USS Menard Bells History

In 1989 a shipmate, Jim Geralis, gathered twenty shipmates for the first USS Menard reunion in Atlantic City, New Jersey. At the third reunion, WWII shipmate, Bernard Cassidy, asked where the Menard was moored. Our WWII shipmate, Floyd Stormer, said his wife Esther worked for a Senator, and he could find out where the Menard was moored. The Senator told Esther the ship had been scrapped, and the only thing left was the bell. He gave her a number to call. Leslie Rutherford called the number, which was the Naval Historical Center, and inquired if there was anything left of the USS Menard. The curator, Mr. Henry Vadnais, stated the only thing left was the bell. After contacting him many times he stated the bell was loaned to a St. David's Episcopal Historical Church, in Cheraw, S. Carolina. Leslie Rutherford called the minister of St. David's Church, John Frischner, he suggested to come see the bell in the church, and hold a reunion in their city.

Floyd and Esther Stormer went to St. David's Church in S. Carolina, climbed up into the belfry to the third level to see our bell. The ladder was made of boards tacked to the side of the wall. There would be no way the shipmates and wives could climb up to see the bell. Bernard and Ethel Cassidy visited the church, they went to Jim Anderson, chairman of the Chesterfield County Historical Preservation Commission, and asked him for the key to enter the church. Jim Anderson informed them that he did not care what bell was there as long as they had a bell.

Esther Stormer suggested writing letters to our Senators and Congressmen. A letter was drawn up and sent to the contacted shipmates throughout the United States. They sent the letter to their respected Senators and Congressmen, also the President about getting our bell back.

Jim Geralis went to the Naval Historical Center in Washington, D.C. inquiring what could be done to acquire our Menard bell. The Lieutenant in charge, Norman Carey, told him, “You see that stack of letters on my desk from dignitaries that have to be answered. We will give the church another bell if your group will pay for the shipping and taking the bell out of the belfry and replacing it with another.”

The replacement bell, from the USS Mazama, AE-9 was picked up on March 15, 1993, by Jim Geralis and two workers, one being the son of John Warring and taken to John Warring elevator Co, and re-crated for safe transporting to the Historical Church. The brass bell clapper was sent by registered mail for safe keeping.

The Naval Historical Center stated the Menard bell would have to be placed in a non-profit organization. Leslie Rutherford learned of the Legion of Valor in Fresno, California. He went to the director, Chuck Monges, of the museum and asked if he'd like to have a Navy ships bell housed in the museum. He asked, “Where are you going to get a ships bell?” Leslie replied, “If you sign these papers I will bring you one.”

Warren McGuire wrote a letter to Norman Carey accepting the Menards' bell to be housed in the Legion of Valor in Fresno, California, in-between the yearly reunions, signed by Chuck Monges. Arthur J. Hill is now director of the renamed Veterans Memorial Museum home of the Legion of Valor.

On March 30, 1993, after $1000.00 had been raised for the removal and replacement bell, the Menard bell was placed in the hands of shipmate Charles Lockaby. He took our bell to the bell factory to be refurbished at the cost of $225.00. Then transported the bell to Mobile, Alabama for our fourth reunion. Shipmates gathered around the bell, the only known object left of the USS Menard, the ship that carried men and equipment through two wars.

Edward Henry made the frame with wheels for the 20”by 24 ˝”, 225 pound bell to be transported around. The bell, the frame and the trailer all came together for the first time in Mobile, Alabama. Chief Boatswains Mate Albert (Choppy) Powers first saw the bell. It’s a sight to behold, but it’s a disgrace to the Navy. It needs a regulation lanyard, instead of rope and a good polishing. Brasso and nylon cord was purchased. Choppy Powers made the braided 12” lanyard including a turks head, which is still on the bell today. Throughout the reunion Russ Howell and Lionel Rutherford polished on the bell.

After this was completed it would make any sailor proud. The bell is taken to each reunion in a trailer made by Leslie Rutherford, and his two sons. The trailer is all metal painted navy gray with a black water line. Installed on both sides are 12" Navy portholes, and USS MENARD APA 201 is painted on the sides and back.

The bell has traveled to 19 reunions, (we did not have the bell for the first 3 reunions) been through 20 states and traveled a total of 72,661 miles. The reunion locations: Atlantic City, NJ 1989 - Fort Wayne, IN 1990 - Fresno, CA 1992 - Mobile, AL 1993 - Oshkosh, WI 1994 - Kerrville, TX 1995 - Seattle, WA 1996 - Bardstown, TX 1997 - Albuquerque, NM 1998 - Carrollton, GA 1999 - Portland , OR 2000 - Branson, MO 2001 - Colorado Springs, CO 2002 - Pensacola, FL 2003 - Post Falls, ID 2004 - Salt lake City, UT 2005 - Wichita, KS 2006 - Columbus & Hope, IN 2007 - Tucson, AZ 2008 - Fresno, CA 2009 - Laughlin, AZ 2010 - Reno, NV 2011 - Branson, MO 2012. In Columbus and Hope, IN, it was presented on a float in Hope Heritage Days Parade with 19 shipmates aboard. The float received the Grand Marshall's Choice Award trophy.

In 1995, the bell taken to our reunion in Kerrville, Texas; then to Fredericksburg, Texas, where the Menard group had purchased a 20" by 20" plaque for $2000.00 to be erected on the Nimitz Museum wall to commemorate the Six Captains and Men who served during WWII and the Korean Campaign.

Shipmates Albert (Choppy) Powers and Clarence Cramer, in their Navy dress uniform, guarded the veiled plaque as the Menard Group gathered. After the presentation of the plaque to the museum, given by Jack Haynes, the plaque was unveiled and the Menard bell was rung. The bell was then taken to Menard, Texas, and the city officials were notified of the ship's history and its being named after their city and county. A town historian and a reporter were presented with a picture of the USS Menard and its history. They were elated and asked to be kept informed of the bell's travels. The Menard News and Messenger published an article about the reunion in Kerrville, TX, how there was a plaque placed in the Nimitz Museum in Fredericksburg, TX, and how the bell was rung for the dedication of the plaque and in honor of the six Captains and crews which served on the Menard.

Also in 1995, the bell traveled over the toll bridge to Coronado, California, to the home of the last living Captain, Noah Adair and his wife, Elizabeth, so they could have their picture taken with the bell. The bell then crossed back over the San Diego Bay, which was the home base for many years. Captain Adair died January 18, 1997.

The bell passed over the Columbia River on Interstate 5 two times, approximately one mile from Vancouver, WA, where the Menard was built. It has crossed the continental divide 21 times at seven different locations, the highest passing being at Wolf Creek Pass (10,850 ft.) and the Monarch Pass (11,312 ft.) in 2002 to and from the Colorado Springs reunion.

The bell is rung at each reunion banquet for the deceased shipmates that have passed since the previous reunion.

In 2007, the USS Menard bell was taken to the city of Petersburg, the county seat of Menard, Illinois. Leslie Rutherford went into the county clerk's office and asked if they knew there was a ship named after their county. The clerk summoned the county sheriff, a VFW member Gary Winner, to let them know the bell was there. Pictures were taken with the Menard bell in front of their Veterans Memorial Plaque located on the corner of their courthouse park. Leslie Rutherford gave them a picture of the USS Menard and the travels of the Menard Bell.

In Fresno, California, in 1997, for the first time and every year since on November 11, for the Veterans Day Parade the bell is placed on a float with many of her shipmates to represent the Menard service during WWII and the Korean Campaign.

The Menard's eligibility for WWII, and Korean, and United Nations Service's Medal are as follows: The Asiatic Pacific Area Service Medal with one star; The Navy Occupation Medal; Asia; The China Service Medal; The United Nations Medal; And the Korean Service Medal with three stars.

Our bell is housed in the prestigious Veterans Memorial Museum Home of the Legion of Valor in Fresno, California, between our reunions. The bell was dedicated to the Museum May 30, 1994, by our shipmate Jack Haynes with many of the shipmates and wives present. We are proud to have the bell on display in Veterans Memorial Museum home of the Legion of Valor to be viewed by all.

The Navy Historical Center requires a signed release statement from Leslie Rutherford any time the bell is taken out of the Veterans Memorial Museum.

You can visit the Prestige's Legion of Valor's website here

Please remember to sign our log book, thanks!


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