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"Convivi-Mon" 2008: Report from a Survivor
By Jeff McGann

In October 2007, Brenda LaGrange Johnson the United States’ Ambassador to the island nation of Jamaica, BWI, and longtime Forest Hills Club member, rose at our Convivium 2007 dinner meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and encouraged the entire club to “come to Jamaica” for our 2008 Convivium…… promising a great time in a great place.

Howard & Ambassador Brenda Johnson
Brenda’s word is as good as gold!

The planning committee comprised of Brenda, Webb Wade and Jeff McGann labored long and hard and came up with two- pronged itinerary. A visit to Kingston to be the personal guests of Brenda at the official Ambassador’s residence and a tour of the inner workings of the U.S. Embassy over which she presides. Following that, an overland trip to Montego Bay (“Mobay”) for three days of sun and fun at Sandals’ all-inclusive and luxurious Royal Caribbean Resort.

A myriad of details had to be hammered out. Good hotel accommodations are tight in Kingston, transportation potentially hazardous, and due to the various arrival times of attendees, had to be carefully orchestrated. Webb journeyed to Jamaica in August to hammer out the many details and “deals” to be made with hotel managers, transportation companies and the like to ensure a memorable experience for all attendees. Brenda smoothed the way in advance and her influence and participation on our behalf made the job much easier.

The gods smiling on us with fair winds and sunshine, 46 Forest Hillians descended on the island nation of Jamaica October 16, 2008, for what turned out to be a most memorable weekend.

Gathering at the downtown Pegasus Hotel’s private meeting room for our traditional arrival day cocktail party went off without a hitch. Many a hug and handshake were exchanged as last year’s attendees -- Peter and Hermie Cullen all the way from the Philippines, David Hitt , Brenda’s nephew and honorary member from Miami, Kathleen Ney Brunner and Thom from Massachusetts, Betty Goodfriend Murphy from FH, her brother John from upstate NY, Bill Ryden from FH, Carol Ottaviano Sperandeo from Ft. Salonga, NY, Bob Taylor and S.O. Linda Broadway from Pelham, NY, Diane Kenney Johnson from Delray Beach, FL, Lynda Sener Kunkin from Longboat Key, FL, Jeff and Sally McGann from Vero Beach, FL, Webb Wade of Jacksonville, FL, Linda and Dave Dufault from St. Augustine, FL, Carolyn Ney Soenksen and Bill from Hawaii and Indian Shores, FL, Jed and Joanna Clauss from Mattituck, NY were excited to reunite with first- time attendees and long -lost friends from “the day” …

The Group at the Embassy
Ted and Margaret Conroy from Greenville, NC, Karlene Reilly from FH, Larry Hockert from NYC, Drs. Herb and Letha Maurer from NH. Allen and Glenda Maurer from Kew Gardens, NY, Phyllis Pugatch Schecter and Keeve from Manhattan, Patricia Conroy Weil and Don from Sea Cliff, NY, Genie Wild from Wakefield RI. Bill Clauss from Cape Canaveral, FL, Andy and Joy Montgomery from Edina, MS, Millicent Fairhurst from Manhattan, Marjorie Feller Ryan from Sea Cliff, NY. Brian and Judy Barry and Ruth Hockert would be going directly to Montego Bay and would be waiting to join us there.

After cocktails and hors d’ouevres at the Pegasus, we were transported in a luxury (sans toilet, though) model 50 passenger bus to her Jamica home….the U.S. Ambassador’s Residence for dinner. The bus, provided for us by Brenda for our entire stay in Kingston and our trip to Montego Bay became our Jamaica transport (some said, “thrill ride”) for the next 24 hours.

Travel to dinner was way longer than it should have been due to evening traffic and our pleasant, smiling, but geography -challenged driver, Rodney, overshooting the driveway by about 3 miles and ending up near the top of a small mountain on a miniscule road.

Kingston Montego - trek begins
This required backing the fifty- foot long behemoth down the serpentine hill in reverse and into upcoming traffic until he could stick the rump of the vehicle onto an intersecting road so he could then execute an agonizing three point turn to get us aimed back down the hill. All this was accomplished with a chorus of horns, hoots, and internationally recognizable finger gestures from blocked vehicles all around us.

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