Residents educate crew about ship's namesake

U.S. warship in Japan to get Alaska artwork

Posted: Thursday, August 18, 2005

Sailors aboard the USS Juneau, a warship stationed in Sasebo, Japan, are getting help from residents of the ship's namesake who hope to preserve its legacy.

For starters, the ship needs Alaska artwork inside to show off the origin of the vessel's name.

Three years ago, a group of about 30 Juneau residents formed a local chapter of the Navy League of the United States, an organization that helps sailors abroad in various ways.

Murray Walsh, a planning and development consultant, became a member after his son joined the Navy as an officer.

Walsh is known at Juneau Chamber of Commerce luncheons for auctioning hats and mugs embossed with the USS Juneau name.

"Rather than just wearing the hats ourselves, or give them out to NLUS members, we thought we would give the buyers a chance to show a little patriotism," Walsh said.

The USS Juneau is an amphibious transport dock and the third vessel to hold that name. The "Mighty J" supported troops in the Vietnam War and in Operation Desert Storm, and provided humanitarian efforts to the citizens of East Timor.

Walsh and the Navy League are continuing to meet tasks requested by the ship's crew: Supply the vessel with textbooks and artwork and establish a sailor welfare fund.

Juneau Friends of the Library have chipped in seven boxes of algebra, mathematics and other textbooks that sailors could use to further their education while stationed in Asia. Also with the help of the Juneau-Gastineau Rotary Club, a total of 12 boxes have been sent. Juneau's Breeze-In donated several DVDs and videotapes.

The ship's mess room will be decorated in an Alaska motif with three pieces of art.

The Douglas Fourth of July Committee commissioned artist Rudy Ripley to paint "The Lone Fisherman," a depiction of a steamboat that carried passengers back and forth between Juneau and Douglas before the bridge was built.

Local collector Jim Wilcox donated a poster from a transportation convention held in Juneau.

And a panoramic photo of Juneau's downtown harbor in the 1930s is also on its way to the ship, courtesy of a retired Navy serviceman living in Anchorage.

Money raised from Walsh's weekly auction at the chamber goes to a fund that helps sailors and their families. For instance, money might go to a sailor who needs financial help to visit a sick mother stateside, Walsh said. Items in his auction typically fetch $40 to $50.

So far, the group has raised a few hundred dollars.

Next month, survivors of the Navy's first USS Juneau, which sank in World War II, will come to Juneau to visit the memorial that stands on downtown's waterfront.

For more information about the Juneau Navy League and its fundraising, contact Walsh at 586-4083.

• Andrew Petty can be reached at andrew.petty@juneauempire.com



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