American Merchant Marine Veterans
SS Stephen Hopkins Chapter 
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R. Nelson Smith - Skipper

Nelson Smith joined the chapter in 2005 and was elected an officer in 2006. He was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. He has three grown children, five grand-children and one great grand-child. He also belongs to the Dallas Veterans Day Parade committee and the American Legion. After serving in the Merchant Marine he joined the Texas Air National Guard 181st Fighter Squadron for five years. He retired from Nelson’s Service who sold and serviced Little Beaver earth drills in 2009.

Al D'Agostino - First Mate
Al grew up in Rochester, New York, and headed for training at Sheepshead Bay in 1945. He sailed upon the SS Monterey, the Marine Marlin and Matsonia. In 1948 the US Congress passed a new Selective Service Act which did not exempt merchant seamen and in 1949 he was drafted by the Army. In June of 1950 the Korean War broke out and in January of 1951 he found himself in Korea. The Army recognized all his time in the galley and put him in the Signal Corp as a radio relay operator. After the Army he was accepted at Cornell University and the School of Hotel Administration. Once he finished college he worked with TWA and Sky Chefs, then a subsidiary of American Airlines. He married Barbara in 1956 and they had four children and now six grandchildren. 

Udell Bell - Director
I grew up in Vashti, Texas in 1927, the nearest large town was Wichita Falls. My older brother joined the Air Force and my brother-in-law was in the Marines. They both talked me into the Merchant Marines; they said that I could make more money and if I didn’t like it I could get out and join the service. So after I graduated from high school in Bellevue, TX, I joined the Merchant Marine at the age of 17. In January 1945, I was sent to St. Petersburg, FL for six weeks of training.  I trained on the American Sailor and in March 1945, I was assigned as a Fireman aboard the S.S. Oklahoma.  After one voyage, I was transferred to Ft. Mason (San Francisco), where I was assigned to Army transport vessels. These included the S.S. Shawnee, the General Autman, and the General Rhea.  I finished my service in February 1947 and returned to Wichita Falls and married my high school sweetheart, Patsy, We have two daughters and four grandchildren who all live near us.  In 1966 I opened my own business, The Bedroom Shop, where we make mattresses, and I have five retail stores.
Mike Pixler - Purser
Mike Pixler has been a member of our chapter since 2006 and was elected Purser in 2010. He’s also a member of the American Legion.  He was in the 82nd Airborne Division, 18th Airborne Corp from 1972 – 1993. Mike was born and raised in Fort Worth but chose to live near Granbury. He has two children: Michael Jr. and Michelle, and two grandchildren – Malania and Madux, and six dogs. Even though he did not serve during WWII, his father and uncle were Merchant Mariners and Mike has continued his support with our chapter even after his father passed away in 2009.
Barbara D'Agostino - Recording Secretary
Barbara D’Agostino has been the official chapter secretary since 2007. She is a grandmother of six, originally from New York State and has lived in Texas since 1979. She volunteers as a Eucharistic Minister for St. Maria Goretti Catholic Church and is active in the Disabled American Veterans Auxiliary.