div Artillery, was the oldest member present at the age of 91. He was there with his wife of 68 years, Sara. Everyone seemed to enjoy the meeting. Frank closed with a prayer to our leaders, our deceased members and to all who were here and to all who wished they could be with us.
Our theme for Saturday evening dinner was “Texas Snowflakes”. This evening we were transported into a winter wonderland, complete with trees, snowflakes, and a gift exchange. We knew that we couldn’t erase the heartache and torment of Christmas Eve 1944 nor should we try to. What we truly wanted to do was to pay respect to those who lost their lives on the Leopoldville, and honor the survivors of the Leopoldville, the Cheshire and the entire 66th. Our goal that evening was to create a new memory of a holiday spent together - so come future Christmas Eves, we will not only remember 1944 but also 2007, and perhaps along with a tear in our eyes, we may also have a smile on our faces because of a new holiday memory.
The reunion as a whole was a great success, the food was excellent and everything was first class. As they say in Texas, “God willing and if the creek don’t rise”, we hoped to see “yawl” in 2009.
Quote of the reunion... “The choices of events and their execution were exceptional.”
Henry& Ish Becker
The Embassy Suites at BWI with its beautiful tropical atrium was our host hotel for our Baltimore reunion. The reunion was well represented with over 173 people in attendance, and for the first time saw four generations of the same family in attendance.
Our evening banquets were themed mega events: Wednesday (PVO Beach Party) Friday (All Sports Night) and Saturday(Stars and Stripes). Friday evening, all came clad in their favorite team sport attire setting off some friendly rivalries. Saturday evening was ablaze with a red, white and blue patriotic theme. Simply beautiful!
We started our tours to Fort McHenry National Monument & Historic Shrine -- the site where Francis Scott Key was inspired to write our national anthem. Then toured downtown Baltimore and the Inner Harbor via “Ride the Ducks”.
Our day in Washington was the highlight of this reunion. Everyone wore their colors proudly as all attendees wore a white polo shirt printed with our Panther patch. The morning began with a PVO wreath presentation at the Tomb of the Unknowns, followed by another wreath service at the grave site of our beloved General Kramer. We had a lovely picnic lunch on the banks of the Potomac River and then visited the FDR Memorial. A well planned surprise for the veterans of the 66th awaited them later that day.
The following appeared in the US Army magazine, the “Salute”, “The Veterans of the U.S. Army’s 66th Infantry Division got a surprise during their reunion in Washington, DC, on June 25. What they thought would be a traditional wreath-laying ceremony at the National World War II Memorial, became a Freedom Team Salute Commendation ceremony. BG William D. R. Waff, the Deputy Commanding General of Army Human Resources Command, told the assembled Veterans: “You epitomize what it means to be a United States Army Soldier.” Then, as their names were called, BG Waff and the Soldiers walked up to each Veteran and attached Army lapel pins to their collars. The men stood proud and saluted the Soldiers adorned in their dress blues. The day was long and hot, but it will forever live in the hearts of all who were with us.
On Friday , we traveled to the beautiful city of Annapolis. Here we had a private tour of the US Naval Academy, followed by a trolley tour of the city, and ended the afternoon with a cruise on the Chesapeake Bay.
On Saturday, we boarded one of last two working Liberty Ships, the USS John Brown. We had a number of veterans who, prior to their call from Uncle Sam, worked in the ship yards creating these work horse sailing vessels. A lot of WWII veterans either went to war or returned home to the USA on a Liberty Ship. This was another extremely emotional day for the veterans of the 66th.
Emotions ran high after our ecumenical service on Sunday. We said our goodbyes hoping to see each other again in 2 years but knowing in our hearts that this was the last goodbye for some of us.
Quote of the reunion... “What a wonderful fun filled week. We are already looking forward to the next one.” The Claude Reagan Family
Our Pittsburgh reunion was held in the beautiful Embassy Suites in Coraopolis, PA. We had 124 people in attendance. Due to special requests, the tours began on Tuesday, as we ventured out into the country to visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural wonder “Falling Water”. In 1935, Frank Lloyd Wright designed a modern vacation house for the Edgar J. Kaufmann family, boldly extending it over a waterfall in a beautiful forest. Fallingwater is a National Landmark visited by over 135,000 people every year including the Panther Veteran Organization.
Wednesday we visited the Heinz History center where we learned a lot about the Western Pennsylvania area history, cultures and traditions. We even got to play Bocci Ball, sat in a Kennywood roller coaster, rode in a Pittsburgh trolley car and visited with Mr. Rodgers! After which, we experienced a true taste of Pittsburgh by enjoying a Primanti sandwich for lunch.
Thursday we enjoyed the sounds and sights of downtown Pittsburgh, including a trip to the Soldiers and Sailors Hall with a private wreath service honoring the men of the 66th Division. We also stopped at the Cathedral of Learning to visit the heritage rooms. These rooms are dedicated to all the ethnic people who settled the Pittsburgh area. The rooms are a gift to the University of Pittsburgh by the prospective countries.
Friday morning, we enjoyed the height of the city as we ventured on the Duquesne Incline. At the top we had a private wreath laying ceremony complete with a full color guard. Later that afternoon, we cruised down the “Three Rivers” on the Gateway Clipper.
Saturday after lunch at the Embassy Suites two unescorted trips were offered. One will went to the Science Center and the new Rivers Casino and the other went to the Pittsburgh Zoo and the PPG Aquarium
Our evening banquets were complete adventures all by themselves. We started each evening with a complimentary hour and a half open bar with hors d’oeuvres. Wednesday we were transmitted back to the 50”s where rock & roll and poodle skirts abound. Everyone jitterbugged and 50’s attire was worn by all.
After Friday’s night open bar, we experienced “Panther Safari”. The Embassy Suite ballroom was transformed to the deepest and darkest jungle. Even Tarzan & his ape made an appearance. The Panther was the main focus of the night so all wore their 66th Division attire. We paraded into the ballroom to the sounds of the “Lion Sleeps Tonight” courtesy of our own Dan, Galla & Mary.
Saturday we hosted “Panthers Around the World”. This evening was dedicated to all the countries and nationalities that have helped to form the greatest country in the world…The United States of America. A great number of attendees dressed in ethnic attire and each table represented a different country around the world. Everyone worn traditional hats corresponding to their table’s origin.
Sunday we held our ecumenical service and then bid adieu with a happy but sorrowful heart, hoping to meet up one more time in Nashville 2013.
Quote of the reunion… "Our General Kramer could have never foreseen the continuation of the PVO. He would be very proud and honored that the PVO's legacy will be carried on by the newer generation." Jim Mottice of A/T Co 262
Once again we looked forward to seeing and spending quality time with each other in the host city for our 2011 reunion, Music City, Nashville, TN.. The people of Nashville are what really made it such a welcoming city with their down home charm and giving nature. Nashville embraced the PVO and showered all of us with genuine and sincere southern hospitality.
What a reunion we had in Nashville! We started out on the bus down to Nashville with a police escort and ended with a standing ovation at the Grand Old Opry! It doesn't get any better than that. We had a great time catching up with all of our PVO family and met some wonderful newcomers to the reunion
There’s a whole host of attractions that have made Music City famous and we visited quite a few of them. On Monday, we began with a late afternoon tour of Barbara’s Mandrel’s mansion, The Fontanel with a dinner to follow. Our good friend Steven Whitson was our “tur guide”. The Fontanel is a 27,000 square foot log home complete with over 20 rooms, 13 bathrooms, 5 fireplaces, an indoor pool and even an indoor shooting range. It is an architectural wonder.
Tuesday, we traveled to Lynchburg, home of the Jack Daniels Distillery. We took the distillery tour and had a down home country feast at Miss Mary Bobo’s, which is listed on the National Register of Historical Places. We truly waddled out of Miss Mary Bobo’s, still trying to decide which entrée and dessert we enjoyed the most.
Wednesday began at the historical Studio B where great legends got their musical start. A surprise recording of the Army song by the PVO was the highlight of the day. The recording was announced and played at the Wildhorse Saloon, where we enjoyed a delicious BBQ lunch and were treated to line dancing lessons. A copy of the recording was given to all members. We also visited the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Ryman Theater.
The stately manor of our seventh President Andrew Jackson was our first stop Thursday morning. The Hermitage tour was very informative and gave us great insight what President Andrew Jackson was all about. Belle Meade plantation was our next stop where we enjoyed a delicious lunch, then toured the plantation and ended the day with a superb wine tasting.
Friday we traveled down the Cumberland River aboard the mighty General Jackson Showboat. We enjoyed the cruise, along with lunch and a magnificent show. Shot Gun Red's show was simply filled with laughter mingled with great musical talent.
After an early Saturday dinner, we ventured over to the Grand Ole Opry for an evening out. Upon arrival, the veterans and their wives were met with extreme honor and respect. The people of Nashville really honored us that night. We were all stunned by the standing ovation that we received at the Opry. It was just so spontaneous and heartfelt. Having the show end with Billy Ray Cyrus's song " Old Army Hat" dedicated to the 66th was truly a perfect end to a great reunion.
The evening dinner events were fun filled, crazy, and on the verge of insane. Wednesday night we celebrated country music complete with cowboy hats, boots, neckerchiefs and good ole country music.
Thursday we were transported back to the beautiful antebellum plantation of Tara from “Gone With The Wind”. We recreated the glory days of Scarlett O’Hara & Rhett Butler. All “Southern Belles” made their own bonnet to wear for their evening at “Tara”. General Lee and his army made an appearance along with Scarlet and Rhett and plenty of southern gentleman with their belles were on hand for the festivities.
Friday we dined in “Dogpatch”! “Hillbilly backscratchers”, hats, corn cob pipes, and ‘rotten teeth” were handed out to all. Denim “real casual” was the choice of attire for Dogpatch dining. The night was filled with giggles and bouts of uncontrollable laughter. It was a great evening.
Directly after returning from the Grand Old Opry on Saturday, we adjoined to our hospitality room where we enjoyed a sumptuous dessert party and had time for our fond farewells giving us the time needed for saying “until next time.”
We had a great week together in Nashville. We all knew that our host city doesn't truly matter, as our love, respect, and enthusiasm for each other will always shine no matter where we are.
Quote of the reunion… Wayne Poorman shared these words of wisdom.
“Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass… It’s about learning to dance in the rain.” Vivian Greene
Laissez les bons temps rouler"……."Let the good times roll"
The city of New Orleans is unlike any other city in the United States. The city was chosen for the 2014 reunion as it is home to the National WWII Museum. But as we discovered it has so much more to offer. The people in NOLA were not only absolutely wonderful but were truly honored and felt privileged to host the PVO reunion. We were hosted by the Downtown Marriott at the Convention Center. The staff and management at the Marriott were superb!
Tuesday evening, we began with our "Ahoy Mates" dinner banquet. We salute the infamous New Orleans pirate and patriot, Jean Lafitte and his band of merry misfits.
Wednesday... We were off on a bayou tour of Cajun Country where we rode in a custom made swamp boat with native guides telling us of the Cajun "'Joie de Vivre". After a buffet luncheon at the historic Oak Alley Plantation, we traveled back in time to visit the historic sugar cane plantation, and, hear the stories of its past residents and take a peek at this important time in American history, all while enjoying a Mint Julep!
Wednesday evening, we had our own Army Proud Celebration at our hotel. Everyone was dressed in Army green or PVO apparel. We proudly saluted and applauded each and every one of our attending veterans as they entered the ballroom.
Thursday…We traveled by motor coach through three centuries of history, legends, and romance. We absorbed the sights and sounds of the world famous French Quarter, historic Jackson Square, and marveled at stories of voodoo and piracy. We saw the homes of former kings and queens of Mardi Gras, and the world famous Garden district. We had a very informative stop at St. Louis Cemetery. We enjoyed a delicious luncheon at the world famous Mother's restaurant After lunch we stopped at Blaine Kern's Mardi Gras World to see how Mardi Gras magic is created. We got to see the flamboyant floats and costumes used during Mardi Gras and even sampled a piece of King Cake.
Thursday evening we boarded the historic Steamboat Paddlewheeler Natchez for a dinner jazz cruise on the mighty Mississippi. A quick and strong thunderstorm hindered our plans for a carriage ride after our cruise.
On Friday, we visited the WWII National Museum. We started the day at the museum, with a very moving and emotional memorial service and wreath laying. We had a box lunch at the museum and will viewed the ultimate movie "Beyond All Boundaries" This was our day that will live in infamy. This is the day that our veterans came face to face with their legacy and realized how they have changed the world with their unselfish love of this great country.
Friday evening we had our own Mardi Gras Party at our hotel. We also took part in a " PVO Second Line" parade with the help of New Orleans' own Mark LaMaire, grandson of Don Katt, a dedicated PVO member and reunion attendee. We were graced and entertained by the multi-talented Lena Prima. Lena and her fantastic band truly brought the house down. Within minutes of her performance everyone was on their feet, dancing and swinging to her music. She brought the veterans and their wives back to time long forgotten. For this, the PVO will always owe Lena Prima and her band a debt of gratitude.
During the business meeting Saturday, an election of additional officers were elected to the board of directors and a decision was made to hold a reunion in 2015 in Charleston, S.C. After the morning meeting everyone did their own thing. Some did their carriage ride, while others tried their luck at the Casino, visited the aquarium, shopped Royal Street, sampled Bourbon Street, or simply enjoyed beignets & cafe au lait at Cafe DuMonde.
Saturday evening we returned to the WWII National Museum for a fantastic dinner/show. The show was the Rat Pack featuring Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra & Sammy Davis Jr. The actors were amazing at portraying these men. While the seniors reminisced, the younger generations were just getting acquainted with the Rat Pack. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the show…young and old.
After the show we returned to our hospitality room for our farewell dessert party. We discussed our plans for Charleston 2015 and hoped and prayed that all will be there next year.
We hope you have enjoyed reading all about our past reunions and look forward to seeing you in Charleston in 2015. Please check the news section of our website for information and how to join us in 2015. We promise that you had a wonderful time spent with your new founded PVO family.
Quote of the reunion: "Didn't know George Lavoie was a pool shark" - Ryan Roettgers
The first moment we see each other, we run to share hugs, the tears flow freely and then the smiles all emerge. It’s a magical moment that you simply can’t explain; a sentiment that is shared by all. Our quality time spent with each other is short therefore we hold dearly all of the joy and happiness shared during the reunion and at week’s end, they become our treasured memories.
The DoubleTree suited us perfectly…not too small and not overwhelmingly large. We were graciously greeted with our hotel room key cards that had our panther logo and the words 66th Infantry Division imprinted on them. We were told to keep the key cards as a souvenir from the DoubleTree. I punched a hole in mine and made one a key chain and the other a luggage tag. I have a few extra if anyone wishes to have one. The food served at the hotel, I think was probably the best we have had in a very long time. The three entrée choice per each evening meal was appreciated by all. My favorite was, of course, the Italian buffet we enjoyed on Tuesday evening. Dina, our bartender, was an absolute joy. She even dressed up for our Saturday night Charleston 1920’s party! Dina said that being a part of this reunion was something that she will always hold close to her heart…she was honored to be with us.
I heard some complaints that the rooms were not made up until late in the day. Since it was a smaller facility, most of the housekeeping staff didn’t arrive for work until after the checkout time. I understood that. But, I also heard one complaint that the rooms were not visited daily by the housekeeping staff. Please, let me know immediately when this occurs as I would have corrected this with one conversation to Jon. Don’t wait until the reunion is over to say anything. This I can easily fix. One problem that I ran into is that the final bills were not printed and presented to us before check out. We had to wait at check out for the bills which when everyone is leaving at the same time was frustrating.
On the upside, the DoubleTree was most accommodating by providing brand new non slip shower mats for the seniors. They sent a staff member over to Walmart to purchase them for us. Daddy brought his home and uses it daily. The pool area was used daily and heavily as it was HOT in Charleston. We all enjoyed making “s’more PVO memories” over the patio fire pit. I personally enjoyed the quiet time spent with Marcie at the fire pit. We met some wonderful young ladies who had no knowledge of a smore nor ever tasted one. It was a great night.
We thoroughly enjoyed the company of Marc & Luc Breuer, who traveled from France to be with us. They were a delight! We really got to know the “boys” and deeply appreciated their desire to keep our history alive. They arrived on Sunday and spent the best part of the reunion with us. We had the pleasure of watching their video presentation about wartime Lorient and San Nazaire and the 66th infantry division involvement. They thoroughly enjoyed their day at the VFW with us. They couldn’t wait to swim in “our” Atlantic, as “their” Atlantic is much too cold for swimming.
Throughout the week, we enjoyed a star filled evening Schooner sail, a picture perfect day at the Folly Beach VFW, ate the best BBQ lunch, had a not so fun day at Magnolia Plantation, ( suffice to say a docent there was not senior nor child friendly), had a great dinner cruise and spent a HOT day at Patriot’s Point. Charleston had record breaking high temperatures during our week there.
Our evening activities included a movie night as each walked the red carpet and posed with their “Oscar”, a 1920’s Speakeasy party, and a memorable and heart felt performance by the Charleston Plantation Singers. This group managed to entertain all four generations and keep us in the palms of their hands. They completely mesmerized us with their talent, enthusiasm, generosity and love. We were blessed to have them with us.
At the business meeting, board member Arianna Staruch read the proclamation issued by the state of South Carolina welcoming the PVO to Charleston and Jerry Roettgers, grandson of Secretary Jerry Roettgers, read his own written poem honoring the veterans of the 66th. There was not a dry eye in the room after his reading. Alison Gibbens, a DAR, honored the veterans of the 66th, when she presented certificates of gratitude issued by the Daughters of the American Revolution. We are so very fortunate to have the younger generations taking such an active role in the PVO. I like to think we are not only keeping General Kramer’s wishes for the PVO alive, but we are also taking his hopes and dreams into the future. We must never forget the sacrifices that were made in the name of freedom.
A decision was made at the business meeting to continue the reunions and to hold another one in 2016. The major contenders for a host city were Buffalo, NY & Branson, MO, with Las Vegas, NV and Louisville, KY coming in as third and fourth choice. As the reunion week came to end, all were grateful that “we got to do another one.” It’s so extremely hard to say good bye not knowing for certain that we will ever see each other again. As Betty Poorman always said, “God willing and the creek don’t rise”. We will be” shuffling off to Buffalo” in 2016!!!
Things learned during Charleston reunion:
Little George Lavoie is a pool shark
The French do wear speedo swimwear
A Pina Colada is no Hurricane but can do similar damage
How fast Sheryll Gibbens could post a review on Trip Advisor
The NASH express never ran on time.
My hot is nothing compared to Charleston HOT
The Reagan kids are growing up way too fast
Dennis, our driver, can do a three point turn anywhere
The “Mona Lisa” photos are priceless
Never use a freight elevator
How lucky and grateful I am to have such good friends and a loving PVO family