["Mahalo" means "thank you" in Hawaiian]
On December 7th, 1995, a very special ceremony was held in the city of Woodland, California to honor crew members of the USS Utah, both living and deceased.
The ceremony was the brainchild of Navy Veteran and American Legionnaire - Mr. Cal De Knikker. Cal, obviously assisted by his lovely wife Christine, who added to the occasion by singing "Amazing Grace" and "The Star Spangled Banner." The De Knikkers live on Utah Avenue in Woodland. California. The 10' X 12' plaque, chiseled on a 10.5' X 21' black granite headstone now adorns the De Knikkers front yard.
Cal De Knikker served in the Navy in the 1970's as a "Tin Can" Sailor. Like many of us he saw much of the Pacific Ocean; he was honorably discharged in 1976. When asked how he became interested in the history of the USS Utah, Cal said he saw an article in the American Legion magazine penned by USS Utah Survivor Lee Soucy. After that he said "the bug [to publicize this "almost forgotten ship and it's crew] just grew."
The high school senior who drew the lovely mural of the USS Utah (Miss Tuesday McKiernin) joined the most honorable of professions - becoming a mom. Her lovely mural now adorns the Veterans Hospital, in Salt Lake City Utah.
When asked about the future of the granite plaque honoring the USS Utah and crew, Cal said:"Should I sell the house I will donate the flagpole and plaque to City ofWoodland for Christiansen Park named after Lt. Hans Christiansen, USN NavyPilot killed at Ford Island on December 7th, 1941 first loss of a local boyto WWII."
The three USS Utah Survivors shown preparing to raise the flag, Jack Vaessen, Warren Upton and Lee Soucy are still with us in 2002 - all dedicated to keeping the history of BB31/AG16 alive.
The membership of the USS Utah Association, and families of USS Utah Personnel no longer with us, sincerely thank Cal, Christine, Tuesday McKiernin, city officials, the high school band and the many others who made "Operation Mahalo" possible. God Bless!
Here are some photos from Operation Mahalo; after clicking to enlarge each photo, click "back" or "x" on your browser to return to the photo selection.
The last photo shows Miss Tuesday McKiernin standing beneath her lovely mural of USS Utah at rest. The mural is now displayed at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Salt Lake City.
Following the ceremony on Utah Avenue, "All Hands" were treated to a wonderful dinner - consisting of the ingredients listed on the 1940 USS Utah Thanksgiving dinner menu. Throughout the dinner and well into the night attendees were enjoying WW2 music played by the Yolo County Concert Band, led by Mr. John Moore. What a great band, and what a hard working group of musicians! These festivities were held at the Elks Club #1299 in Woodland.
As a token of their appreciation the surviving crew members of the USS Utah Association presented an honorary membership certificate to Mr. Cal DeKnikker, Patriot Extraordinaire.
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