Select Page

CEO Update 2 November 2021

Friends and Advocates:

The team is rebounding after a busy couple of weeks including the Freedom of the Seas Awards, mooring line replacement, and a very successful Halloween STEMabration last Saturday night. I am incredibly proud of the crew and their dedication to the ship, museum, and our three pillars (veterans, community, and education).

Education Manager Tiffany Ellerbeck and Volunteer Coordinator Sue Schmidt mobilized our teams of education professionals, volunteers, security, and digital innovation to put on a great Halloween event Saturday evening. Approximately 500 community residents attended to trick or treat, play games, and watch a movie on the fantail. Friends from the community including Marathon Petroleum, Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, LAPD, Port of Los Angeles Police, Black Knight Patrol, and our crew joined forces to do a blockbuster job! Thank you to everyone that provided a memorable experience for our local community.

Chef Cesar and the team at Vicky’s continue to do a phenomenal job and recently received an “A” from the LA County Health Department. They have begun testing a secret menu that they will release on social media in the coming weeks and months (don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Instagram). The team has also established a food and beverage menu for events on the ship, which has made our venue a preferred destination for community meetings and ceremonies of different types.

This week we welcome our newest staff member Kyle Aube. Kyle is joining the crew as our Development Manager and will have an opportunity to interact with many of you on a regular basis. Kyle comes to our organization with experience from two respected non-profits in the community with a focus on community and military support. We are truly excited to welcome him to the team, as we begin our focus on our 2022 plan and development initiatives.

As a side note, our development initiatives in 2022 will be focused primarily on the capital campaign, plank owner program, and hosting a variety of exciting virtual and in-person events. Stay tuned, as we start to make announcements in the coming months. For those of you that enjoyed attending or watching Freedom of the Seas, make sure you block out October 22, 2022 for next year’s event.

On the veteran’s pillar front: most of the work has been completed on the VPAN Rally Point and Veterans Resource Center (VRC) and the team will begin moving in over the next couple of weeks. A shout out to the flooring apprentices and Sue’s work for organizing their outing to finish the flooring. 

Janice Bowman has been hard at work planning this year’s Veterans Day event scheduled for Saturday, November 13th. David Canfield extended a job offer over the weekend for the VPAN Program Manager position and is in active discussions to fill the open Squad Leader position. 

We also have positions open as a Battle Buddy. If you are a veteran who wants to help other veterans, please reach out to our program team at  We are excited about what this team is doing to make an impact in LA County District 4.

Over the weekend Marann was successful in her efforts to get me to talk about the tow of the ship ten years ago, which was only days before my grandfather’s 94th birthday.  As I reflect that time, I remember the efforts of a tremendous number of volunteers and donors that made it possible to bring the ship alive as a museum. I think about those that are no longer with us, others that moved on to new endeavors, and a significant number that are still crew today. Not only did we accomplish what many thought was impossible, we did so as a crew of patriotic Americans.

Personally, I am uncomfortable talking about these memories on camera, as it is truly the team that made it possible. I was only blessed to be a part of this group of people that made lifetime memories together. I am incredibly thankful to have my wife and two children support me throughout this endeavor despite the distance and hardship that it poses on them.

I think about our staff – it was in its infancy stages back then. Those on the team who are beginning to celebrate ten years with our organization include Mike Getscher, Sue Schmidt, David Canfield, David Way, Nui Valleta, Craig Post, and myself. I am hoping that I didn’t miss anyone on the staff, but I can think of several more that are volunteers and I plan to publish that list in the coming weeks. 

In October of 2011, I was almost eleven years into my work of saving the ship and the emotions were overwhelming when we accomplished the goal. Despite accomplishing the goal, we focused on evolving into an impactful museum at the Port of Los Angeles. I am proud that we have become a Top 5 attraction and museum in Los Angeles, serve thousands of students and veterans annually, and have developed as an asset to the community in many ways.  

Ten years later, we are moving onto the national stage as the home to the National Museum of the Surface Navy and the team will once again lead the way in accomplishing an incredible feat. I am most proud that a museum will finally be built to represent the millions of sailors and thousands of ships that have been forgotten in the annals of history. We will need your support as an advocate, Plank Owner, and donor to make this happen. Whether it is a cash donation, bequest, major gift, or advocating to your friends and families – your support is needed and greatly appreciated.

Personally, this journey has been life changing for me. As a morbidly obese 36-year-old man in 2011, it was difficult to traverse the numerous ladders and almost impossible to get through a scuttle. I thought that if I was still able to move, then I must be in good health. My meals consisted of donuts, iced mochas, fried foods, lots of chips, cookies, and alcohol.

Shortly after I arrived in Los Angeles, my vision became blurry in the afternoon, but I thought nothing of it. When I received the results of a life insurance exam, I realized that I might be diabetic, and I wasn’t in the greatest of health. With a visit to the doctor, it was confirmed. I set on a course of trying every available diet meal plan and lost approximately 85 lbs. in the initial couple of years, something of which I was very proud. Despite the weight loss, I was still not in the best of health, and I hadn’t learned the most important thing – nutrition.  

At the beginning of November, I will celebrate the four-year anniversary of my commitment to become healthier and learn how to take care of myself. I became very ill four years ago. I was unable to balance my blood sugar to the point that caused me a lot of concern. I decided then that I had to do something, or I wouldn’t have many more years to live, and I owed it to my family and crew to commit myself to it. 

The road has been up and down over the past four years, but I have successfully lost 150 pounds since we saved the ship. When I had my blood work done a couple of months ago, my fasting blood glucose was within one point of being non-diabetic. We reduced my medicine and discussed removing it all together after I lose 12 more pounds. I can’t believe that I am this close, and I am thinking about doing a challenge to lose the last 12 pounds by committing a donation to the National Museum of the Surface Navy for each pound I lose. Let me know what you think and if you would be interested in joining me on this challenge.

In closing, I am truly blessed to call each of you a friend and thank you for being a supporter. I wish you and your family an incredible and blessed week!

Jonathan Williams
President & CEO

NOTE: If you prefer not to donate electronically, please mail your check to:
Attention: Development Department, 250 S. Harbor Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90731
Site developed by Wicked Code, Inc. and funded by The Edward E. & Marie L. Matthews Foundation •  Photos by Rick Stipa Photography
Other photos - US Navy Archives and National Archives

Board & Crew Portal