So -- Here is a summary of a superb year.
In January, Holly (Vandenberg) and Alex repeated nuptials with the "planned" wedding to cap off the wedding a year earlier (in February) that met severe restrictions over a pandemic. It was a small family affair. It set them on a path but to share the joy -- the "public" wedding for a grand celebration of friends and family took place. The photos are a fine memory. Perhaps I will add a link here to a selection. It certainly gave hope for a grand future in the world given all the superb young people in attendance who were and continue to be examples of the best of America.
Karen and Vic made three trips to Houston Texas this year. Our brother-in-law, John Platt passed away. We celebrated Toni's birthday. There was a service of remembrance for a truly exceptional man. Two other trips to Houston in the course of the year helped Karen's sister to organize for her life to come. On the third trip in September, we attached a Houston Annual Meeting of the Destroyer Veterans Association (Tin Can Sailors) to celebrate with Vic's shipmates and families from the USS O'Callahan. These are always fun events. Shipmates are forever bringing up sea stories that require the refreshment of memory. The added benefits of catching up with families and friends from a military experience and beyond .
In APRIL, we also were honored to have our wonderful New Jersey friends (some are expatriates of NJ now as well) Join us in Milton for some refreshed memories and expanding some more. With our Gulf Coast as a backdrop the outings were easy. Beaches and FOOD and Naval Air Museum and FOOD! To survive in NJ, people like us NEEDED the support of natives who spoke the language. They saved our lives on many occasions. AND their sons are lifelong friends of Alex. The sons were here for the wedding in January. They are the kind of people you always hope your life can be infused with.
Some of us have taken to sharing IRISH BLESSINGS with people we meet. Our ship was named for an Irish Catholic Chaplain who was a hero in WWII with the USS Franklin (google) . In the course of honoring our ship's namesake, Fr. Joseph O'Callahan, we became close to the families of USS Franklin too. Sometimes we are able to join at their ship's reunions.
One of our trips involved a visit to dear cousins (mom's Carswell side) - some with life changing events underway. We were able to visit in Chipley (Gainer, Boswell), Panama City (Howell), Jacksonville (Bhide) and in Orlando and Melbourne, FL (Starling) . Our nephew's family (Kevin and Angie) in Orlando gave us much enjoyment for a dinner out with the kids. While in Orlando we were able to participate with more NJ lifesavers - Charlie and Helen Yacomeni who held a 50th wedding anniversary. It turns out, some of our favorite cousins are feeling the march of time as much as we are. We are missing some of them already. Rest in Peace, Carol (the last visit was purposeful with her dad's archives finding a safe home forever (E.W.Carswell collection at UWF Archives). Me missed the passing of our dear cousin Kitty Starling but were happy to share some memories with Warren. Kittye was only a few years younger than mom - and was her companion niece while mom lived with her sister, Vera to work in Jacksonville in the war years.
Karen and Vic both had Covid in October. Fortunately the strain was not awful but mainly miserable.
My sister and bro-in law , Wanda and John Roberts built a multi room cabin in a Christian retreat at Indian Springs, Georgia. (they have 16 grandkids and by tradition, enjoy this church camp experience every year - sometimes several times. We went there in NOV with her and our other cousins from the Campbell side in the fall. It was a refreshing experience to be with dear cousins and siblings to explore the historic area and sample the Georgia BBQ. We do love our cousins.
In December, a few days before Christmas, my brother, Jim, remarried. His bride is Jane (Salter) Campbell. They were both single and somehow, Jim eased her past his penchant for talking about all the history of the area, to settle down and enjoy being together. We are all loving Jane. She has much family in the area as does Jim. Both are at home in the circles of the other.
Actually, my blind friend, Roy Allen also got married this year, in November. This is also a case of two older single people finding a mutual attraction. Sandra is great with Roy and provides a "HOME", where before, he struggled weekly to maintain cooking and laundry. The house now sparkles with aroma of good cooking and bright home arrangement. (blind people don't require a lot of bright spaces because ... well ... they are blind anyway. The whole atmosphere and attitude for Roy is improved and frankly, the same for Sandra. The love is real.
Back in March, Karen and Vic went up to Carrollton, GA to visit some long lost relatives. Vicky Gatewood and Terry and Gloria Gatewood were retrieved to the family radar and we had a tremendously rewarding experience from the family reconnection. Life has many pathways. A recovered path can be a grand life experience.
Through all this year I have had the fantastic opportunity to visit the VA Clinic with some of my veteran buddies - sometimes for me and often for them. We had CRUDD meetings almost every Saturday. Coffee and regular guys - all of whom have some unique and fascinating part of themselves that is expressed in lively conversation. One of our CRUDDS is 91. Dick Miller is a story unto himself with many stories in my FB pages that expand on his life. He is a Korean War Marine who survived in the same unit with my cousin, Rogene Kilpatrick (deceased) at the "Frozen Chosin". Yet for all his love of Marines, he never got to go to a Marine Corps Birthday Ball. We tuxedoed him up and with Alex's Marine buddies we ferried him and his granddaughter to the ball in Mobile. Photo ops abounded and memories were made. (CRUDDS - Chumuckla Reprobates Utopian Debate and Discussion Society -- see Chumuckla.com)