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Veterans reunite after nearly 50 years

Lives have taken them to Intel, East Bay, professional clowning
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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Three Navy sailors reunited last month for the first time in 49 years since they had training school together at Mare Island in 1963. With a little help from social networking websites Richard Huntley, of Auburn, Peter Zoldos, of Fairfield, and Alan Simons, of Citrus Heights, were able to get in touch with one another again. To their surprise they realized they all live in Northern California now. They say they still enjoy reminiscing about the fun they had during their military training. Despite being scattered across the globe during their careers the trio agrees that the bond they share makes it easy to reconnect, even decades later. “We had a great old time then,” Simons said. “We were young and crazy.” Simons, who was originally from Bermuda, first began the search for his friends after he retired. He retired from the Navy with 21 and a half years of service and then went on to work in the private sector. Most recently, he worked at Intel. With several careers behind him, Simons said it became important to him to reconnect with them. “You realize you have less tomorrows than you have yesterdays,” Simons said. “It’s brought a great deal of joy to me.” When the three were stationed at Mare Island, near Vallejo, they would spend the weekends at Zoldos’ parents’ home in Santa Rosa. To contact Zoldos, Simons did a little sleuthing on the Internet. He struck gold when he found contact information for Zoldos on the alumni website of Santa Rosa High School. Zoldos said while he may not even go to his high school reunion, reconnecting with his friends from Mare Island was a priority. After the day they left Mare Island Zoldos went out to serve 10 years of active duty and 9 and a half in the reserves and opened a Mercedes Benz repair shop in the East Bay. “You scatter to the four winds with the Navy,” Zoldos said. “We haven’t seen each other in how many years? And it’s like it was a month ago.” Zoldos also got in contact with another member of their training school, who he never got a chance to meet in person again. One day he received a letter from the man’s wife explaining her husband had passed away suddenly from incurable cancer. “Time gets precious as you get older,” Zoldos said. That incident made him place an even higher priority on spending time with his Navy friends, he said. During the same year that Simons and Zoldos got back in contact, Huntley, who was originally from upstate New York, found Zoldos’ information on a Facebook page Zoldos didn’t even realize he had. He sent an email message to him and hoped for the best. “On weekends we’d all go up to Peter’s house. His parents became the West coast mom and dad for a lot of us,” Huntley said. “They just took us in, even when he had the duty weekend.” Huntley had a medical retirement in 1965 and went on to start a professional clown company. Later in life he became ordained and served as a chaplain all around Europe. His latest assignment was in Turkey. Recently, Huntley decided to move back to the U.S. and plant his roots in Auburn. Despite having lived all across the globe, the three are pleased they now live within a short driving distance from each other. “It’s just something special. You bond,” Zoldos said. “I don’t know the word I am looking for.” “Camaraderie,” Huntley interjected. Zoldos agreed enthusiastically, “that’s it, camaraderie.” Reach Sara Seyydin at saras@goldcountrymedia.com, or follow her on Twitter @AJ_News.