by Cynthi Stefenoni

Well, we have finally gotten our bags unpacked, our photos posted to Facebook and caught up on our sleep, so here’s the report on our June 19-22 Rohna Reunion in Kansas City: it was FAAANTASTIC!

Although our numbers were few, our celebrating genes were in full swing and we used every bit of our time in KC to the fullest.

The hotel staff at the Holiday Inn Country Club Plaza were incredible to us from the moment we arrived until the moment we left.  They were informative, kind and helpful and, as we all know, that goes a long way when we are in a strange city!

Our opening banquet Thursday night was delicious and a good beginning to our time together.

The very next morning we met in the lobby and boarded a bus for our trip to the Harry S. Truman Library in nearby Independence, MO.  It was an incredible library with most of us agreeing that the first floor exhibits were worth spending time seeing!  We also had a wonderful catered lunch in the atrium and were able to visit with each other.  We returned to hotel by bus with a driver who took us past Harry Truman’s home on the way back to the Holiday Inn.  Once there, many of us went to the Hospitality Suite and began to share stories and visit with our old friends and welcome new ones.  It was great to see new faces who were eager to hear from survivors Gus Gikas and Russ More as well as listen to many NOK’s speak about their loved ones.

Come Friday night, many of the ‘young’ crowd went out to sample some of Kansas City’s best cuisine and cocktails for Girls and Boys Night Out.  They walked around Country Club Plaza, Kansas City’s premier shopping district and back to the hotel after having a grand time.

Saturday began with our Business Meeting where we chose our location for next year’s reunion.  San Diego, CA and Baltimore, MD were the finalists, with Baltimore winning out in the final vote.

After the meeting, many attendees took in a class presented by Board Member Jason Markiewitz about the 853rd, his grandfather’s company who was aboard the Rohna.  Others spent their ‘free time’ going to the Hallmark Visitors Center, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, the Jazz Museum or the many fine art museums… or just going out for Kansas City Barbeque to one of the recommended barbeque joints.  Yum!

Our banquet proved to be even more of a highlight than usual, due to the fact that our featured speaker was none other than our own Gus Gikas.  After President Michael Walsh opened the evening by welcoming everyone, and all joined Cynthi Stefenoni in the singing of the National Anthem,  Jason Markiewitz gave a beautiful reading of the words of the Rohna Table of Remembrance and Paula Sedlacek graced us all with an inspiring invocation.  Once dinner was served (one of the most delicious we’ve ever had) and eaten, it was time for our speaker.  Gus spoke with such heartfelt words about his experience of the sinking of the Rohna that many hearts were touched and many eyes teared up.  It was a beautiful moment in time to hear the words of one of our own dearest members about the event which has brought us all together and made us family.  Thank you, Gus, for that gift.

Our raffle was a resounding success, with Victoria and Andrew Markiewitz assisting Cynthi Stefenoni in the drawing and calling of tickets as well as the delivering of ‘the goods’ to the lucky winners.  Janet’s quilt was won by Ruth Canney’s daughter, Jane, who had surprised her mother and her brother by coming to her very first reunion this year.  Needless to say, Ruth was thrilled!

Sunday morning breakfast came far too soon for all of us.  We wait all year to see each other and revel in our time together and then POOF!, it’s gone.

Next year’s reunion preparation has already begun (dates to be announced later) and it promises to offer all this year’s did and more… so start thinking about how you’re going to get to Baltimore next June and we’ll see you there!

NOTE:  Our dear Janet DeLude was not able to make the trip to Kansas City because she hurt her leg as she tried to get to her plane, and she was sorely missed by all. But we’ll see her next year in Baltimore!