By Ovetta Wiggins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 21, 2008
There were plenty of stories swapped, backs slapped and pictures snapped yesterday in Annapolis as the U.S. Naval Academy hosted five class reunions.
But there was even more to anticipate on the grounds of the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Many alumni hoped to get a glimpse of Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), who was in town to celebrate his 50th academy reunion and to attend the Navy-Rutgers football game.
Inside the stadium, many of his 1958 classmates stuck McCain campaign stickers or buttons next to the "US-58-NA" insignia on their caps. Jack Accountius of Durant, Okla., had a camera strung around his neck with hopes of getting the McCains to pose with him or his wife, Pat.
Another classmate, Richard Anderson of Purcellville, said he is an ardent McCain supporter.
"I think you'd be hard-pressed to find an Obama supporter in this crowd," said Laurie Twomey of San Diego, whose husband, Tom, was celebrating his 25th reunion.
Then Twomey thought about it and said: "But don't talk to some of the children of these guys."
Or some of their wives. Barbara Anderson, Richard Anderson's wife, said she would "stand this way" while her husband answered the question about his choice for president. She turned her back.
Richard Anderson said the house has been slightly (but politely) divided during the campaign. He is trying to convince his wife that she can't vote against a Navy man, "especially a classmate . . . let's just say we're having a lot of family discussions about this," he said.
"Let's just say I'm undecided," Barbara Anderson jumped in.
McCain and his wife, Cindy, went to a tailgating party under a massive white canopy in the stadium parking lot. There, 838 classmates, spouses and guests munched on pulled pork, beef sandwiches, chicken, salads, hot dogs and hamburgers. Cindy McCain also participated in the reunion by attending a parade Friday.
McCain, the son and grandson of war heroes, arrived on the Naval Academy campus at age 17. Yesterday, he returned to a warm greeting. On a street just outside the stadium, supporters held a blue-and-white sign with his name on it and another that read "Don't Give Up."
"It would be nice if he came out at halftime" during Navy's game against Rutgers University, said Byron Jenkins of Norfolk, who was at his 15th reunion. "It's just a great accomplishment to have someone from your organization to become a nominee for the presidency."
Some of the classmates who traveled from across the country for the 50th reunion said they did not know McCain personally. Those who did recalled his rambunctious nature.
"John was adventuresome," said Evan Holt, 73, of Halifax, Va.
John Gentile of Easton, Md., summed the senator up in one word: "wild."
"He was always a character," Gentile added. "He was wonderful, fun and smart."
Not everyone in the stadium crowd was looking forward to seeing McCain.
"Oh thrills," said Michael Baum of York, Pa., rolling his eyes, when he learned McCain was in Annapolis. "Does that tell you which way I'm going to vote?"
Baum, wearing a red-and-white Rutgers baseball cap, and his brother, Robert, said their choices were firm yesterday: Rutgers and Sen. Barack Obama.