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
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
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
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
Please remember to sign our log book, thanks!