The Military Affairs Committee
Of the Greater Homestead/Florida City Chamber of Commerce
Robert J. Jensen
One of the most successful and long-standing Chamber Committees is the Military Affairs Committee, which has served the military community here for over forty years. The committee's long-standing charter has been to maintain harmonious relations between our community and Homestead Air Force Base, now Air Reserve Base - as well as providing support to the local area's military mission.
The Military Affairs Committee of our Chamber had its beginning in September of 1967. The history of the Rotary Club of Homestead also shows that a similar, informal community committee functioned in 1955 with the purpose of "smoothing relations between the newly activated Homestead Air Force Base and Homestead and other Redland District communities.” It was called the Civilian-Military Liaison Committee.
In the interim, an informal and independent committee, called the Civilian Military Liaison Committee, functioned as the community liaison with the Air Base.
The establishment of a Civilian Military Liaison Committee was reported in the Sunday, December 4, 1955 edition of the Miami Herald in an article written by Thelma Froscher. The committee was established to solve problems before they occur and to "foster good understanding" between civilians of the community and personnel at the Homestead Air Force Base.
The first social activity of the committee appears to have been a fish fry at the W.E. Rheney home at Biscayne and Krome Avenue. Seventy-five officers from the base were entertained at a dinner of fried fish caught by Bill Rheney, Lee Lehman and E.J. Dyal and hush puppies and cole slaw. Upside down field crates were the seating. Base Commander Colonel and Mrs. James Twitty led the base delegation.
The Rotary Club of Homestead originally sponsored this organization and so members of the Rotary Club attended the fish fry along with leaders of other civic and service organizations.
Grower Luther L. Chandler and oil dealer W. E. Rheney were named as co-chairmen.
"Control Board" members were Jefferson Davis, Col. Robert Ballard, J.R. Brooks, and M.S. Altmayer.
Subommittees were led by community leaders as follows:
Henry Pridgen - employment
Alexander Koch and George H. Cooper - public relations
Robert McDonnell - education
Mrs. E.M. Froescher - information and publicity
Peace Justice Sylvester P. Adair - police
M.S. Altmayer - mercantile
Reverend Frank L. Every - religion (Presbyterian minister?)
J. Abney Cox - flood and water control
Mayors H. Wade Thompson of Homestead and Frank Navilio of
Florida City - cities
County Commissioner Preston B. Bird - county
J.R. Brooks - zoning
T.R. Benson - recreation
J. Rudolph Gossman - housing
L.H. Greer - fire
Richard Fuchs - landscaping and decorations
Mrs. Adrian Jacobs (Margaret) - women's activities
Subcommittee co-chairs from the base were as follows:
Col. Twitty and Lt. Col. Lynn A. Richards - public relations, county and cities
Capt. H.W. Perkins -landscaping, zoning and fire prevention
Lt. F.A. Derfus - housing and police
Maj. Joserph Karol - recreation and education
Maj. (Chaplain) T.E. Adams - religion
Maj. J.H. Carpenter - mercantile
Capt. H.H. Fookes - police
Mrs. Twitty - women's activities
Lt. Col. A. Soto - employment
Lt. David B. Graham - publicity
Chief T.C. Miller - civilian base fire marshal
Lt. Col. Charles W. Cecil, USAF Retired, remembers that this committee was in existence in July of 1963 when he was assigned to the Base. Bill Rheney was the president. He remembers that it included Paul Losner, George Cooper Sr., Charles Carpenter, Dick Conley, Ed Walker, Zeke O'Farrell, Merl Young, Marvin Ellis, J. Abney Cox and Jeff Davis. Names remembered by Crawford Blake were: Preston Bird, Crawford Blake, Charlie Carpenter, Luther Chandler, Dick Conley, Jeff Davis and Rudy Gossman, Sr. President Bill Rheney asked Colonel Cecil to join the committee and Colonel Cecil was later elected president after the death of Bill Rheney. The committee supplied autos to visiting VIP's, the Thunderbirds and others and made sure that visitors to the Base left Homestead with whatever fresh fruits and vegetables were in order. One year, a large shipment of fruit and vegetables was sent to Plattsburg AFB, New York and the people of Plattsburg sent back a large Christmas Tree. Colonel Cecil remembers arranging Thunderbird flights for Paul Losner and Jeff Davis. It was he who suggested to the Chamber that it organize a military affairs committee.
Ruth Campbell was the Chamber president in 1967 and she appointed Zeke O'Farrell (then president-elect) as temporary chairman. The Holiday Inn in Homestead was the setting for the organizational meeting on September 7, 1967. Minutes of the meeting suggest that there was an earlier attempt to organize this committee and the previous chairman had resigned. Charter officers elected were:
Chairman- Zeke O'Farrell
Vice-Chairman - Dr. Robert Douglas MD
Secretary - Jack Levy (then immediate past president)
Treasurer - Irvin Barnett
Chairman O'Farrell added Ruth Campbell and Merl Young as directors and they and the four officers were given the authority to conduct business between regular meetings. Their spending authority was limited to the big sum of $25.
It was decided that there would be 25 members and that each would contribute $100 yearly (it is now $200) to a special MAC account which would be administered separately from the regular Chamber account. There were to be no honorary members.
The first Thursday of the month was selected as the time for the monthly luncheon. Luncheon meetings were to be adjourned not later than 1:30 PM. The meeting day has not changed and meetings never extend to 1:30 PM. Charter members were:
Joe Accursio Crawford Blake
Irvin Barnett Jack Levy
Ruth Campbell Paul Losner
W.P. Coke Henry Mangels
Dr. Robt. Douglas Jim McDonald
Marvin Ellis J.W. Mitchell
Dr. Gerald Halker Zeke O'Farrell
Orville Haller Merl Young
E.F. Jones P.J. Valter
Nate Lee Ed Walker
A list of candidates for the five remaining vacancies was drawn up and they were to be contacted by the Chairman. One of the five was likely the late Abe Silver.
Chamber Manager (as the senior professional staff was called then) Tod Swalm had surveyed programs of military affairs committees in Key West, Orlando, San Diego and Wichita and he presented a proposed list of continuing activities and a list of specific activities. Six of the seven "continuing activities" are still carried out 23 years later. To Tod's nine specific activities, the committee added three more. Included in the twelve were:
#1 - make the Veteran's Day parade the best of its kind in South Florida.
#3 - develop an "airman of the month" recognition program.
#11 - cooperate with the United Services Organization (USO)
It is to the credit of Tod Swalm and to Ruth Campbell and the other volunteer leaders that the Chamber developed a structure and a program of work that have been a success since 1967 with virtually no change. The committee size was increased to 30 and then to 40, with the present day committee being comprised of 50 active members.
In recent years, the Homestead MAC has served to fulfill its orginal charter of supporting the service members in the Homestead area, supporting Homestead Air Force Base (now Air Reserve Base) to fulfill its military mission, and to provide outreach to local organizations as well as the Homestead / Florida City Chamber. Recent examples of support and outreach include activities such as advocating for return of a military mission at Homestead post Hurricane Andrew, advocacy campaigns in support of the BX Mart at Homestead ARB, the annual and quarterly awards program for Homestead ARB, and the annual MAC Golf Tournament. Most importantly, the Homestead MAC has provided recurring receptions for troop homecomings and send-offs since the inception of the Gulf conflict in 1991.
Military Affairs Committee
1967 – Zeke O’Farrell
1968 – Zeke O’Farrell
1969 – Zeke O’Farrell
1970 – Zeke O’Farrell
1971 – Merle Young
1972 – Ralph Matousek
1973 – Dick Mottern
1974 – Dick Mottern
1975 – Ron Webb
1976 – Dr. Bob Crow
1977 – Orville Haller
1978 – Dick Mottern
1979 – Ron Webb
1982 – Dr. Ed Turner
1983 – Dr. Rudy Gossman
1984 – Terry Liephart
1985 – Olin Wright
1986 – Dan Cappozzalo
1988 – Roger Berry
1989 – Bill Losner
1990 – Jim Pierce
1991 – Jim Atkins
1992 – Wayne LaBoeuf
1993 – Tom Thrasher
1994 – Steve Batemen
1995 – Bob Jensen
1996 – Sandy Lynn
1997 – Chris Spaulding
1998 – Al Wallace
1999 – Mike Marcus
2000 – Mike Marcus
2001 – Mike Richardson
2002 – Susan Newman
2003 – Dr. Rudy Gossman
2004 – David Peyton
2005 – Robert Griffitts
2006 – Al Garcia
2007 – Susan Newman
2008 – Sharon Wilson
2009 – Jeff Wander
2010 – Jeff Porter
2011 – Corey Gold
2012 – Tom Schramm
2013 - Jonathan Borgert