Lemoore Navy daughter's quest to find one of late father's model ships ends with Christmas surprise

Article Contributed to The Leader
This was one of the ships built by Peter Bauer, a former officer in Navy hospital administration.
This was one of the ships built by Peter Bauer, a former officer in Navy hospital administration.
Photo Contributed

Growing up in a Navy family, Cheryl Symonds was used to leaving things and places she loved every few years. Her father, Peter Bauer, was a Naval officer, and due to his career, he and his family moved often.

He was in hospital administration. He and his beloved high school sweetheart – and wife for over 50 years - Claire grew up in Green Bay, Wisconsin, but raised their three daughters around the U.S., wherever the Navy sent them.

Her father, Peter, was quite the craftsman. His love of history and old ships collided in a beautiful way when he started building model ships as a side hobby. His ship creations did not come from a kit, but from plans, he would find, making all of the components himself, by hand and to scale.

As word of mouth spread amongst friends and colleagues, his model ships were in steady demand, and for many years, his side hobby was earning him more than his salary as a Naval officer!

Unfortunately for the family, the talented Bauer never kept any of his ships. His daughters have many newspaper articles, photos, and records of what he managed to build, but unfortunately, they had none of the beautiful models.

After both her father, Peter, and his wife died unexpectedly in 2016, Cheryl, the youngest of the three daughters, set out on a mission to find one, a priceless piece of family history and nostalgia, to bring home to the family!  She began her quest by thumbing through a photo book put together by their late mother of some of the models that provided information about who they were made for and the location.

Cheryl Symonds with one of several newspaper articles written about her father's hobby, building intricate model ships.
Cheryl Symonds with one of several newspaper articles written about her father's hobby, building intricate model ships.
Photo Contributed

She had a few promising leads. A retired Navy friend of her father sent Cheryl a Facebook message and mentioned that one of her father’s ships was located at the NAS Great Lakes Officers Club when he was stationed there, but that it was some time ago. There had been some remodeling since then. After a few phone calls, she found one fully restored ship, still located on display at the historic Bell Tower building on the base. On a visit, Cheryl and her sister Lisa stopped there in 2018, visited the base, and viewed it.

Another lead revolved around a ship constructed for a bicentennial celebration in 1976 for the NAS Camp Lejeune Naval Hospital. Cheryl sent a letter to base officials and received confirmation and photos that the ship was still on display at the hospital and safely in the U.S. Navy's property, where it will remain. They were happy to hear that it is still being enjoyed at the hospital.

Cheryl had pretty much given up hope of retrieving a ship for the family when a random Google search she did recently, with all the extra free time spent at home, turned up a photo from an online auction site in 2014. She emailed a listed contact at the auction and asked if it was possible to forward her information to whoever purchased the ship. The auction site responded and said it would do that but couldn’t provide any more specific information, of course.

Not expecting much, Symonds surprisingly received a call the very next day from a nice gentleman with a sweet, southern drawl from North Carolina. He is a retired Marine and attorney, a collector of model ships, and runs an antique store. He explained to Symonds that he purchased her father’s ship through the online auction and recently had decided to place it up for sale in his store, as he had a larger one, too, and his wife wanted him to scale down his collection a bit!

He offered it to the family at a reasonable sales price and the price of shipping. Cheryl and her sisters happily sent the money off to him, and his shop worker expertly packed it up. They prayed that it would survive the long haul to Park City, Utah, where the family decided to “dock” it at her sister’s vacation home – at least for now – so that visiting family and friends might enjoy.

The ship miraculously survived everything in place, with only one small, tiny cannon floating around the bottom of the glass case. Cheryl and her family consider this a victory and are so happy to have the ship back home. Oddly enough, her father finished this ship and sold it in 1981 to a friend of his when he was stationed here at NAS Lemoore (and it was featured in the Hanford Sentinel in an article). After sailing around the U.S., it’s finally back where it belongs, in the Bauer family, where it will remain. Cheryl knows that her dad is looking down with a huge smile on his face, with the pride he always had for his craft.


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