Monday morning, we left for the USO at 8:45 am. Joyce Schellhorn (Director) opened. The business of the day was preparing the meal for the “no dough” dinner tonight. Pam went into the kitchen to check on the chicken that was cooked on Friday and it looked and tasted good. She began shredding the meat and others arrived and helped. Dave Ostrum went shopping for the odds and ends to make Nacho’s and Margaret and Mike arrived as did Julie Davis and the mother-daughter team, so we had a lot of help in the kitchen cooking hamburger and cutting veggies. I spent the morning preparing the main room—set up the chairs, washed tables, brought out the “sneeze guards” for the salad and dessert tables, set up the drink table and put out the utensil and napkins dispensers. Later in the morning I brought out desserts and let them defrost. By noon most of the heavy lifting was done and we paused for lunch. Pam and I went out and enjoyed getting away for a little while. In the afternoon the kitchen staff finished up the small stuff and I worked in the storage room cleaning and moving Christmas bins into the attic. By 4:00 pm volunteers began arriving to help with dinner and the primary sponsor was the Rotary Club of San Jose. By 5:00 pm there was plenty of help and Patrons began arriving and dinner began. Pam and I manned a table by the foyer and passed out Subway cards with $6.00 on them and also bags of caramels. The dinner was a big hit, and everyone seemed to enjoy the food. The kitchen kept up with the rush and we ended up the night with just over 200 served. For us the highlight of the night was the arrival of the Head family, Tony, Nickki and their two boys Caleb and Matty. They visited with us and the boys gave hugs. Following them came the Lagae family, Sam & Jerald with Eleanor, Fiona and Clive and we had another nice visit and more hugs, and finally, Stephanie and Lance Jarvis came, and it was good to see them also. So, it was a bonus night for us. All 3 families visited with each other and that is what we would have hoped for. Pam and I stayed for cleanup—Pam in the kitchen and I helped in the main room and by 8:00 pm everything was done with some good work by several volunteers and of course James McCullough. We drove back to our apartment and our bed looked wonderful.
Tuesday morning, we started at the USO at 9:00 am. Joyce Schellhorn (Director) had opened and stayed for 2 hours and then left to take care of some personal items. Pam spent the morning in the kitchen cleaning and putting things away and I worked with two volunteers, Chelsey and Ann, loading boxes of items to be shipped to USO’s in the middle east. We filled them with hygiene kits, soap, lotions, dental and hair items, etc. We got a lot done and Joyce now had 60 boxes to mail. Dave arrived about 11:00 am but stayed in the office most of the time covering the phones and checking in patrons. The plumbers were back this morning for about an hour checking on many issues—leaks, toilets and showers that didn’t work, etc. Who knew when the bathroom renovation would be over? A safety inspection was held yesterday and now there were several significant issues with electricity that had to be resolved. Pam and I left about 3:00 pm and drove to the Dutton Reserve on Neptune Beach to look at the marshes and it was quite beautiful. There were several places around Neptune Beach where you could walk right out into the marshes on long wooden walkways. We then drove to the chapel and took a nap in the parking lot waiting for an hour to pass before picking up the sisters for dinner. At 5:00 pm we drove to their apartment and picked up Sister Davis and Dreiling (Sister Dreiling was on exchange’s and Sister Paulsen was with Sister Abril in Arlington). We settled on Bono’s for dinner and it was very good, and we enjoyed being with the sisters and sharing an hour. They were very devoted and hard-working sisters and we felt their spirit and enjoyed their message.
Wednesday morning, we departed for the USO at 8:30 am and opened the facility. Within 20 minutes Carmel and Jim (volunteers) arrived. They were snowbirds from New England and it was nice to see them, and they took over the office duties. Ann, one of the community service girls from yesterday came and I put her to work cleaning windows. Joyce called at 10:00 am and we asked about labeling the boxes she is shipping to the Middle East and then Ann helped me put on the address labels and customs forms. We set up in the children’s room and, Carmel joined us and then Chelsey, also from yesterday, came and so the four of us knocked out the project fairly quickly. Dave Ostrum also arrived mid-morning and we talked about the “No Dough” storage room. The main shelfing system had to be moved as it was too close to a circuit breaker box. Last evening, the shelves were emptied and all the boxes from the room moved out and the shelf system moved. A second smaller shelf system was discarded and what surprised me was Dave said they were not going to replace it and he intended to stack boxes and items on the floor. So, with that bit of knowledge I didn’t do anything in that room. At noon we were finished and left for the day. We had some lunch and then returned to our apartment and set up the guest bathroom for Janet to use. We drove to JIA at 5:00 pm and Janet’s plane arrived on time and it was wonderful to see her coming down the escalator. Pam and I welcomed her to Jacksonville. We returned to Arlington Hills and stopped at Crispers for something to eat and enjoyed a meal and visiting. She brought us up to date on happenings in Monroe and changes in our ward. It was amazing how that little town could change in such a short period of time. Finally, we arrived at our apartment and got Janet situated in the guest room and then settled in the living room and visited until about 9:30 pm when I called it a night. Pam and Janet continued for another hour.
Thursday morning, we were up early and on our way to the Hendricks Stake Center by 7:45 am for Zone Conference. We introduced Janet to President & Sister Lee and they were very gracious and welcomed her to the conference. After the missionaries assembled in the chapel, we spent the morning receiving wonderful instruction from both President & Sister Lee and the assistants to the President, Elder’s Vaughn and Boehme. President Lee concluded the morning instruction with information about the incorporation of parts of the Macon Georgia and Tallahassee Florida missions into the Jacksonville mission in June/July of this year. That would almost double the mission in size and included approximately 75 new missionaries. Also, during the morning, President Lee welcomed Janet, had her stand and introduce herself, invited her to bear her testimony. At lunch she joined the new missionaries and food preparers while missionaries sang “Called to Serve.” She was overwhelmed by their generosity and said, “this may be the highlight of my trip.” Following lunch, we left the conference and returned to our apartment and changed clothes and went for a drive. We crossed the Dames’ Pt Bridge and took Heckscher road towards the Kingsley Plantation. Unfortunately, it was closed due to the Government shutdown. We did drive around St. George Island and showed her the beautiful trees, marshes, etc. We returned to the Ferry Landing and crossed the St. John River to Mayport. On the base we walked on the beach and saw dolphins out in the water. We toured the base and showed Janet various ships tied up at the piers. While doing that Pam received a text from Samantha Lagae asking how the visit was going and when she learned we were on the base asked if we wanted to tour Jerald’s ship today instead of tomorrow? We said “yes” and drove to their home and Janet met Jerald and Sam and the children. At 6:00 pm we drove to the boat basin and toured LCS-5 “USS Milwaukee.” It was a very interesting ship and quickly reminded me of wandering the halls of the Constellation with all the turns and passageways and endless wires and pipes protruding everywhere. A Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) was a fast, surface combatant, optimized for operating in water close to shorelines countering diesel submarine, mines and surface threats, such as small surface craft attacks. When done we thanked Jerald for the tour and returned to our apartment. Pam and Janet “face timed” with Kari Lovell in Monroe, and they had a grand time together. Good Day!
Friday morning, we drove to the base and visited with Samantha Lagae for a while and then had some lunch and returned to the apartment and visited for a few hours, talking about families in the Monroe 3rd ward we didn’t know—so many changes! At 6:00 pm we drove to the Jacksonville Beach Ward chapel for a “Baby Reveal” for Stephanie and Lance Jarvis. This was a first for us, but they gathered their good friends and family around them and it was nice. Several Navy friends from the “USS Philippine Sea” were there and we knew them all from the USO. We had a dinner first and then the “reveal” happened. Stephanie and Lance each were given bottles that had switches on the bottom and when they turned the switch colored material shot out like champagne; either pink or blue. It was Blue, a Boy! They were very happy.
Saturday morning, Pam received a call from President Lee inviting us to join them and Elder Whitehead on a tour of Jacksonville Beach. It sounded like fun. We drove to the location of “Go-Tuk’n” and they had a fleet of extended golf carts which held 6 people and were battery powered. The tour guide first took us to the Beaches Museum, on Beach Blvd and we spent over an hour going through the various buildings of the museum and enjoying the narration of a very enthusiastic tour guide from the museum. The main building housed a collection of artifacts from Jacksonville Beach from its earliest beginnings and then we crossed a street and toured historic buildings which had served as post office, a display building housing a full-scale locomotive which ran on the tracks up and down the east coast of Florida from Miami to Mayport; part of Henry Flagler’s empire in Florida. We also went through a train station that had been moved from Mayport, a typical station masters house fully furnished with period items, and finally the original Beaches Church which had been moved from its original location but was used for weddings, special occasions and concerts. After that tour, we drove all over Jacksonville, Atlantic and Neptune beach communities along 1st and 2nd Streets looking at properties, the beach, restaurants and made one stop at the historic Casa Marina Hotel. The weather was perfect, and the entire tour took 3 hours. We ended our day with President & Sister Lee inviting us to join them for lunch at Joe’s Crab Shack, right on the beach. The food was excellent, and we enjoyed visiting with them and Elder Whitehead. We said our goodbyes and drove back to our apartment, and Pam and Janet settled down in the living room to visit and pretty much remained that way until 10:30 pm.
Sunday morning, we left for church at 9:30 am and visited with the saints and welcomed our families as they arrived. Nikki Head was there with her boys and we weren’t expecting her as Tony left for Norfolk this morning. Jenny Black was there with Olivia and Shay Tuttle came with her baby. Chris was underway again. The Lagae’s arrived right after the opening song and it was nice to see them. Tyler Gneck was there but we missed Alexis Connelly and will have to call her. Gary Noblit was in Bahrain and Devaney and her boys were still in Idaho, and the Jarvis’ were there as usual. Sacrament meeting was excellent, and we had two good talks. Priesthood meeting and Relief Society were next, and then the block was over. We visited for a while and returned to our home for the afternoon. Pam fixed some dinner and we ate and visited. Later, Pam and Janet sat in the living room and I went into the bedroom and began calling all the households we haven’t had any contact with and actually talked with a few people and learned that 4 families had left the service or transferred to new duty stations and were doing well. Had two other responses from families that were in the local area and would welcome a visit. The rest of my calls either didn’t connect or I was able to leave messages again. Anyway, it was one of the most productive days we’ve had making phone calls and that was encouraging. In the evening Pam and Janet were still going strong and I watched Elder & Sister Renlund’s Worldwide Broadcast to YSA’s from the Cannon Center at BYU-H and it was very good and counseled the YSA’s about “Faith and Doubt.”