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Big bash planned for U.S.S. Ranger

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The executive board of the U.S.S. Ranger Foundation is busy making plans for the All-Star Celebrity Evening on Feb. 28. From the left are, Capt. Tim Myers, executive director; Jerri Ghiglieri, event coordinator; Admiral Walter Davis, Jr., chairman of the board; Ray Kautch, board president; and Mark Czarnecki, board member.

What would you call an event so big it features everyone from Bill Schonely to the mascot for the Portland Winterhawks?

Lake Oswego's Jerri Ghiglieri is calling it the All-Star Celebrity Evening, and it will be held on Feb. 28 at the 82nd Brigade Armory in Lake Oswego.

This big event has a big purpose: Bringing the U.S.S. Ranger to the Port of Portland to serve as a tribute to American servicemen, a tourist attraction, a floating school, and an emergency center.

'I'm having more fun than anyone should have in doing this,' Ghiglieri said. 'I feel just like Santa Claus.'

Or maybe Ed Sullivan. There aren't any jugglers or plate spinners on the list of attractions yet, but this patriotic extravaganza boasts plenty of remarkable people, including some of the nation's finest 'warriors' and athletes, plus some excellent entertainers.

Ghiglieri's list includes:

n Alumnae from the 1977 NBA world championship Portland TrailBlazers.

n Neil Lomax, a true son of Lake Oswego and a former outstanding NFL quarterback with the St. Louis Cardinals.

n Col. Kenneth Reusser, the most decorated living Marine, with more than 200 combat missions in three wars and 59 citations and commendations.

n William H. Holloman III, one of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen of World War II.

n Col. Joe Jackson, veteran of three wars and winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor.

n Jon Arnett, All-American at the University of Southern California, All-Pro with the Los Angeles Rams and a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.

n And Bill Schonely, legendary voice of the Blazers and quite likely the most popular living Portlander, as master of ceremonies.

There are so many others, too. Like the Winterhawks mascot, Tom-A-Hawk, not to mention the Winterhawks themselves. The chance to be photographed with Tom-A-Hawk alone should make the event a big success.

But in talking to Ghiglieri you get the feeling she is just getting started.

'It just keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger,' Ghiglieri said. 'Every day I get a call from some VIP wanting to participate.'

Ghiglieri began her involvement with the Ranger two years ago with a mild commendation from the U.S.S. Ranger Foundation, which approached her with the remark, 'You seem to like to get things done.' What it got was a one woman-whirlwind.

Ghiglieri lovingly calls the Ranger 'The Big Old Girl,' and as a patriot she makes Betsy Ross look like a slacker. Having the U.S.S. Ranger anchored in Portland is tremendously important to her as a symbol of American military service people.

But Ghiglieri sees the Ranger as so much more, and she is positive the Port of Portland will eventually clear a giant space at a dock for the Ranger.

'Wouldn't it be wonderful for Oregon to say, 'We have the largest floating museum in the world?'' Ghiglieri said. 'The Ranger can still be of service. The Big Old Girl can be a big cash cow.'

Ghiglieri doesn't depend on her own burning enthusiasm to justify this view. The U.S.S. Ranger Foundation spent $45,000 on a feasibility study that indicated that, yes, the big ship can be a tremendous tourist draw.

Even more, Ghiglieri and the foundation's board of directors believe the ship can be an important and unique education tool, as well as a disaster center in case of emergency, with huge space on its decks for evacuees and a capacity to hold 1 million gallons of water.

'I'm saying 'bring it on,'' Ghiglieri said. 'Let's make it happen.'

An All-Star Celebrity Evening is designed to impress one group in particular: The board of directors for the Port of Portland. Ghiglieri hopes that the outpouring of support on Feb. 28 will be the last great push needed to get them on board with the project.

'I hope the board members will think past themselves and think about what having the Ranger can do for Oregon,' Ghiglieri said. 'I'm saying, 'Come on, guys, go along with the rest of Oregon!' '

A sell-out is soon expected, but tickets, priced at $40 each, can still be obtained by calling 503-636-2037. The armory is located at 1915 Southshore Blvd.