For What It’s Worth

Contact with the past

Recently, I wrote about my memorable first Christmas away from home, recalling that Christmas Day was spent aboard the light cruiser USS Roanoke while steaming in the South China Sea on duty to help evacuate Americans from strife-torn Indonesia should that become necessary. The year was 1957, and seven months earlier in May I had graduated from high school.

That Christmas my two best friends in the Navy and I spent a portion of the afternoon and early evening sitting on the deck eating homemade cookies (mostly crumbs since that’s what cookies were by the time they arrived in the mail from Oklahoma), sharing memories of Christmases past while trying to maintain dry eyes, and playing a guitar when not talking. I didn’t play the guitar; my friend from Texas did.

After I posted the blog, my wife, Carol, mentioned it and we began wondering what had happened to my two friends. One, Don Methvin, was from Abilene, TX, and the other, John Nizzi, was from Albuquerque, NM. In the year following that Christmas, the USS  Roanoke was decommissioned and put in mothballs and the three of us were transferred to other ships. I went to the aircraft carrier USS Ticonderoga and I don’t recall where Methvin and Nizzi went. We lost contact with each other.

While Carol and I were discussing my remembrances, she decided to do some research and see if she could find out anything about either man.

She succeeded.

What she found was not good news. Apparently, both my Navy buddies are deceased, but her search did lead to a pleasant and fun phone conversation with John Nizzi’s wife.

If the Don Methvin she found in her Internet search is the correct person, he died at the young age of 38. And John Nizzi died at age 57 of a heart attack. No additional information was found for Methvin, but Carol did get a name and address of Nizzi’s wife, who interestingly is also named Carol. Taking a chance that it was the correct person, Carol sent a letter to her.

Friday evening, the phone rang and to our surprise the caller was Carol Nizzi. She was equally surprised to have received the letter and seemed genuinely pleased that we had contacted her. We had a cordial conversation and found out about their family. We are looking forward to additional contact with her.

It was sad to learn that I am the only surviving member of that friendship trio, but the search and subsequent contact did revive memories of times shared with two friends more than 50 years ago. I remember Methvin playing his guitar and Nizzi occasionally blurting out some comment that made us laugh. Both were always eager and ready to share my homemade cookies when they came in the mail. I hogged what few cookies survived the trip intact, but they seemed to think the cookie pieces were just fine.

For a brief time, the three of us were at Hunter’s Point in San Francisco, where the Roanoke was decommissioned. I was the only one of us married, and Carol and I lived in base housing. Methvin and Nizzi enjoyed a home cooked meal. I still smile when I remember the times they brought steaks for Carol to cook or gladly accepted an invitation to come to supper or Saturday lunch at our place to eat spaghetti or whatever. Carol might tell you that her cooking skills were overrated, but she had no fear of receiving any criticism.

Interesting where a memory can take you sometimes.

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