Janice Pumelia, born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, is the proud daughter of Rohna survivor, Anthony Pumelia. She was fortunate to attend two reunions with her father, Oklahoma City and Washington, DC, before he passed away. Janet is the Secretary of TRSMA.
Deborah Sanchez has been a Rohna Board member since 2006, and became Vice President in 2008. In 2012 she donned another hat in The Rohna Memorial Survivors Association, becoming a co-producer of the reunions along with her sister, Cynthi Stefenoni.
By Janice Pumelia and Deborah Sanchez
The Rohna Survivors Memorial Association 2016 reunion took us to Dayton, Ohio. Dayton will be remembered for its Air Force Base, museums, stadiums, Farmers Market and its vibrant downtown area which provided us with a variety of shopping and eating experiences. We were readily welcomed by its warm and friendly people.
We all eagerly arrived at the Crowne Plaza Dayton on Thursday June 16. Those who arrived early greeted survivors, family and friends in the Hospitality room throughout the day. The hum of activity grew as we greeted those we hadn’t seen since the last reunion. This feeling of family persisted for the next four days. That evening’s Welcome Dinner Buffet brought everyone together.
Our morning breakfast buffet which was part of the hotel package for the next three days, gave all of us more time to catch up. Shortly after Friday’s breakfast we boarded a bus that was to take us to the National Air Force Museum at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Once there, we enjoyed two separate tours finishing with lunch at the Officer’s Club. The tour of the restoration facility and of the Memphis Belle was amazing! The museum, particularly the WWII gallery, was a unique experience for all of us.
After our wonderful tours at the base we headed back to the hotel, some heading to the hospitality room while the board members had their annual meeting. Our annual Girls and Boys Night out has continued to grow in popularity. Drinks and dinner took place at an excellent downtown restaurant Friday evening. As people streamed back to the hotel after their Friday night out everyone continued to enthusiastically share their positive experiences of Dayton night life.
On Saturday most members used their time after the membership meeting to see the city. That evening all attended the final banquet dinner and program. Everyone looks forward to this last evening together to honor our brave men who lived or died on that tragic day as a moving and bittersweet moment in time. We were honored this year to have the colors presented by the distinguished Wright-Patterson Honor Guard. Our guest speaker, Lt. Colonel Steven Watts of the 21st Intelligence Squadron, delivered a stirring speech. Ellen Weber, daughter of Aaron Weber, a survivor, read a poem written by an unknown Rohna survivor. The evening concluded with our annual raffle which raises much needed money for the Association. The raffle has become an integral part of the night’s program that is not only essential but lots of fun. Many Rohna items are raffled with the coveted item being a hand-made quilt. It is always fun to watch the items get “re-raffled” many times over! It also speaks volumes to how important the Association is to all of us.
Sunday morning’s Farewell Breakfast buffet came all too soon. We all gathered to say good- by until next year. This year we were fortunate enough to have 20 first time attendees. Nearly half of them are related to deceased survivor John P. Canney. As we look to our next reunion in Indianapolis we think about the events of the Dayton Reunion and hope that we might meet new first time attendees in June 2017. Some of us may live in big cities, while some of us live in small cities or towns. The one thing that holds us all together—we are ALL part of the Rohna family.
Bennett and Gus Reunion 2016