Seagoing Cowboy Crew Reunions

Edgar Metzler, Ron Graber, Don White, Owen Gingerich, and Al Meyer reunite this week in Goshen, Indiana.

S. S. Stephen R. Mallory crewmates Edgar Metzler, Ron Graber, Don Zook, Owen Gingerich, and Al Meyer reunited this week in Goshen, Indiana. Photo credit: Mary Ellen Meyer.

Several seagoing cowboy crews became close-knit units who didn’t want their friendships to end when they walked off their ships. Earlier this week, I had the good fortune to participate in the 70th anniversary reunion of the S. S. Stephen R Mallory crew of Mennonite high school and college students who went to Poland. What a joy to hear them reminisce about their experiences that summer of 1946 which I highlighted in my June 24 post!

Second reunion of the S. S. Stephen R. Mallory crew, 2001. Photo courtesy of Bill Beck.

Second reunion of the S. S. Stephen R. Mallory crew on their 55th anniversary, 2001. Photo courtesy of Bill Beck.

Many of the Mallory cowboys stayed in touch individually through the years, but I learned that it wasn’t until their 50th anniversary that they gathered for their first reunion. Held at Camp Friedenswald in Michigan, their time there brought them together in a bond that has grown stronger through the years. They have met regularly since that first time.

Crew members of the S. S. Rock Springs Victory, 1997. Photo courtesy of Lowell Hoover.

Crew members of the S. S. Rock Springs Victory, 1997. Photo courtesy of Lowell Hoover.

The S. S. Rock Springs Victory crew of March 12, 1947, to Ethiopia also reunited for the first time for their 50th anniversary, meeting at the Heifer Ranch in Perryville, Arkansas, as theirs was a Heifer Project shipment through UNRRA.


Plans laid on the ship come to fruition. Courtesy of Hugh Ehrman.

Members of the Clarksville Victory crew gather in Kokomo, Indiana, for a five-year reunion.

Morgantown Victory five-year reunion. Photo courtesy of Hugh Ehrman.

For the S. S. Morgantown Victory crew of December 11, 1945, the bond was so strong on their return from Poland that they planned for a five-year reunion which was held in Kokomo, Indiana. They continued to meet through the years, with their last reunion, to my knowlege, in 2007.

Families joined in the reunions, making friends of many cowboy chidlren. Photo courtesy of J. O. Yoder.

Families joined in the reunions, making friends of many cowboy children. Photo courtesy of J. O. Yoder.

Clarksville Victory crew, 2007. Photo courtesy of J. O. Yoder.

Clarksville Victory crew, 2005, at Camp Alexander Mack. Photo courtesy of J. O. Yoder.

The Clarksville Victory crew left the U.S. a day after the Morgantown Victory, and the two ships were in port in Poland at the same time. This crew also has gathered frequently through the years, most recently, I believe, in 2005.

It’s been a privilege to be part of some of these later reunions. Thank you, seagoing cowboys, for your many stories!

Extra Post: Easter Sunday service on a cattle boat

When you talk with members of the crew of the SS Rock Springs Victory who tended a load of Heifer Project cattle sent to Ethiopia in early 1947, there is one highlight they are sure to tell you about. They had traveled first to Greece to unload UNRRA horses, then through the Suez Canal to Djibouti in Africa where their cattle were unloaded. Now they were on their way home. Bob Heimberger noted in his daily log:


April 6, Sunday

Had church at 8:15. 22 for communion. On the Red Sea.

But the story doesn’t stop there. Bob has written of this experience:

While in town [while docked in Djibouti] I purchased a little aluminum cup for a souvenir as this appeared to be a common household item the natives used.

Easter Sunday morning . . . it was decided to have Easter Communion on the deck of the ship. In preparation for the Communion they were searching for a Communion Cup or Challis for the wine. The cup I had purchased was used. We and some ship crew members participated in Easter Sunday morning Communion on the Red Sea. I do not know how many different religious faiths that participated. One person had his first Communion. It was a very Ecumenical service. I am fortunate enough to still have this historic Cup in my possession.

The Cup has been half way around the world and served people from Coast to Coast in the United States and people in Canada. The Cup has been used by the seagoing cowboys at each of our [Rock Springs Victory] reunions. It has also been used in our local Grace U.C.C. Church for special occasions. I doubt that any other Challis or Cup can claim such a far reaching Ecumenical history.

Sunday morning on the Rock Springs Victory

The Rock Springs Victory crew meets on the fantail for one of their Sunday morning services. Photo courtesy of Howard Lord

Bob’s cup traveled to the Beyond Hunger event celebrating Heifer International’s 70th anniversary in Milford, Indiana, last September. It’s inscribed: “In 1947 she served sunrise communion on the Red Sea. HPI.”

Rock Springs Victory communion cup and Howard Lord

The communion cup used on the Rock Springs Victory sits on the table next to Howard Lord as he shares his experiences with children at the Beyond Hunger Northern Indiana event. Photo courtesy of Heifer International

Rock Springs Victory cowboys

Rock Springs Victory shipmates Howard Lord, Richard Hoblin, and Bob Heimberger reunite at the Beyond Hunger Northern Indiana event, September 2014. Photo courtesy of Heifer International









A blessed Easter to all!

In Memoriam

I’ve received word of the passing of two more seagoing cowboys and share memories of another:

Julius H. Hornberger left this world February 8, 2015, just two-and-a-half months shy of his 100th birthday. Julius was on the SS Rock Springs Victory when it made its delivery of Heifer Project cattle to Ethiopia in the spring of 1947. We’ll hear more about this crew on Easter Sunday. Here is Julius exploring Djibouti, where the ship docked. Rest in peace, Julius.


Julius Hornberger in Djibouti, 1947

Julius Hornberger stands to the right of the camel in this photo taken in Djibouti, Africa, spring 1947. Photo by Howard Lord

Donald L. Klippenstein passed away February 18, 2015, at age 90. Don was part of the SS Clarksville Victory crew that delivered horses to Poland in December 1945. His crew had a number of reunions through the years. I was fortunate to join them at Camp Mack in 2005 and hear their stories first-hand. Being on one of the first UNRRA livestock deliveries to Poland after World War II, this crew saw some war atrocity remnants that later crews weren’t able to see. Watch for future posts about this Clarksville Victory trip. Don is the one standing on the right in the picture below. Rest in peace, Don.

Don Klippenstein at Clarksville Victory reunion, 2005

Don Klippenstein, top right, met with some of his Clarksville Victory crewmates at their 2005 reunion. Photo courtesy of J. Olin Yoder


This year’s frigid temperatures have reminded me that it’s been a year now since we lost seagoing cowboy Cletus Schrock on February 3, 2014, in a very cold and snowy week in northern Indiana. But I have warm memories of my interview with Cletus at his son’s house several years ago and the lovely meal my husband and I had with that part of his family. Cletus was an Amish farmer at the time of his trip to Poland aboard the SS Carroll Victory and has an interesting story that I will relate in a future post. Rest in peace, Cletus.

Cletus Schrock and some of his Carroll Victory crewmates, spring 1946

Cletus Schrock poses third from the right with some of his crewmates on the Carroll Victory, spring 1946, en route to Poland. Photo courtesy of Cletus Schrock

Peggy Reiff Miller interviews Cletus Schrock

Cletus shares his seagoing cowboy experience with Peggy Reiff Miller. Photo by Rex Miller