Among the sea of 18,000 Lions Club International members in attendance at the International Conference in Hawaii this summer, it’s hard to believe that Green Bank residents, Charles and Carolyn Sheets and Richard Nottingham, would see a familiar face, yet that’s exactly what they did.
As the Sheets gave a presentation about their trip at the Durbin Lions Club meeting last week, the couple revealed that “it’s a small world after all.”
“We were sitting in this big room, just Charles and I,” Carolyn said. “We were talking to these three women from Egypt on our right and then we heard this man say he was born in Marlinton. Charles said, ‘I’m from Green Bank and I was born in Marlinton Hospital. [The man] said, ‘that’s where I was born.’ He said he used to teach FFA in Green Bank.”
The couple continued their conversation with the man, amazed that they found another Pocahontas countian among the ranks.
“He said a man by the name of Clarence Sheets got him into the Lions Club in January 1951,” Carolyn said. “Then Charles said ‘that’s my father.’ We started talking and he came to Green Bank from Brandywine. That was his first teaching position – at Green Bank High School.”
The man was Raymond Swadley.
Carolyn asked Swadley if he remembered her brother, Richard Nottingham, who was also at the conference.
Swadley had been Richard’s teacher, and Carolyn reconnected teacher and student when they met with Richard later that day.
Swadley told the Sheets about his career in the Lions and said he is now living in Mount Sidney, Virginia.
“He moved to New Jersey and taught FFA,” Charles said. “He was District Governor in New Jersey. Now he lives in Mount Sidney which is near Harrisonburg, Virginia, and he was a District Governor in Virginia. We were curious how old he was, and it took a little while for it to come out. He said, ‘I’m forty-four times two.’”
During the conference, all the Lions in attendance have a parade and sing songs from their nations of origin.
“We were near the front of the parade this year,” Carolyn said. “All these people kept coming by. There were four thousand people from Japan that were in the parade. We had our T-shirts on that had West Virginia on the back and we sang ‘Country Roads.”’ Most people sang that song with us. Everybody knew it.”
To make the trip count, the Sheets and Nottingham toured Hawaii, including the USS Missouri and the Pearl Harbor Memorial.
“The Battleship Missouri – was laid to keel in New York, Brooklyn Shipyard, 1941,” Charles said. “This was the ship where President Truman wanted the peace treaty signed. There are sixteen inch guns on that thing. It can fire a twenty-five hundred pound shell twenty-three miles. That ship was so huge. It was recommissioned by President Reagan and it served in Vietnam.”
At the Pearl Harbor Memorial, the USS Arizona remains in the ocean, marked by a large monument which visitors can tour.
“Twelve-hundred sailors died December 7, 1941,” Charles said. “Their names are inscribed on the wall. One thing we found out that I wasn’t aware of, the few sailor that survived the attack, they can now have their ashes spread there and their names are put on another plaque. They can be buried with their comrades.”
After spending a week in Hawaii, on the island of Oahu, the trio extended their vacation, by flying to Australia and New Zealand.