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USS Robert E. Lee (SSBN 601) Association

Early History

The USS Robert E. Lee (SSBN 601) Association got its start in the following rather simple manner.  It has grown to what it is today as a result of the hard work of a lot of members.  Although originally planned as a Gold Crew “thing”, it got changed to a Robert E. Lee “thing” before the first reunion. 

In 1989, Ron Kimmel (MT1(SS)-LCDR, Gold Commissioning Crew, 1959-63) talked to Gil Shaddock (FTC(SS)-CDR, Gold Commissioning Crew, 1960-63) and said “let’s have a Lee reunion.”  Gil agreed and they talked to Vice Admiral Williams (the Gold Crew’s Commissioning Commanding Officer) who concurred.  Ron then had queries posted in military related publications asking if any Gold crewmembers were interested in having a reunion.  There was enough of a response that they decided to “go for it.”  Admiral Williams advanced $200.00 for initial expenses and things started to roll.  In 1990 Ron advertised in various military related publications such as Navy Times, The Retired Officer, Fleet Reserve, American Legion, VFW, etc. that there would be a Gold Crew reunion in Groton, CT in 1991and listed himself and Gil as contact persons.   

Ron started the database with names and addresses of crewmembers he and Gil personally knew about.  As the responses began to come in from Gold Crew members there were also responses from Blue Crew members.  Ron and Gil contacted Admiral Williams and the decision was made to make the reunion a USS Robert E. Lee reunion rather than a specific crew reunion.  Blue Crew responses were somewhat limited by originally listing the reunion as a Gold Crew Reunion and as a result only 3 Blue Crew members came to the first reunion.

As the responses were received, more names were added to the database.  Crew members talked to friends who were also crew members and then sent in their names and addresses to be added to the database.  By the end of the first reunion the database contained names of about 190 crewmembers.

The first reunion was held in Groton, CT at the old Officers Club which had been converted to an all hands social facility.  Prior to the first reunion a charter was drawn up by Admiral Williams describing the association officers as President, Vice President, Secretary/Treasurer and 2 Advisors.  There were 37 crewmembers in attendance at the first reunion.  These members voted Gil Shaddock as President, Calvin Shirley as Vice President, Ron Kimmel as Secretary/Treasurer and Admiral Williams and Admiral Kauderer agreed to serve as Advisors.   A vote was taken which established the frequency of the reunions as every 2 years.  Another vote established the dues as $10.00 per year.  A good time was had by all.

The second reunion was held in Orlando, FL at the Naval Training Center.  There were 39 crewmembers in attendance.  At this reunion it was decided that in the future reunions would be held at facilities which had the capability to provide lodging, restaurant, and bar facilities so that no one had to drive.

The third reunion was held in Virginia Beach, VA at the Holiday Inn on the beach.  Ron and Gil decided that getting the organization set up and arranging for 3 reunions was enough and that other people should have a chance so they declined to run for office again.  Those in attendance elected Larry Sandberg as President, Curtis White as Vice President, and Rick Stubb as Secretary/Treasurer.

The fourth reunion was held in Las Vegas,NV. Sept.26-27 1997. 76 shipmates attended.  The crew list had grown to about 400 names at the time of this reunion.

The fifth reunion was held in Silverdale,WA. Sept.24-25, 1999. 91 shipmates attended.  The crew list had grown to about 800 names at this point, mainly due to Tim VeArd creating a website in 1998 that helped the Association find more crew members.

The sixth reunion was held in Melbourne, FL.  There were 79 crew members in attendance.  The election of officers resulted in Tim VeArd as President, Mike Hartung as Vice President, and Ron Kimmel as Secretary/Treasurer.  The crew list had grown to about 1,200 names by the time this reunion started.