Final salute for Navy veterans of Sampson
By Neil Chaffie
Special to The Journal September 8, 2007
ROMULUS — The men and women of the former Sampson Naval Training Center have been gathering each September at Sampson State Park for the past 19 years to recall their days as recruits or base personnel.
The visit this year as members of the Sampson World War Navy Veterans Inc. will be their last. The 20th annual and final reunion falls on Sept. 11-13. In their 80s and older, the World War II veterans are passing the torch to a new generation.
“We have returned to the old base, finished our museum, our static displays, paid tribute to our fallen comrades, our commitment has been accomplished and our mission is complete,” President William H. Andre of Elbridge writes in the latest newsletter.
“Thanks and God bless to all of you,” he wrote. “You may all stand tall and proud. Sampson is now sacred ground and our spirit in our youth and our senior years will always be present at Sampson.”
Andre said he hopes “people will remember us and let the generations to come know about us and be a part of keeping our museum and spirit alive and well.”
Paul McKee of Medina, the organization's recording secretary, and his wife, Flo, manager for many years of the Navy museum at Sampson, are going to have more time to themselves.
When the museum opens for its spring, summer and fall seasons next year, it will function under the direction of Krystal Westfahl, recently named museum manager and employee of the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. She will report directly to Sampson State Park manager Tom Watt.
No longer will Navy “salts” be required to furnish museum guides.
Officials said money the Navy veterans have on hand will be invested as a trust fund with money from that fund being used to support the museum, a facility drawing some 10,000 people a year.
Andre said in his opinion that Westfahl, retained earlier this year by the state, “has been doing a great job and is very dedicated to the museum ... I gain more confidence each time I see her that she is and will continue to work hard to promote and expand the museum.”
Around motor homes and state park campsites over the Labor Day weekend, men and women recalled peering years ago at the rusting brig at Sampson and trying to visualize it as a museum telling the story of Sampson.
One of the visionaries was the late Steve Bull of Seneca Falls, a man, his peers said, who knew how to get things done. And where the Navy had a jet trainer, guns, a periscope, torpedo and small craft that could be had “with a little arm twisting.”
Occupying one wing of the old brig is the museum fashioned by the Sampson Air Force Base Veterans Association. Because the Air Force veterans are younger, they'll continue the care of their museum into the foreseeable future.
Sampson operated as a Navy installation during World War II, 1941-1945.
The Air Force moved in with the coming of the Korean War in 1950.