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William Dorsett hasn’t seen the USS Independence since his three-year stint with the Navy came to an end in December 1970.

The Rancho Viejo resident and Port Isabel native, who served aboard the Independence for three years and two Mediterranean tours, was excited by the prospect of seeing it again after all these years as it’s towed to the Port of Brownsville for scrapping.

Originally the ship was supposed to be here in February or March, though its departure from the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Wash., was delayed. Because of a family commitment in Dallas, it looks like Dorsett won’t get to see the Independence come in after all. The latest estimate for its arrival is June 1.

Friends have promised to take lots of photos, though, and Dorsett knows he’ll be able to see it from State Highway 48 where the road passes International Shipbreaking Ltd., part of the EMR Group, the company that will be dismantling the vessel under contract for the Navy.

Dorsett completed boot camp in San Diego, Calif., and then was sent to Norfolk, Va., to report aboard ship. The years haven’t dimmed his memory of seeing the Independence for the first time. The teenager who’d grown up in Port Isabel and Brownsville had never seen anything so big in his life.

“It’s awesome, walking up to the ship,” he said.

Dorsett was a radar man, having studied electronics in the Navy, which led to a career in computer electronics after his military service. He likened the ship’s radar room, with its futuristic glowing consoles, to the bridge of the starship Enterprise. Dorsett’s Navy service took him to exotic ports of call in countries like Germany, Italy, Malta and Cuba.

“I actually went to Guantanamo,” he said. “Drank a couple of rums, at a nickel of shot. We got to go to a lot of neat places.”

It was also dangerous and frightening at times — especially the botched landings. Dorsett said he witnessed two planes overshoot the runway and go over the side, a sight he describes as horrific. At least five pilots were lost during his time aboard the Independence, Dorsett said, noting that night flight operations were especially dicey.

“It looks like they’re coming in to crash every time, and they sound that way too,” he said. “They’re landing on a matchbox.”

Dorsett said he wishes the Independence could have been saved and turned into a museum, though the carrier — commissioned in 1959 and decommissioned in 1998 — was stripped heavily after being mothballed to support the Navy’s active carrier fleet.

“That’s what I wish, and a lot of guys like me, so our kids and grandkids could see it at least,” he said. “It’s a shame.”

Dorsett said he learned discipline while in the Navy, which served him well since he went back to college after he got out, earning a master’s degree in business from St. John’s University. His Navy training also prepared him for many types of jobs in the electronics industry, he said.

But most important, perhaps, are the friends he made.

“You know it’s part of your life, and a good part in my estimation,” Dorsett said. “And you make lifelong friends, which you still have. When people tell me thank you for your service I tell them, ‘It was a pleasure.’”

By STEVE CLARK | Staff Writer

After 10 years of continuous growth in providing a diverse program of the Arts to the lower Rio Grande Valley due largely to the loyal and generous support of sponsors and members, The El Paseo Arts Foundation, Inc. decided by a unanimous positive vote of our Board of Directors to give back to our community.

The board also decided the youth, the next generations of leaders and art lovers in our communities, should be the direct recipients of this action.

Thus, in 2012, the foundation began the “El Paseo Scholarship Program” to recognize local high school seniors who have chosen to continue their education in a field of study in any of the Arts Genre.

In 2012 the organization awarded one $500 scholarship.

In 2013 two were awarded, then three in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

In 2013 the foundation all lost a wonderful, talented, giving person so special to El Paseo and so many others in our local area — Guy Blatnik.

The Board immediately moved to name our scholarship program “The Guy Blatnik Memorial Scholarship Program.”

This year not only is the foundation awarding two new scholarships, but also awarding one renewable award to a recipient from our 2016 program.

So long as an awardee continues their successful studies in an arts genre, and verified by a documented process, the foundation will renew the scholarship for up to two years.

The ability of El Paseo to execute this wonderful program for the deserving youth of our communities is only possible through the goodness, bigheartedness, and generosity of all of the members of our communities who have played such an active role in this magnificent program.

In April, for example, El Paseo friends and partners at Paragraphs Bookstore, hosted a superb concert by two of our fabulous local musicians, Nancy Cook and Brett Marshall, raising over $2000 for our Scholarship Program.

The winners of this year’s awards are Abigail Cisneros and Dalton Swink. Marina Wise-Herring.

And things were going so well.

The decommissioned USS Independence “supercarrier” was nearing the end of its 16,000-mile journey to the Port of Brownsville from Bremerton, Wash., earlier this week when the tow vessel’s portside main engine failed, slowing the ship’s progress from 9 knots to 7.2 knots.

The Independence was scheduled to arrive at the Port of Brownsville on May 30, but now is expected to arrive late on May 31 barring any further issues. Right now it’s anticipated that the carrier, being towed to Brownsville for scrapping, will come through the Brazos Santiago Pass between 9 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. on June 1.

A ceremony to honor the Independence and the veterans who served on her will be held at Dolphin Cove in Isla Blanca Park as the carrier makes its way from the jetties to the Brownsville Ship Channel. Robert Berry, vice president of International Shipbreaking Ltd., part of the EMR Group, which won the Navy contract to dismantle the ship, said parking is always an issue when a carrier comes in, so people should arrive early.

The ceremony will feature comments from port and ISL officials, a color guard, salute and the National Anthem as the Independence passes by, he said. Berry said the ceremony won’t be elaborate, but is meant to give veterans something official by which to remember the occasion.

Meanwhile, the 60,000-ton Independence and its tow vessel, the Dino Chouest, were between Venezuela and Cuba and on Thursday and making headway toward Brownsville despite the loss of an engine, with good weather on the horizon. It takes a lot to slow down a tow vessel of this size, Berry said.

“This is a big tugboat, he said. “It’s the biggest one I’ve ever dealt with in a lifetime of dealing with tugboat.

By Steve Clark, Staff writer

On May 27, Miss South Padre Island 2017, will be crowned.

Don’t miss the opportunity to become a leader by winning this prestigious title.

Elite Productions is seeking applicants who live in the Rio Grande Valley and are between the ages of 5 and 24.

The age divisions are Princess 5-6, Little Miss 7-8, Pre-Teen 9-11, Jr. Teen 12-14, Teen 15-18, and Miss 19-24.

“We are excited and can’t wait to meet the contestants,” said Minerva Olivarez, Executive Director of Elite Productions.

All winners will receive a beautiful rhinestone tiara, custom embroidered sash, custom rose bouquet, a glass-cut trophy, rhinestone crown pin, and an incredible prize package.

The winner of the teen division will receive a $500 scholarship, and the winner of the miss division will receive a $1,000 scholarship.

Winners will also have the opportunity to give back to the community by volunteering their time with events throughout their reign.

The deadline to register is May 24, 2017.

Contestants will be judged on their performance in three areas: personal interview, formal wear, and beachwear. Participants do not need any previous experience to compete.

The beachwear portion of the competition will be held at Clayton’s on May 26 at 4 p.m., and the full pageant will be held at the South Padre Island Convention & Visitors Bureau on May 27 at 7 p.m.

The winner will be eligible to compete in the Miss United States Pageant in 2018.