Activities History

In the fall of 1989, Jim Ownby had lunch with Don Nellis in San Diego, and said, "Why not?" Don replied, "Let's do it--it's time."

And so, the organization of the USS TOPEKA (CLG 8) Reunion Association began. Topeka had been out of commission for 20 years, struck from the Navy rolls 16 years, and sold for scrap 14 years before. It was indeed time.

Along came Dudley Cass, Jerry Judge, Joe Ripley, Dick Jolliffe, Bill Largent, John Reynolds and lrad Parkhurst, all former shipmates who lived in the southern California area. Don Nellis took the helm, and the group's initial plan was to have a first reunion in 1991.

Organizing, locating members, and raising funds began. A campaign of western newspapers brought forth names. So many, in fact, that the first reunion was moved up a year and held in August 1990 at the Holiday Inn on the Bay, San Diego. Seventy-two shipmates helped make that reunion a tremendous success and set the pace for the future.

At the 1991 reunion in Long Beach, where 76 shipmates attended, it was decided to alternate reunions annually between the East, Midwest, and West. In 1992, an advisory board developed a set of bylaws which were approved by the membership in 1993.

In 1995, on recommendation of the Advisory Board, the association approved a program to forward annual contributions from members to the U.S. Naval Home in Gulfport, Miss.

Initially, membership growth depended on "word-of-mouth" efforts, and notices in military-related publications and newspapers. A tremendous membership boost was made in 1994 using a computerized nationwide phone directory and personnel lists obtained from Navy archives by Ernie Villamil.

The 2015 reunion in Colorado Springs will be our twenty-sixth get-together. Since that first reunion in San Diego, we have been to Long Beach, Washington, D.C., San Diego, Nashville, Norfolk, Topeka, Seattle, Boston, Branson MO, Atlanta, Denver, Portland, Charleston, New York City, Indianaplois, San Antonio, Chicago, San Francisco, Madison, and Savannah. Our total membership has grown from 197 to 1334 at present (December 2014).