Margaret Thorsen, Abe Lincoln, Roy Thorsen
Mickey Rooney, Roy and Margaret Thorsen
Bill McCulla, Jim Heye, Mary Monahan, Roy Thorsen, Sybil Michalove, Bob Meisenheimer, Larry Michalove, Bob Werner [Austin Mini - APR 2008]
Roy Thorsen, Docent, Jim Fiscus, Art Follett, Natalie Wilcox, Chrys Follett, Carl Bossert, Laura and Bill Haas [Austin Mini - APR 2008]
Jerry Denman, Roy Thorsen, Dan Geran, Bill Norvell, Bob Carpenter, Karl Derrah, Bob Deardoff, Jan Roberts (Tour Guide) [Austin Mini - APR 2008]
D2: Thorsen, Mary Monahan, Werner, Joan McCulla, Jim and Bettie Heye, McCulla, Sybil Michalove, Meisenheimer, Michalove [Austin Mini - APR 2008]
West, Hilbert, McCulla, Doyle, Roades, Karam, Michalove, Walt Boge (friend), Thorsen, Quinn, Sy Kaback (golfing buddy), Pete Beczkiewicz '51 (Bob Carlisle, friend is hidden from view) [Honorary Pallbearers: Al Bundren Funeral - DEC 2006]
Sheila and Wynne Stern, Bob Meisenheimer, Dee Cassidy, Roy Thorsen, Joan McCulla, Rob Cummins, Hugh and Ann Quinn [50th Reunion]
Wynne Stern, Bob Meisenheimer, Dee Cassidy, Roy Thorsen, Joan McCulla, Rob Cummins, Hugh and Ann Quinn, Bill McCulla, Val and Al Bundren, Sybil and Larry Michalove, Kay and Larry Stockett, Mary Monahan and Jack Doyle [50th Reunion]
Larry and Kay Stockett, Ann and Hugh Quinn, Russell, Cummins, Thorsen, Dee Cassidy, Meisenheimer [D2: 50th Reunion]
Murphy, Sullivan, Fralen, Robinson, Toni Maurer, Lichtenberg, Carla and Don Hilbert, Stern, Thorsen [From NYC - 50th Reunion]
Bill Graham, Murray, Spaulding, Bullard x55, Wing, Knieriem, West, Michalove, Regnier, Tom Phillips, Viney, Klung, Pond, Smor, Perritt x55, Thorsen (seated) [Mini Reunion @ Thorsens - MAY 1970]
[15th Reunion - 1970]
[10th Reunion - 1965]
D-2 Firsties - 5th Row: Wilkinson, Woodruff x55, 4th Row: Stern, Stockett, Thorsen, Werner, 3rd Row: Russell, Meisenheimer, Michalove, Monahan, Quinn, Riggs, 2nd Row: Fontaine, Herman, Heye, Jefferies, McCormack, McCulla, 1st Row: Bundren, Chura, Coyle, Cummins, Erminger, Fetko (CO)
On January 1st of each year it was traditional for the officers of an air base to present some sort of plaque or other token to the Commander to express their appreciation for his leadership during the past year. This year,1950, they decided to forego the plaque and instead his gift was "Roy and Emily" for a two week engagement at the club.
General Grubbs (actually at that time he was still a Colonel and shortly thereafter became the youngest General in the Air Force) was overwhelmed by the refreshing uniqueness of the gift so he insisted that, rather than have us stay in D.C. like most of the other entertainers who played the club, we were to stay on the Base at the Bachelor Officers Quarters for me and the Visiting Women's Quarters for Emily. At the time I didn't realize or appreciate that this kid from Brooklyn had a two-room suite while full Colonels were doubling up in a single room down the hall.
I soon learned that General Grubbs (USMA Class of '33) also had a secret agenda, to convince me to give up show business and go to West Point. Whenever a visiting military VIP came to Washington he usually ended up at the Bolling Officers Club and afterwards there would be another get together at the Grubbs' residence. Apparently General Grubbs put the word out to them and I would find myself getting a lecture on the benefits of a West Point education. I remember one evening when I was sitting on the couch in the Grubbs' living room and felt like I was getting the third degree. My interrogators were General Hoyt Vandenberg on the left, General Tunner, commander of the Burma Hump airlift during WWII in front of me, and General Curtis LeMay to my right. They presented many good points and I really couldn't find any reasons to disagree with their logic. All this for a 19 year old kid from Brooklyn whose father, a Norwegian immigrant, was the Superintendent of a number of apartment buildings, and whose mother was born here but raised in Norway and returned to this country as a native-born citizen who couldn't speak English.
The message sank in but I still couldn't believe that it could become a reality. A few months later Emily came down with pleurisy so we would be out of commission for a few weeks. I had kept in contact with the Grubbs family and when I told them about Emily's illness they invited me to spend some time with them. I went to Bolling AFB and within a day General Grubbs had me in the House of Representatives Office Building checking with one of the Congressmen from Brooklyn. I, of course, was in awe of meeting a real live member of Congress and didn't realize that at the time he was suffering from a miserable hangover. He agreed, probably to get rid of us, to give me a First Alternate Appointment where the Principal appointee had a medical problem that would probably disqualify him and make the First Alternate a shoo-in if he passed the physical, medical, and academic exam.
General Grubbs then explained to me that any member of the Armed Forces who has an appointment to West Point is automatically assigned to the USMA Preparatory School at Stewart AFB, Newburg, New York. Since it had already been two years since my high school graduation I realized that I needed a lot of brush-up academically and, therefore, made one of the most meaningful decisions of my life.
I enlisted in the Air Force and then called my parents. I told them that I had decided to give up show business, of which they had always been very supportive, and had enlisted in the Air Force with the hope of eventually being admitted to West Point.
I remember my mother's asking me if I had given a lot of thought to my decision. I told her that I had. There was a pause as she talked with my father and then said that as long as I had given it good thought they were in total support and sent their love and best wishes for my success.
The next call was more difficult when I called an ailing Emily and told her that she was now a single. Just prior to Emily's illness we, as a team, had been offered a booking at the famous Paladium Theater in London. In addition, I was offered, as a single, a part in the movie, "Summer Stock" with Judy Garland and Gene Kelly. For me it seemed to be a good time to make a change because I could leave show business like "an athlete dying young", at the top of my career with only good memories. My decision was a surprise to Emily but she said that she always felt that I was destined to do more than just tap dance and so she wished me well.
At the time of my swearing into the Air Force, two other young men, Jack Doyle and Dick Prater, who had appointments to the Academy were also sworn in. After that we were to be issued our uniforms. The official Air Force uniform at the time was olive drab, just the same as the Army. The new Air Force blue uniform was available for purchase but not yet available as government issue. Bolling AFB, because of its proximity to Washington, D.C., had been selected to be the first Air Force Base to be furnished a supply of blue uniforms, however, the official issue date was a couple of weeks away. General Grubbs said that he wanted his representatives at Prep School to be properly attired so he had the Supply Officer open the warehouse where the new blue uniforms were stored and outfitted the three of us with the very first government issue of Air Force blues.
Thanks also to the kindness of General Grubbs I started off my Air Force career with a 30 day leave so I could get my civilian affairs in order, say my goodbyes, and still arrive at Stewart Field before the start of the Prep School term.
While I was at Prep School and about one month before we were to take the entrance exams for West Point I received a notice that my First Alternate Appointment had been withdrawn and given to someone else. Apparently my bleary-eyed Congressman had sobered up and wanted to find favor elsewhere. It was a tremendous blow and, with that went a young man's idealistic respect for the world of politics.
The first thing I could think of was to call General Grubbs who was now the Commanding General of Ramey AFB in Puerto Rico. His response was not to worry and keep studying. "Sure", I said, "but I'm in the Air Force for four years and am now a Private First Class who hasn't even been through basic training."
True to his word, a week later I received a Third Alternate appointment from a Brooklyn Congressman whose Principal appointee had been a Qualified Alternate the year before and was assured of entrance under the appointment. The Third Alternate appointment, however, permitted me to take the entrance exam which was just a week away.
In spite of all that, I went to Washington and walked through the halls of the House of Representative and the Senate asking if anyone had an uncommitted appointment. One of the nicest ones I spoke with was Senator John Kennedy but he wasn't able to help.
I did well on the entrance exam. On the physical aptitude portion I figured that my strong legs would help me overcome my lesser arm strength. The main program that I relied on was the squat jump. I started squatting and jumping while an Army Sergeant started counting. I had forgotten how many it took to get 100% so I just kept going and after I reached 110 squat jumps I finally asked him how many it took to get 100%. By this time his eyes were sort of glassy as he continued to count and said that I had reached it at 80 and had never seen anyone do so many before. So much for tap dancing lessons from the age of 4.
When the results of the entrance exam came through I was advised that I had passed but was not admitted under my appointment because the "Principal or Alternate" before me had passed and would be admitted. My only recourse then was to be admitted as a "Qualified Alternate" to fill the vacancy where the Principal and Alternates had all failed to qualify. As I recall, there were 13 vacancies and about 2,000 qualified alternates.
My only other recourse was prayer. I had been doing it regularly but now did it with a new energy and focus.
Then, out of nowhere, I received a message to come to the office of our Prep School Company Commanding Officer, Capt. Goeth, to report to his office.
Capt. Goeth told me that I had an appointment at West Point (20 miles away) with Capt. Eisenhower at 3 p.m and that a staff car would take me there. I asked him if he was any relation to General Eisenhower. He said, "Yes. He's his son."
I asked him if he knew why he wanted to see me and he said that he had no idea but that the minute I returned I was to come to his office and tell him what it was all about.
I agreed and in a total fog got into the staff car and went to West Point.
Capt. Eisenhower was an instructor in the English Department so our meeting was set up in the English Department Library. Naturally, I got there first and sat there wondering what I had done wrong. Then he entered and introduced himself and in a moment made me feel that I was with a friend.
He started out by telling me that he and his father, who at that time was the commander of SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe) were on an R&R (Rest and Recuperation) in Puerto Rico as General Grubbs' guests. During their stay General Grubbs had constantly told them about Cadet Candidate Roy who had given up a promising career in show business to attend West Point only to have his appointment withdrawn in the last minute.
On their last day on the island General Grubbs came to bid John and his father good-bye and made a request that General Eisenhower have John check out Roy and, if warranted, recommend him to the Academy as a Qualified Alternate. General Grubbs then wrote out my full name and, according to John, it was the first time that his Dad realized that General Grubbs hadn't been talking about his own son. He then asked John to meet with me and report back to him.
John Eisenhower then sort of picked my brain and we had a delightful conversation. I told him where I came from, why I was where I was, and where I hoped to be one day.
I was impressed with him and I guess he gave his Dad a good report because General Eisenhower then sent several messages on my behalf to members of the Academy Staff and the Secretary of the Army. Thanks to our West Point archives I've received copies of his letters and wires to them concerning me.
A few weeks later I received a notice that I had been selected to enter the Military Academy as a "Qualified Alternate". A friend of mine at Prep School was also selected as a "Qualified Alternate", however, his selection apparently was based solely on his entrance exam grades. When we compared grades we found that mine were higher than his. So there is a good possibility that I would have been admitted even without General Eisenhower's support but, of course, wouldn't have had such an interesting story to tell.
I'm eternally grateful for the guidance and support that so many fine people gave me, a kid from Brooklyn who didn't even know that the proper response to a General was, "Yes, sir" rather than, "Yeah."
P.S. During our summer Camid Cruise my D-2 classmate and fellow Brooklynite, Wynne Stern, and I talked about how we ended up at to the Academy and finally realized that he was the one who received the appointment that had been taken from me shortly before the entrance exams. We laughed at it and it brought us even closer together.
29 July 2010
Ventura County Jail Ministry Program
From: Roy "firstname.lastname@example.org"
To: USMA 55 Forum "email@example.com"
Subject: usma1955: 55-forum Jail Ministry
Date sent: Thu, 21 Oct 2010 0:15:20 +0000
Another day of Jail Ministry and another day of special blessings for me.
Today I held my Jail Ministry service with five inmates. There weren’t enough chairs for all of them in our small visitor’s room so one of them just sat on the floor. As usual, after they entered the room I told them that my name was Roy and each one of them told me his name. The first one, a young man of about 19, who was sitting on the floor was named John. I told him we had a kinship becaus? my older brother™s name was John and he was very sp?cial to me.
After an opening prayer and reading of a selected scripture we all shared our thoughts and feelings about the message I had read. It then moved us to a discussion of how we are blessed by the love and support of our families and good friends. We also agreed and acknowledged that a very special love and support comes from our Heavenly Father.
It was then, from his seat on the floor, that John said he had a very large family with several brothers, sisters, and cousins who were very close and did lots of things together. He went on to say that he was a new inmate, had never gotten in trouble before, and was supposed to start college next month. He also acknowledged that a bad decision had brought him here.
Then his voice softened and trembled a bit as he stated that his father had visited him the day before and during the visit his father said to him, “Even though you did something wrong I want you to know that I will never stop loving you.”
John then looked up at me with tears flowing from his eyes and said, “That was the first time my father ever told me that he loved me.”
A silence followed with of all of us dealing with our emotions, after which we acknowledged that we all share another Father who will never stop loving us and, based on what we do, will either weep or smile for us.
After leaving the jail, and recalling John’s tearful statement, I vowed that, whether family or friend, I would never hesitate to say, “I love you.”
Sunday, October 17, 2010
JAIL MINISTRY – June 24, 2012
I was assigned to Quad E where most of the inmates are segregated from each other for one reason or another. Because of this, the session is just one-on-one and I was able to schedule two sessions within the ninety minutes that are allotted for jail ministry.
My practice is to start with a prayer and then read a passage from the Bible on which I can base my comments and then solicit the inmate’s thoughts and opinions. We then engage in a conversation about the scripture and, hopefully, they receive the message and take it with them. We end the session with a closing prayer usually offered by me but once in a while by one of the inmates.
The first inmate was named John. He was slight of build and about in his late twenties. He was pleasant enough but he was constantly looking down with a sad and dreary expression. Even when I asked him a direct question he would respond in a monotone while looking at the floor. When I asked him if he was married he responded with, "I have two daughters."
After discussing our Heavenly Father’s love for us and His desire for us to follow his commandments, I asked John what he would tell his daughter if she came to him and asked him how she should live her life. He said that he would tell her to be honest, work hard, don’t use drugs, and be good to other people.
I then asked, "How would you feel if she ignored your advice."
"I’d feel real bad," he answered.
"And that’s the way that God feels when you or I don’t follow his advice" I said.
After a few thoughtful seconds John raised his head, looked me straight in the eye, smiled and said, "Yes. You’re right."
I pray the message has stayed with him.
After waiting in the Deputy Sheriff’s Control Station while John was being body searched to make sure that I hadn’t passed anything to him I went back to the Interview Room to await the second inmate.
When the door to the Interview Room opened I was surprised to see a beautiful woman with a full head of hair curling gently over her shoulder and down past her bosom. She later mentioned that she was 29. Her make-up was applied with precision and her exceptionally long fingernails were meticulously manicured.
I was also surprised because I had never met with a female inmate before and thought that they had all been transferred to the Todd Road Jail facility in Santa Paula several months ago. However, I’d also heard that when inmates were to appear in Court they would often house them in the Main Jail because it was closer to the court building. It also explained why she was in Quad E.
After she sat down I told her my name was Roy and asked her for her name.
"Monique" she answered with a confident smile.
I said the opening prayer and read the scripture for the day. Then, despite my attempts to focus on the message in the scripture reading, the minute I gave her the opportunity to offer an opinion she just started off on how angry she was because her cousin was being so selfish by not furnishing her with the money that she needed to buy some things while in jail. Even though her cousin didn’t have much she knew that she had enough to be able to share some of it.
She also found reasons to blame her parents and others for all her problems. We spent the rest of the time discussing our responsibility for our actions. By the end of our meeting I felt that I had gotten my message across to her and she finally admitted that she should start blaming herself rather than others.
During our discussion she mentioned that she had received the "Goodies Bag" that the Jail Ministry gives to each inmate at Christmas and that she especially enjoyed the card with the poem "Walk With Me" in both English and Spanish. She said that she had written out the Spanish version and mailed it to her mother. I couldn’t resist telling her that I had written it.
She was a new and different challenge but I felt that I had reached her and that it was indeed a worthwhile visit.
I then went downstairs to the Visitor Room to await the other two Jail Missionaries from our church who had driven there together. When the first one, Bruce, arrived we started sharing our experiences. I told him that I had had two sessions and that one of them was a woman. I also told him that I was surprised because I thought that all the women had been transferred to Todd Road Jail in Santa Paula.
He smiled knowingly and said, "Yes. There are no women here. Was his name Monique?"
How I met Margaret
At that time I was also on the Board of Directors of an organization called SERVE (Servicemen’s Emergency Recreational Events) which had been started by David Evans, a former Society reporter, producing various patriotic programs and events in support of Service personnel. One of the events was a salute to the Hollywood community.
I purchased two rather expensive tickets for it and decided to ask Peggy Ann Garner to accompany me. She was very sweet but still turned me down. When I mentioned it to David Evans he said that he knew a beautiful young lady who had recently returned from France where she had made her debut the previous year. Her name was Marissa and when I contacted her she said she’d be delighted to attend with me.
After that, Marissa and I became good friends and a regular duo at various social functions in the Greater Los Angeles area. During the Christmas season Marissa invited me to a Christmas dinner at her parent’s beautiful home overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It was a lovely dinner with about fifteen guests including Marissa’s cousin, Margaret.
I was seated next to Margaret and we both seemed to really enjoy each other’s company, so much so that I was tempted to ask her for a date, but I knew that dropping Marissa for her cousin would be the kiss of death date-wise. So, I just kept it in the back of my mind until one day when I asked Marissa if she would like to join me at one of our West Point Society local area parties. She said she’d love to but she was going to be out of town that weekend.
I then asked her if she thought that perhaps Margaret might like to attend in her place. She said she thought that Margaret would love to. I then asked her for Margaret’s telephone number which she gave me and said that I should call her right then because she had just spoken with her and so she knew she’d be home.
I waited about five minutes because I figured that Marissa would probably call Margaret and tell her that I’d be calling and it was okay with her. As it turned out that’s exactly what she did and when I called Margaret she feigned surprise but also accepted my date offer.
We both had a great time at the party and that was the end of my socializing with Marissa until two years later in 1974 when she was Maid of Honor at our wedding.
28 April 2011
YOUNGEST GRADUATE SPEECH
Roy T. Thorsen