December 2011 Newsletter

The US Navy has steamed into South Bend

Well here it is, summer is over with and for us in Indiana winter is approaching.  I hope that this newsletter is finding everyone well and getting ready to attend next year’s reunion here in South Bend, IN.  Now is the time to get your room reservations in at the Magnuson Grand Hotel formally the Ramada Plaza, same place just a new name.  The number to call is 1-574-232-3941.  As I stated earlier and on our web site please telephone your reservation in so the hotel can apply your room to the ones that have been blocked out for this reunion.  The cost per room is $99.95 per night plus appropriate taxes.  If you desire a special needs room, please request it at the time you are making your reservation.  If you have a service animal, please also mention this at the time you are making your reservation.  There will be a free continental breakfast on Thursday and Friday morning along with a free buffet breakfast on Saturday and Sunday.

The reunion reservation form does not include your hotel reservation so be sure to register with the hotel as described above.   Here is a .    Once you complete the on-line reservation form please do not forget to mail your fee payment to Jim Kulp.  Want to know who else has registered so far? 

On Friday morning we will depart the hotel by bus and travel a very short distance to Howard Park for our Memorial Service along the St. Joseph River.   At our Memorial Service the Mishawaka VFW will supply a color guard.   Please hold any questions about any deceased shipmates until our business meeting, the Memorial Service needs to be a very special time of honoring our past shipmates and we request that there be no distractions.    After laying of the wreath and a prayer we will depart for Shipshewana, IN.  This will only be about a 45 minute bus ride, we will stop at Jayco Recreational Vehicles for a plant tour and everyone will have an opportunity to see how these vehicles are produced.  I believe that this will be a very informative tour.  At Jayco we will break up into three groups for the tour, this should take just over an hour or so.  You may want to view their web site at  After the tour we will board the buses again for a twenty minute ride to downtown Shipshewana to have lunch, do some shopping, and site seeing.  I highly recommend the Blue Gate restaurant, a fine place to eat, the family style meal is the best way to go.  There are other places to eat, or to just grab a snack.  In your registration packets there will be a booklet with a map showing all the shops and places to eat in Shipshewana.  Also, just a few blocks down the street is the Hudson car museum, it is very interesting.  We will be in Shipshewana for several hours then depart back to South Bend.  The cost for this trip will be just $20.00 per person.

On Friday evening you will be on your own for your evening meal.  There are plenty of good places to eat within a short distance of the hotel.  Perhaps you'd like to visit Trio’s, a jazz club and restaurant just two blocks away, for a very delightful evening of music and good food.  There is the Studebaker Mansion / Tippecanoe Place which has very elegant dining.  There is also the LaSalle Grill which offers excellent food and dining, it is a bit pricey, but a great place to eat. The LaSalle is located just two blocks from the hotel.  There are two really good restaurants at the hotel also.  Plus, there are several excellent places downtown within a two block walking distance.

If you drive to the reunion and notice a place you would like to eat at it should be listed in the South Bend Visitors Guide.   The South Bend Visitors Guide will be in your packet.

You will be on your own on Thursday with many places to visit downtown especially the NCAA Football Hall of Fame (admission charge $10.00 each) and the Art Museum.  Both only two blocks from the hotel.  If you feel up to walking, the Natural History and Studebaker Automobile Museum (admission charge $6.50 each) are only four to five blocks away.  On Saturday I will make arrangements for a shuttle bus to transport those who wish to visit the Museums and the Potawatomi Zoo (admission charge $6.00 each).  If you should need transportation to these venues there is a space on the registration for you to sign up.  I have made arrangements with these places for you to receive discounts as long as you are wearing your name badge.

As a reminder, please bring the lanyards that you received at one of the last reunions if you still have them.  This will save us funds, as I only have a limited number for first time attendees who will not have one to bring.

For those interested I will be making arrangement for a tour of the Notre Dame University campus.  Adjacent to the campus you will find a complex called The Eddy Street Commons.  Within this complex you will find several places to have your lunch.  They are Brothers Bar and Grill, Hot Box Pizza, Five Guys, The Mark and McAlisters Deli.  I will have made arrangements for the shuttle bus to pick you up there when you are finished. 

Business Meeting

Our business meeting will be Saturday after breakfast.  After the meeting we will meet at the NCAA Hall Of Fame for the ship’s crew picture.  This is an all hands detail.  After this you will be on your own.


The evening banquet will be at the hotel on the same floor and adjacent to the hospitality room.  Our banquet meal will be buffet style with a fresh green salad, stuffed pork loin-roulade of choice loin w/apples and cinnamon, broiled red snapper, served with cilantro lime butter, roasted oven mashed potatoes, fresh vegetable medley and assorted cheesecakes and coffee, iced tea and decaf. 

There will be a cash bar starting two hours before and one hour after our hospitality room will be secured. 

Most shipmates will wear suits and ties but this is not a requirement.  Those who can still fit in their uniform are encouraged to do so. Others may want to wear their JWT shirt which will be just fine, but please, no ball caps.

Directions to South Bend

The city of South Bend IN is located just off Interstate 80/90 which runs east and west across the state of Indiana.  We are just over two hours from Chicago and are about five hours away from the Ohio/PA line.  South Bend is about three hours north of Indianapolis and lies almost in the middle of the upper most northern part of the state.  The city lies just four hours from the Mississippi River and just three hours from Detroit. If you are flying in, arrangements are easy through Chicago, Atlanta, Cincinnati and Detroit airports. 

If arrangements are difficult and connections from Chicago to South Bend seem too expensive I would propose you check into using Coach USA from Chicago to South Bend.  This will be a three hour bus ride and the cost is around $69.00 round trip.  The bus will stop at the South Bend Regional airport.  Once you arrive to the South Bend airport there is a phone you can use, which is by the baggage return, to call the hotel for a free shuttle to the hotel. 

The address for the hotel is 213 W. Washington St. South Bend, IN 46601. There is a parking garage at the hotel and the charge is $5.00 per day. The hospitality room will be on the sixth floor.  The registration table, ships store, bar and plenty of space to just sit and enjoy the company will all be included in this room. 

I have one couple who have graciously agreed to help me with registration but I could use two more volunteering couples.  I will also be needing volunteers to tend the bar, sell raffle and 50/50 tickets plus two bus captains.  My email is available from our web site if you would care to contact me. 

Attention on Deck

If you have never attended one of our reunions I would like to encourage you to attend the one in South Bend.  What a great time you will have talking with those you served with and renewing old friendships.  Remember we all have something in common in that we all served on the same ship.  It does not matter when you served or where or what rate or rank you had, all are welcome.  I have attended six reunions and barring any health issues I do not plan on missing another one.  I have enjoyed them all.

Ships Store

Here is a link to our There is a nice selection of items to choose from and at the reunions our shipmates are proud to wear the shirts and ball caps that display our ships name and number.  If you wish, items ordered can be picked up at the reunion.  For those attending the reunion please bring your JWT shirts to wear, especially when we have our ship’s crew picture taken.
Raffle and Silent Auction

This is a big reminder to bring an item that may be specific to your area for the raffle.  The monies collected help defray some of the cost that it takes to run the Association and reunions.  The officers do not receive any compensation and all positions are voluntary.  We do have expenses such as mailings and some other minor expenses for our reunions, these funds help to offset these costs.  So bring items with you for this fund raiser.  Also if you have an item that you would like to donate to the silent auction please bring it and designate that item for the auction.  In the years past we have had several great items that have been purchased and these monies help with the Association expenses too.

A note from the webmaster

In an effort to help the association secretary keep the shipmate roster up to date I have created a list of all shipmates that we have e-mail addresses for.  About two weeks after this newsletter is mailed, I will be sending an e-mail with the subject line “Shipmate Record Check”.  The e-mail will show the info we currently have along with a link where you can edit your info. 

If you are not receiving our newsletters by e-mail you can use the same link mentioned above to change to the e-mail newsletter.  We encourage you to do this because e-mailing the newsletter saves us time and money.

Obviously those without an e-mail address will not be receiving the “Shipmate Record Check”.  If you have e-mail but do not receive the check message please contact Bill Busching at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

I am planning to begin sending the check message out twice a year to help us keep in contact.

Bob Soukup, Webmaster

South Bend Weather

The temperature in July around South Bend is normally around 80 degrees.  As anywhere we may encounter some rain but that is a chance we take.  The humidity may be around 60% but not too bad.  So in saying this I suggest you bring clothing for summer conditions. 


Ahoy there shipmates.  Now hear this!  I recently received an e-mail from Elizabeth Larson who is the editor of the Lake County News in Lakeport, CA.  She saw our web site and wanted to report that one of our shipmates, Griff Ratterree, had received an award as Veteran of the Year at the annual Lake County Veteran’s Day ceremony held at Konocti Vista Casino in Lakeport, CA.


I spoke with Griff on the telephone to offer congratulations from all his former shipmates from the JWT.  He was very excited to hear from the Association.  He said “I didn’t even know that USS John W. Thomason Association existed” but I am glad to know all you guys are joined together and I want to stay in touch so I can be a part.  Griff was a Fire Control Seaman when he served on board back in 1953 – 1955.

82 years young, Griff stays very active in community activities.  He is a past commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2015 in Lakeport and is an active member of the United Veterans Council’s Military Funeral Honors team.  The Military Funeral Honors Team has given honors at the funerals of over 800 veterans.  He also helps with Operation Tango Mike which sends care packages to military men overseas.

Upon receiving his award from the United Veterans Council President as Veteran of the Year, Griff said “this is the first time in my life I have ever been speechless.”  Griff also said, “I feel it’s an honor to be a vet in this great nation.”

I think it would be great if all of Griff’s shipmates would drop him a short letter to let him know how proud of him we are and to welcome him to the USS John W. Thomason Association.  I am certain that he would especially love to hear from those of you who served on board with him and remember him.

He doesn’t have a computer yet, but he says he is getting one soon.  In the meantime you can write to him at his home.

Griff Ratterree
P.O. Box 5223
Clearlake, CA 95422

To all my shipmates,
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
Bill Busching

A Few Words From The Association President

I would like to take this time to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New year.  I would wish that we all would continue in good health.  This Association has truly been blessed with many great shipmates and families.  I am sure that the year 2012 will have many challenges but as you know members of the John W. Thomason can overcome any challenge.  A special thanks to our good Lord who has kept us safe.

Howard Barrett
USS John W. Thomason Association