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Salute to Lone Sailors Puts Honorees in Good Company

February 29, 1996|KATHRYN BOLD

Along with President Richard M. Nixon, entertainer Bob Hope and astronaut Kathryn D. Sullivan were saluted at the Lone Sailor Awards Dinner on Saturday at the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace in Yorba Linda.

The U.S. Navy Memorial Foundation presented the awards at a formal dinner that drew more than 200 guests, many of them high-ranking Navy veterans and--in the words of one wag--"old sea dogs." The $250-per-person gala was expected to net more than $60,000 for educational programs offered at the U.S. Navy Memorial in Washington.

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Hope, Flight and Duty

The event marked the second time the Lone Sailor Awards have been held on the West Coast since they were created in 1987.

"We're trying to establish a presence here," said retired Rear Adm. James Miller, foundation president and event chairman.

Hope, 92, made the trek from his home in Palm Springs to accept the foundation's 1996 Naval Heritage Award, which honors nonveterans for their contribution to America's naval and maritime heritage.

Hope, who has earned a place in Guinness Book of Records as "the world's most decorated and honored man in entertainment," received a standing ovation when he walked up to receive his award.

"Sit down--I thought you were walking [out]," he quipped.

During World War II and the Korean War, Hope logged more than a million miles entertaining more than 10 million troops--appearing at almost every military base in the world. As recently as 1987, he entertained troops in the Persian Gulf.

"They're our fellows; they're the guys who do it for us. I wouldn't miss it," Hope said of his USO tours, as his wife, Dolores, stood at his side.

The Lone Sailor Awards also honor naval service veterans for their public service and national leadership. Receiving the award on behalf of President Nixon, who was a naval officer during World War II, was his brother, retired Naval Reserve Capt. Edward Nixon.

"I remember it vividly when he went to [the South Pacific]," Edward Nixon said. "When you have a sibling standing in harm's way, you're concerned."

Sullivan, the first American woman to walk in space, was also honored. A veteran of three space shuttle missions, she says she finds it hard to think of herself as a female role model.

"I grew up in a family where issues like intellect, integrity and capability could be learned from any gender," said Sullivan, now chief scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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Stately Dinner

The dinner took place in the library's lobby. Tables were adorned with gold-rimmed china, red, white and blue floral centerpieces and, on each, a miniature replica of the Lone Sailor statue (the 7-foot original stands at the memorial on Pennsylvania Avenue).

Former White House chef Henry Haller orchestrated a presidential menu, dishing up gossip with every course. Haller's tenure at the White House lasted 22 years, from Johnson to Reagan.

He told how Nancy Reagan would worry about her husband's weight and wanted only a light cuisine. Ronald Reagan would cheat on his diet whenever his wife went to visit her mother in Phoenix, Haller said.

"Then the president and myself had a very good time. I would change the menu," Haller said. "Instead of broiled chicken, we had roast duckling. Instead of filet of sole, we had filet mignon. Instead of grapefruit for dessert, we had chocolate mousse. It's a little secret between myself and President Reagan."

Working with the staff at Hyatt Regency Irvine, Haller recreated Reagan's mousse, as well as Gerald Ford's favorite roast veal tenderloin, John F. Kennedy's eastern shore shrimp (although he did not serve under Kennedy) and pheasant consomme, a Nixon favorite.

Among those presenting awards were retired Adm. Elmo Zumwalt Jr., former chief of naval operations; Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy John Hagan; retired Vice Adm. Richard Truly; retired Rear Adm. Paul Howell, chairman of the foundation board; and Newport Beach resident Christina Snyder, a foundation supporter.

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