Monday, June 25, 2018

Week 20

We began our week at the USO, opening the facility for Joyce Schellhorn. Pam manned the phones while I took out the trash. After we got settled I went back to the new store room by the children’s room and began assessing how to organize the “stuff.” When Joyce arrived 2 hours later we discussed the store room and she was okay with what we were doing. She outlined a few other projects that needed our attention and we left about noon. We were taking Shay Tuttle to dinner in the evening, so drove around Atlantic Beach and picked a restaurant that would be close for her. She worked as an Office Manager at a Hearing Aide firm out on the Beach. We returned to our apartment and got a bite to eat and at 4:30 pm changed into missionary clothes and returned to Atlantic Beach and met Shay at the chapel. She followed us to Panera’s and for the next hour we had a wonder dinner and enjoyed getting to know her better. Her husband, Chris, is on deployment on the USS The Sullivans and will be gone until December. Shay is expecting a baby in December and they are excited. They are both from Arizona and met in high school and dated in college. We talked about the Temple and plan to take Shay with us from time to time. She enjoyed the evening as did we.

Tuesday morning, we had a good morning studying and preparing for the week. We texted appointments for all the companionships in the Zone for apartment inspections and I got another dental appointment made. We left our apartment shortly after noon and drove to Stephanie Jarvis’ home and Pam got to see the cute little “Fox” she and Stephanie made last month. It was finished and stuffed, and Stephanie was mailing it to her niece. From their home we took a long drive to the Dentist office in Mandarin where I had a 3:00 pm appointment with Dr. Patch. I spent about an hour and a half in his chair while he restored two teeth. You would think at my age they would stop decaying, but they don’t! When we exited the dental office, it was pouring down rain again. Pam and I ran to our car and slowly headed out. The water came in torrents and you could hardly see the lanes on the road. We slowly made our way to I-295 and headed north. After 20 minutes we passed out of the storm area and returned to the Beach and met Samantha LaGae and her children at a local Chic Fil-A. Jerald (husband) is at sea for about a month. They liked the restaurant because it had a play area for the kids. We ordered food and enjoyed an hour with Samantha and Clive. The girls went into the play area and we hardly saw them again. My mouth was gradually coming out of the freeze and I was able to eat, and drink and it tasted good.

Wednesday, we opened the USO again and Joyce Schellhorn left us a note with a few jobs to do and we got busy working on them. We had a community service worker (Traffic violation) come in and she did a pretty good job with various assignments. I checked all the channel selections on the Xfinity box in the lounge and Pam began working on the toys in the children’s room (what to keep, throw away, or place on the free table). Joyce arrived about 11:00 am and Cheryl Vandiver shortly thereafter with a truck load of food and other commodities from Beam’s which is a local organization founded in 1985 by representatives of local churches who received appeals for emergency financial assistance. The Beaches Emergency Assistance Ministry, or BEAM, was created to provide help in a coordinated way to prevent duplication of services. We ended up with a table load of bread and pastries and several large boxes of diapers. We sorted diapers and ensured with had two bags of each size in the storage room and then we put the rest on the free table. I also loaded about 40 boxes of sundry items being mailed to a USO in the Middle East into Joyce’s SUV. We arrived home between rainstorms. Later in the afternoon I got a haircut from an interesting lady. She was very invested in Prison Ministries with her church and planned to travel to Zimbabwe to help in the female prisons in that country. She knew about our church and gave me several complements on the missionary efforts of young Elders. I came home in a driving rainstorm, so the van certainly gets washed every day.

We looked forward to Thursday as we were going to the Temple with the young Elders and Sisters. We picked up 5 Elder’s at the Fort Caroline chapel at 7:00 am and headed off to Orlando. These 5 Elders were from the Kingsland Zone, which is in Georgia. 3 of the Elders were going home next transfer and 2 were at their halfway point. The drive south was routine until we arrived in Orlando and freeway construction was intense. I missed a turnoff for the Tollway and we ended up taking a longer way to the Temple from the opposite side of the city than our normal route. But we made it and joined a large group of missionaries and senior couples in front of the Temple for pictures and greetings. We entered the Temple at 10:30 am, changed and proceeded to the chapel to await our session. The ordinance room was full, as we had at least 50 in attendance. We enjoyed the session and being in the Temple again and did some names Johanna sent via email. The entire group met in a sealing room following the session and President Lee and his wife counseled with us. President Lee invited me to give some thoughts on the importance of the Temple in our lives and that was nice. Upon exiting the Temple, it was raining lightly so I brought our van to the front entrance and picked up Pam and our Elder’s and then the entire group proceeded to Café Rio on the north side of Orlando. The Elder’s and Sister’s enjoyed the food and visited and shared stories. The drive home was mostly in rain but not too bad. It was also quiet for over an hour as I was the only one awake. We dropped the Elder’s off at the chapel and wished them well and returned to our apartment.

Friday morning, we left our apartment at 8:30 am to perform apartment inspections with the companionships in the Jacksonville East Zone. We started out in the Jacksonville Beach area and began with Elder Roy & Plumb’s apartment. Elder Plumb is from Roxborough Park and knows our families in Denver. He’s a great Elder. It was nice to see them and the cleanliness of their apartment. We continued to Elder Lamb & Hibbert’s apartment, followed by Sisters Knudsen & Gillins, then Sister’s Redford & Ferguson and Elders Carter & Brooksby. All apartments looked good with minor issues of light bulbs and trash. We then went across the St. John’s river to Dunn Avenue and saw Elders Vaughn & Aiken followed by Sisters Roderick & Newman. Again, all the apartments looked good and the only common thread was the amount of “stuff” each companionship accumulated from transfer to transfer. In the afternoon Pam prepared food and I picked up Elder Roy and Plumb and brought them home for dinner. Elder Roy departs for home in two weeks and we will miss him. He has touched our hearts due to his sweet spirit, enthusiasm for the work and love of the people. Following dinner, we visited and had a short message and then drove them back to their area.

Saturday, we cleaned up the apartment and did laundry. We took some potatoes to another military family nearby, the Alexander’s, and did some shopping and preparation for tomorrow.

Sunday morning came bright and clear, but hot!!! It is now in the mid-90’s but with the high humidity, the “heat index” is consistently well over 100 degrees. When it doesn’t rain we cook. Thank goodness for air conditioning. We drove to the Naval Station and picked up Alexis and continued to the chapel. We saved some extra space for Samantha and her kids, who arrived right after the opening prayer and joined us. The kids were pretty good with only a couple of trips to the foyer and bathroom. During Sunday school they went to their Primary classes and Samantha had two hours of peace. Clive was entertaining in Gospel Principles and behaved himself quite nicely through the combined meeting in the chapel. The Bishop, Relief Society, Elder’s quorum, Young Men and Women’s Presidents all talked about President Nelson’s talk to the youth of the church recently. Following the block Samantha and her family left and we took Alexis back to the base and came home ourselves. We received a referral from Bishop Currie about a lady who lived in the Fort Caroline Ward and was moving to the Naval Station. We also got a call from the Dunn Avenue Sisters about a man named “DJ” who had been referred to them by missionaries in North Carolina. I called him, and he had just arrived in Jacksonville and was a Marine stationed at the Air station. He needed some time to get checked in and then we could meet. He is an investigator, so the issue will be who teaches and where. It’s been a great week!

Elders and Sisters at the Temple

President & Sister Lee

It's Us! We are still alive

Missionary going home next transfer

Missionaries at the half-way point
Elder & Sister Schroeder from Gainesville

Elder & Sister Waite Institute Teachers at Gaineville

Pam with President Lee & Elder Roy
Beautiful Celestial Room Window

Monday, June 18, 2018

Week 19

We began our week at the USO by opening the facility as the director and her assistant were at the USO all day yesterday cooking ribs for a dinner. Throughout the morning Pam and I helped in the kitchen and in the main hall setting up and prepping food for dinner. We went out for lunch and in the afternoon some volunteers began reheating ribs on outdoor grills and that went on all afternoon. By 4:30 pm everything was rounding into shape and we began to have people arrive for dinner. At 5:00 pm we began feeding and for the next two hours it was bedlam. I worked the drink table and Pam worked the dessert table and we were both very busy. We ended serving about 300 people. Redzone Realty sponsored the event and had 2 or 3 retired NFL Jacksonville Jaguars football players come and visit, pose for pictures and at 6:00 pm and 7:00 pm they gave away two footballs signed by the players. By 7:00 pm things were winding down and cleanup began. Pam and I left at 7:30 pm with 3 boxes of food and drink for the gate guards at the naval station.

Tuesday morning, we spent studying for quite a while and did 3 loads of laundry and cleaned the house—something we hadn’t done for a while. At noon we were dressed for the day and drove to the Town Center Shopping area and had lunch then spent an hour in Costco. Just after arriving a torrential downpour began and the roof sounded like it was going to crash in. When we left the store, it was over, and the streets were wet but nothing like you would have expected. I think they got 1-3 inches in less than an hour right at that spot. We returned north and stopped at Wal-Mart for a couple of things and then back to our apartment where we unloaded and settled in for the night. We were thrilled to see pictures of Andrew and Sarah’s trip to Switzerland. What a great adventure. 

Wednesday morning, we were up early and arrived at the LaGae’s on the Naval Station at 7:00 am to babysit Fiona and Clive while Mom and Dad took Eleanor for a medical appointment. When Jerald returned from checking in off of leave at his ship, they got Eleanor up and were gone by 7:30 am. They drove to Orange Park and had a 3-hour appointment with a behavioral specialist to evaluate Eleanor. Pam and I settled in first with Clive who woke up before they left, and a half an hour later Fiona came out of their bedroom. I turned on some cartoons and Pam fixed something to eat and they seemed satisfied. At 9:20 am I left Pam with the kids and drove to the USO and worked on a number of small jobs until both Charley and Joyce left for a meeting with other USO leaders. I was alone and manned the office, watched a little TV and waited for time to pass. We had a few customers, but not many. Pam arrived about 1:30 pm. Samantha LaGae brought her to the USO and she and Jerald had a good trip to the doctor and Eleanor did fine. About a half an hour later Joyce returned, and we visited about what I had done and turned over information and then Pam and I left. After driving out of the parking lot, Pam said “let’s go for a ride,” so we drove to the ferry landing and went across the St. John’s river and drove up the coast line to Amelia Island. We went for at least an hour and the marshlands and water were beautiful. So often we were in a canopy of trees and you could hardly see beyond the road as the old Oaks were thick and beautiful with the Spanish moss hanging down. Amelia Island is a very ritzy location. A lot of fancy homes and properties, golf courses and resorts. At one spot we found beach access and parked and walked out on the beach and it was beautiful. The sand was clean and white and the dunes pristine. You could drive on that particular beach and there were several vehicles parked with tents put up and sunbathers out enjoying the day. We continued up the road and stopped at a convenience store and got some drinks. While I was in the store the heaven’s opened up and down came the rain. We had thunder and lightning for about 15 minutes and water was running off the driveway like a river. I just stood under a cover with drinks in my hand watching the downpour. Almost as soon as it started, it ended. We turned around and headed south via the same road. Instead of taking the ferry back across the river we took Herkscher road and crossed over the St. John’s River on the Dames Point bridge and back to our apartment. In the evening the entire city of Jacksonville got hammered with thunder and lighting and heavy rain for about an hour and it was eerie listening to the thunder and seeing the multiple lightning bolts in the skies continuously. It finally stopped, and the water went away somewhere, and the only evidence of the rain was that everything outside was wet.

Thursday morning, we opened up the USO and there was no bread or pastries. Joyce Schellhorn had called and said a power line was down along the street by the USO, so it was dangerous getting in or leaving the parking lot last night. We unlocked the doors, turned on the lights and fans and I took out the trash and recyclable paper bins and settled in for the morning in the office. Charley Tramazzo arrived about 10:30 am and opened up the safe which permitted us to sell tickets. Joyce finally arrived around noon and we gave her an update on what we had been doing and left at 12:30 pm. We had some time to kill before a dental appointment, so had lunch at Subway and then to our apartment and cleaned our teeth before leaving for the Patch Dentistry office in Mandarin. Instead of getting on I-295 south, we went north and completely drove the I-295 belt loop in a clockwise pattern until we crossed the St. John’s river by NAS Jax and got off on Old St. Augustine road. We arrived at the dental office and I went in first and I saw Mike Patch, the son of the owner. He liked to be called “Doctor Mike.” They took a panromantic x-ray of my mouth to establish a baseline and then a checkup before a cleaning. I had one spot of decay and a broken filling that needed to be fixed. When done Pam had her teeth cleaned also. We were finished by about 4:00 pm and left during another torrential downpour, which lasted about 20 minutes.

Friday, we went to the USO again and it was a special day of service and there were about 20 people from Citi Bank working and they had mowed the lawns, trimmed the trees and shrubs and did a nice job. Inside all the metal cabinets had been moved from the meeting room by Charley’s office to the new storage area by the Kids room and the volunteers were busy moving boxes and bins for Joyce Schellhorn. Joyce was in typical form when there was a lot going on as she could only focus on one thing at a time, so we stayed out of her way and wondered why we were there, but yesterday she was hopeful we could be there to support her. Eventually I did a lot of jobs for Joyce and Pam manned the phones. By noon the group finished their work and had done a wonderful job. The rear meeting room was empty, and all the furniture was in the new meeting room behind the office. All the storage cabinets, including the open rack was in the new storage room and filled with boxes and bins of stuff. The final item was filling care package boxes for a USO in the Middle East and when done they had about 30 boxes filled with goodies which Pam and I will mail next week. It took about an hour to get out of the facility as Joyce wanted to talk and wind down a little. Mike O’Brien, the executive director, was there all morning and that always made her nervous. We left at 2:30 pm and had a late lunch then returned to our apartment in time for the afternoon entertainment, as thunder clouds moved in and we got our symphony of thunder, lightning and rain. It rained heavily for about 30 minutes.

Saturday began at 8:00 am with a huge “boom,” which marked the end of twin cooling towers built in the 1980s, part of Jacksonville Electricity Authority’s coal-fired St. Johns River Power Park. They reached 464 feet into the air and came down right on the hour in a collapse of concrete and a cloud of dust. The power park was decommissioned on January the 5th, 2018 with a shift from coal to cleaner-burning fuels and renewable energy. They estimated the residue would be 100,000 tons of concrete and 4,000 tons of reinforcing bar which would end up in roads and the steel in cars. Additionally, at 9:00 am Argentina and Iceland squared off in their first match of this year’s World Cup of Football being held in Russia. We are sure Cynthia was riveted in front of their TV anxious about the game. The outcome was certainly not what was predicted. At noon we finished some laundry and cleaning and got dressed for the day and drove to JoAnne’s where Pam bought some dress lining material. We had lunch at Cici’s and then stopped at Wal-Mart for some grocery shopping. Back at our apartment we unloaded the groceries and then went for a drive north on I-295 to I-95 until we reached the turnoff to Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island and drove to that quaint historical town and drove around and took pictures and enjoyed the scenery. We continued down A1A back through Amelia Island where we had been a couple of days earlier and passed the Implosion site. It was going to be interesting not having those tower landmarks present to orient ourselves. We arrived back at our apartment and picked up mail and made phone calls to check on a few families and singles about church tomorrow.

Sunday was Father’s Day and we had some time to ponder about our Dad’s. Both men have played a significant role in who we are. Importantly, their firm and abiding testimonies of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which defined who and what they became. Both with strong work ethics and reliability and loyalty beyond question. Hard-working and innovative, we often joked about the “fixes” both men did to just about everything they owned. We love our Dad’s and hope they know how much. We are also proud of our sons and what they have become as adult men and father’s. Each in their own way have traits and skills that are unique, and which bless their families. We hoped they all had good days today.

Pam and I left for church and picked up Alexis Connelly and drove to the Jacksonville Beach chapel. We enjoyed a great sacrament meeting which centered on Father’s Day and also on reports from Young Women and their leaders from recent Girl’s Camp. We attended the other block meetings and following the meetings met with Shay Tuttle and arranged to take her to dinner Monday evening. We dropped Alexis off at her housing unit on base and then returned home for a quiet afternoon. It was nice to receive some texts and phone calls from the kids. 

Rib Night at the USO
 Pam at the Dessert Table
 Walkway to a beach on Amelia Island
 Sand Dunes on Amelia Island
 Sand Dunes on Amelia Island
 Sample of torrential Rain
 Historical Home on Amelia Island
 Historical home on Amelia Island
 Boats on River Estuary
State Park beach on River Estuary

Monday, June 11, 2018

Week 18

Pam got bitten by something (think it was Chigger’s) last Friday at the Okefenokee Swamp and they have really itched. Throughout the entire week they persisted despite using all the medical advice we could uncover from the internet. In fact, by the end of the week they didn’t appear to be any better. Her ankles are swollen and the bites and itching persist. Might have to do something more serious like go to a doctor!

Monday morning found us at the USO by 10:00 am and stayed until 1:00 pm helping with “No Dough” dinner preparations. Cheryl Vandiver (cook) had plenty of volunteers in the afternoon and evening so we didn’t return for the dinner itself.

Also last Friday we were eating a meal when Pam reached into her mouth and came out with a Bridge of 3 teeth. She knew had been loose, but we hoped it would remain intact until the 14th when we have an appointment. She felt like the two teeth that anchored the bridge were deteriorated and would probably have to be pulled. The only solution we could think of was “implants.” Well Monday morning I called Doctor Patch’s office (LDS Dentist) and described our plight and the receptionist said come at 1:45 today and let the doctor look at it. We arrived on time and within 10 minutes Pam was escorted to a room and 2 hours later I heard her voice by the receptionist’s desk. Doctor Patch had re-installed the bridge. He cleaned off the old teeth and there was still a firm enough foundation, built up the teeth, drilled and installed posts and then took a lot of time to manually fit the old bridge crowns to the new mounts. What he hoped for was a repair that would last through our mission. We were so grateful for his work. Doctor Patch is the Branch President of the YSA Branch in the stake. What a day!

Tuesday morning found us in the USO again and we spent the morning in the office doing odd jobs from last nights dinner. Cheryl said they had a small turnout, but the food was good. Pam left at 11:15 am to babysit two of the LaGae children so Samantha could take her middle daughter, Fiona, to an eye examination. We had two leadership groups from the USS Hue City at the center doing all-day training in the two wing extensions of the main room and it was interesting to see and hear what they were learning. It continued for 3 days and we also had other patrons come in and use the center, the computer room, lounge, purchase tickets and a lot of new volunteers. When Pam returned, she reported Eleanor and Clive were good for her and they had a good time. I made contact with Alexis Connelly, Tyler Gneck and Tara Alexander throughout the day and they were all doing well. Alexis was coming off a migraine, Tyler had 4 wisdom teeth extracted on Friday and Tara had her tonsils and adenoids removed Monday morning.

Wednesday morning our day began at the medical clinic where I had my monthly INR test of my blood and it came back fine. When the nurses were finished I saw the doctor and she went through past tests and my back x-rays and confirmed I had some arthritis in my back and a thinning of a disc which was causing pressure on the Sciatic nerve. She gave me a list of exercises I could do to eliminate the pain and hopefully that would work. When done we left for the USO. Cheryl was there with Li Yao and also another community service volunteer so basically, she didn’t need us. The Navy leadership training was on a lunch break. After doing all the odd jobs we could think of we decided to take some of the leftover “No Dough” food to the LaGae’s and Alexander’s. We loaded up the van and headed to our area of town and stopped at the Alexanders and saw Tara and she was doing okay. She was tired of popsicles but couldn’t eat real food yet. Wes was home, and we met his mother, or we saw her. She was outside smoking and talking on the phone and that is where she was when we left. Samantha LaGae was also there, and it was nice to see her and her children. We visited for a few minutes and came home. Samantha came by our house to pick up her food (needed to be refrigerated) and she spent over an hour with us. There was some tension in the LaGae household concerning a funeral trip to Wisconsin and we hoped it wasn’t serious. I took the girls to the playground and let them climb and slide until they left.

Thursday morning we opened the USO again and were happy to see a table full of bread and pastries. After getting the building turned on and the security alarm turned off we counted the bread and pastries. Naval personnel began arriving for their last day of leadership training. They were inside the closed off section, so we didn’t worry about noise of people coming in to get bread. I tabulated the price of the donations and then we waited for patrons. I also took out the recycled paper bins and cleaned out all the garbage, so we were all clean for the morning. During one of the class breaks, Cheryl Vandiver arrived with a load of food and items for Monday’s “No Dough” dinner and several servicemen helped us unload Cheryl’s truck. The leadership class finished by 11:30 am and by noon they were gone and the room all clean. We had several dozen people come for bread and other free items and also to buy tickets to the Adventure Landing (water park) on Jacksonville Beach. Pam and I finally left for the day at 2:00 pm and drove to a new Mexican restaurant (new for us) called Pancheros. It was on Beach Blvd by Freddy’s and we enjoyed it very much.

Friday morning we opened the USO again for Cheryl as she needed to do some more shopping on her way to the USO. We had a pretty quiet morning until Cheryl arrived with 500 pounds of Ribs—main menu item for Monday’s “No Dough” dinner. I moved all the pastries from the kitchen refrigerator to the storage room refrigerator and put all the vegetables for the salad in the office refrigerator. We were able to put all the ribs in the kitchen refrigerator. Joyce and Charley arrived about noon. They had been gone all week to USO training in Texas and it was good to see them. Samantha LaGae came to the facility about 10:30 am as power was off in housing and she and her kids were hot. We were happy to see her and learned that she was going with Jerald to Wisconsin this weekend with their family for the funeral of Jerald’s grandfather, so we were pleased with that outcome. They stayed at the center until 12:30 pm. I made a deposit run at a local credit union the USO uses and Pam and I took the extra bread to the Navy Exchange when we left for the day—about 1:30 pm. We had contact with the Alexander’s and planned to help them Saturday morning.

Saturday we arrived at the Alexander’s at 9:00 am. Wes’ mother had left earlier so they were on their own for the weekend. Tara was in bed and had a pretty good night. Wes was fixing breakfast for the kids and they were in their living room watching morning cartoons. We visited for a while with Wes and Tara and then stepped in and began helping where we could. Wes had some jobs to do outside (mowing the lawn and taking care of some trash) so he did that, and Pam cleaned the kitchen and I straightened the living room and vacuumed the floor. I then swept and mopped the kitchen, dining room and front room. At noon West took a load of junk to the junk yard west of Jacksonville somewhere. He returned about 2:00 pm. We fed Tristan and Kyler lunch and they were very good for us. After Wes returned we said our goodbyes and left. Tara’s mother was coming this later to help. We had some lunch and a treat at Cold Stone for some much-needed dessert! Both were excellent. Verified that are two single members on the base would go to church with us on Sunday.

Sunday morning we departed for Mayport at 9:15 am and picked up both Alexis Connelly and Tyler Gneck at their housing building (same building) and then drove to the chapel. We got to know Tyler and he also was from Arizona and he and Alexis chatted about their homes and schools. At the chapel we visited with the missionaries for a few minutes, met the bishop and introduced him to Tyler and then took our seats and enjoyed a wonderful sacrament meeting. We attended the gospel principles class during Sunday school and both Alexis and Tyler attended with us. Alexis then stayed with Pam for Relief Society and I took Tyler and we went to Elder’s quorum meeting. Both were good with inspirational lessons. Following the meetings Tyler got to meet several men and they welcomed him to the ward. I gave his name and birthday to a member of the bishopric to get his membership record transferred. Following the block, we left and drove back to the base and visited along the way. Tyler is an Elder and comes from an active family. He has a brother on a mission in Argentina. Next Saturday he flies to Maine
to attend two weeks of Sere training and I hope it is more fun than mine was in 1970. We dropped them off at housing and then returned home for the day.

 Eleanor and Fiona LaGae
 Eleanor and Fiona LaGae
Eleanor LaGae
Storm Clouds in Jacksonville
 Jacksonville Beach Chapel

Monday, June 4, 2018

Week 17

Week 17 began with the threat of some kind of major weather phenomena. It appeared like Alberto would be a sub-tropical depression and remain in the Northern gulf, but we expected to receive heavy doses of rain for the next few days. Monday was also Memorial Day and for us a day of rest and relaxation. Later in the day we did a little shopping and had lunch and later Pam worked on a baby quilt she is making. I called all of the phone numbers we have on households we have not been able to contact yet and got one answer—a young man who transferred to Mayport from NAS Pensacola. Later this evening we contacted Shay Tuttle, whose husband Chris, left on deployment last Friday on the USS The Sullivan’s. We know how that feels.

On Tuesday morning we arrived at the USO at 10:00 am and Cheryl Vandiver asked us to make a delivery to NAS Jacksonville USO and we had a nice ride across the St. John’s river to the base. We also picked up some event tickets for a coming weekend event on the Naval Station and returned to Mayport. We left the USO in the early afternoon and had a late lunch and returned to our apartment. Around 3:30 pm we heard a funny “thumping” noise in the house and when it happened Pam was on the phone with Erin and she also heard it and wondered if it was in her house. We didn’t think too much of it until later when we noticed water had backed up in the kitchen sink. That was the noise we heard! It was awful looking. I began cleaning the sink when the water was shut off. Housing maintenance shut off the water and told us there was a major blockage and they had called a plumbing service. They arrived about an hour later and spent the next couple of hours trying to troubleshoot and fix the problem. They worked in our kitchen and opened up the drain under the sink and ran a roto rooter into the drain system, trying to get it to go up the vent stack, because there was blockage in a “T” joint between our apartment and the one next to us. They tried getting to the vent from both apartments and eventually had to go on the roof and down the stack. By 9:30 pm they were successful and cleaned up their tools and left. We appreciated their hard work and hoped it was the end of the problem. We spent a half an hour cleaning the sink thoroughly and washing all the affected dishes again.  

Wednesday we were at the USO again and found some jobs to do. Pam stayed in the office and took phone calls and helped patrons. We had a lot come in for the free BaseFest tickets for this weekend. My project was identifying donated canned and boxed food products in the storage room that were expiring by July. We put those items out on the “free” table and I sorted the rest by years. We departed the USO at 3:00 pm during a torrential rain storm. In fact, we had wave after wave hit the beach throughout that afternoon. We had a late lunch and drove to a local Wal-Mart and bought a couple of Poncho’s and then returned to our apartment.

Thursday, we opened the USO, but the night before the USO received no bread, pastries, or newspapers, so our morning was quiet. We had a few people come looking for bread but when they saw the sign they turned around and left. We did, however, give out a lot of BaseFest tickets and sold tickets to other upcoming events. Joyce Schellhorn (Director) arrived at noon and gathered up things for a presentation she was making on the base and I helped load her vehicle. She was gone for a couple of hours and returned about 3:00 pm. Pam and I turned over what information we had and left for the night. I called the young man who had arrived from NAS Pensacola and arranged to pick him up for church on Sunday.  

Friday was a day we had been anticipating for some time. President & Sister Lee organized a gathering of all the Senior Missionaries and it was called O-ZONE. Sort of a Zone Conference for Senior couples. Actually, it was a trip to the Okefenokee Swamp Park in Southern Georgia. We met the other couples at the mission office at 8:00 am and all road together in the mission van and the President’s SUV. There were 17 in all—President & Sister Lee, Elder & Sister Whitehead (Office-Cars), Elder & Sister Mann (Office-Apartments), Elder Grieve (Finances), Elder & Sister Waite (CES Gainesville), Elder & Sister Schroeder (Records Preservation Gainesville), Elder & Sister Gilland (MLS Hilliard Branch), Elder & Sister Youngberg (MLS Crescent City), and Pam & I (Military Relations Navsta Mayport). We drove for an hour and a half north and enjoyed the ride through beautiful forested areas. President & Sister Lee have an activity like this for the Senior Missionaries about once each quarter. Also, Sister Lee had the reservations arranged for we just walked through the information center out into the park. It was part of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, and the park was a convenient point of entry and a magnificent show-window for the “Land of the Trembling Earth.” The park’s lily-decked water trails, with their miraculously reflective waters mirroring the overhanging beauty, lead to all points in this vast wilderness of islands, lakes, jungles, forest and prairies. Boat tours on original Indian waterways, wilderness walkways, Pioneer Island and native animals in their own habitat, all combined to weave a spell of pioneer American life. The refuge is the headwaters of the Suwannee and St. Mary’s Rivers, and enclosed nearly a half million acres. We really enjoyed the day, saw a lot of live Alligators, did a walking tour, road a train, and took a boat ride through the waterways. Of particular interest were the guides. Both the train and boat guides had been doing this work for many years and were closely tied to the refuge area. They spun numerous historical tales and you really had to concentrate to understand their drawl.  The ride back to the mission office was quite difference for as we approached the outskirts of Jacksonville, we were drenched with a downpour of rain that lasted until we arrived at the Mission Office almost an hour later. We truly were blessed to have spent the day in beautiful sunshine (albeit hot and humid), but dry! We said goodbye to everyone and Pam and I returned to our apartment. That evening we enjoyed the broadcast of the “Be One” Celebration from the Conference Center. The messages from President Oaks & President Nelson and performances by Gladys Knight, Alex Boyé, the Bonner family, the Unity Gospel Choir International, and members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir were wonderful. Don’t we belong to a talented church?

Saturday morning, we were up and going early as we went to the home of Greg & Shauncy Lines, a military family who were transferring to Naval Station, Sasebo, Japan. We helped clean their home prior to leaving. Greg was a Navy LT attached to JAG and would ply his trade as a lawyer in Japan for the next few years. They were very well organized and had checklists on the refrigerator for each room. We helped clean and scrub, sweep and dust for the next couple of hours and it went quite rapidly. They also asked if we could give Shauncy a ride to the airport to pick up a rental car and so we were off. The drive was enjoyable and in 20 minutes we dropped her off at the rental car area and then came home. We got cleaned up and went for lunch and spent the rest of day doing laundry and resting.

Sunday morning, we had planned to attend the Jacksonville Beach Ward with Alexis Connelly and Tyler Gneck (2 single members from the base), however Tyler had wisdom teeth removed on Friday and Alexis started another migraine headache this morning so they both cancelled. We changed our plans and at 9:00 am went to the Arlington Ward sacrament meeting and Tara Alexander arrived by herself and sat with us. Wes was home with sick kids. Tomorrow Tara is having her tonsils removed so we were a little concerned about her. Wes’ mother is coming to help with the children. Following a wonderful sacrament meeting we visited for a few minutes and then drove to the Jacksonville Beach ward meetings hoping to see the LaGae’s. We slipped into their sacrament meeting about mid-meeting and enjoyed the testimonies. We attended the gospel principles class and I went to priesthood meeting and Pam to relief society. Both good meetings. The LaGae’s were not there and that was concerning. We will follow up. We did, however, get to see the Jarvis family and Shay Tuttle and she is doing fine despite having her husband gone on deployment. We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening at home and in the evening watched the broadcast to Youth by President & Sister Nelson and it was very enjoyable. We especially enjoyed a phone call and video from a double birthday celebration for Jane and Norah from Denver. Always wonderful to see the family gathered.

Missionaries at the Orlando Temple
 Missionaries at the Orlando Temple
Okefenokee Swamp Historical Home
 Alligator at Okefenokee Swamp Park
 Senior Missionaries at Lunch
 Boat ride through Okefenokee Swamp Park
 Boat ride through Okefenokee Swamp Park
 Free range Alligator at Okefenokee Swamp Park
 This is Old Roy, over 12 feet long and over 90 years old 
As of June this is all the Florida Jacksonville Mission Senior Missionaries with Pres & Sis Lee

Week 66 (6 - 12 May)

Monday morning, Pam and I left for the USO at 9:30 am. No Dough dinner was that evening, so we were busy. Upon arrival my birthday was cele...