- Associated Press - Monday, September 22, 2014

CARBONDALE, Ill. (AP) - Forty years is probably too long to wait for the next reunion.

Wilbur “Plum” Plumlee and Jerry “Bell” Bellamy, a couple of Illinois boys who met in 1951 in boot camp and served together for four years in the U.S. Navy, reunited Labor Day weekend.

“I told him a while ago, if we meet again in 40 years, we’ll be 120. And if he can’t make it, I’ll meet him on the other side,” said Plumlee, a native of Cambria.

Bellamy, who grew up in Mattoon, and Plumlee didn’t know each other before joining the U.S. Navy, but they had plenty of time to form a friendship. During their four-year stint, all of their transfers coincided.

“We were together at six different locations, which is incredible because we didn’t get to pick or choose assignments,” Bellamy said.

For two years, they served at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii as mechanics on airplanes that transported troops and equipment from Korea to the States.

“As enlisted men, we didn’t have a lot of money, so we spent a lot of time on the beach enjoying the sun,” Bellamy said. “We saw a lot of celebrities on the beach - Henry Fonda studying a script, Gabby Hayes, Tennessee Ernie Ford.”

But Humphrey Bogart made the biggest impression. He and Lauren Bacall were only a few feet away from them on Waikiki Beach.

“Bogie swore like a sailor,” Bellamy recalled.

“So, we liked him,” Plumlee quipped.

Reminiscing about days in the service and dining out with their wives took up most of the time during their brief reunion. Both couples stayed at Drury Inn in Marion. Plumlee, who lives in Ridgefield, Washington, attended activities at Cambria Homecoming on Labor Day, but Bellamy left that day to return home to Indianapolis.

“I’m here for only 24 hours - long enough to break some bread, tell some white lies and be careful what we say in front of the wives,” Bellamy said.

The two visited briefly in 1971 and then found each other recently on Facebook.

Interestingly, both have spent many years working in the same field — the insurance industry. Plumlee reenlisted in the military, spent 17 years in the U.S. Air Force and then worked 28 years for State Farm. Bellamy was self-employed in insurance and real estate.

They also have one more thing in common. Both of their wives have the same name. Well, almost. Caroline and Carolyn.

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Online: The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan, https://bit.ly/1ulsMKW

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Information from: Southern Illinoisan, https://www.southernillinoisan.com


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