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South Jersey

Friday, February 16, 2001

It's a big weekend for `Big J'

PARIS L. GRAY/Courier-Post
Dan Thomas and Debbie Brown, both of Winslow, look at a model of the USS New Jersey Thursday at Eche lon Mall. The mall will have exhibits on display and entertainment dedicated to the ship this weekend.

Visit these related links:
  • Complete USS New Jersey coverage
  • Official USS New Jersey site
  • Echelon Mall
    Courier-Post Staff

    The gray battleship ship rises and falls as it plows through the waves, its gun turrets turning to take aim at the enemy.

    There is no enemy in sight, however, because the ship is a model sitting inside the Echelon Mall.

    The model, fashioned by battleship enthusiast and ex- Marine Joe Schultes of Wenonah, will be part of the exhibits, lectures and entertainment during USS New Jersey Weekend at the mall.

    "It's the most powerful battleship in the world," said Schultes, whose model will be one of at least seven on display Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

    Most of the models will be in the Strawbridge Court but exhibits and entertainment by string bands and choirs will take place in different mall locations during the two days.

    In addition to a display of ship artifacts in Boscov's Court, the public is being asked to donate its own memorabilia from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday on the upper level in front of Zales.

    Thomas Seigenthaler, executive director of the Home Port Alliance, said items being sought are military uniforms like those that would have been worn on the ship (whose Navy designation was BB-62), artifacts that may have come from the ship and sailor correspondence, diaries or pictures from 1943 to 1991.

    "The USSNJ weekend is an ideal opportunity for the Home Port Alliance to bring the great spirit of the battleship to the community," he said. "We have been overwhelmed by the support from so many individuals and organizations and are anxious to share some of BB-62's majesty before our September opening."

    The ship, one of the most highly decorated in naval history, was launched in 1942 at the former Philadelphia Naval Shipyard and will become a museum on the Camden Waterfront. It fought in World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam War and off Beirut before being retired in 1991.

    The Secretary of the Navy awarded the ship to the nonprofit Home Port Alliance in January 2000.

    During the weekend event at Echelon Mall, the public will be able to sign up for volunteer duty on the ship during its restoration and for future jobs such as tour guides.

    For children, there will also be a coloring contest and a chance to win a free walking tour of the ship after its opening.

    The exhibit is open during mall hours from 10 a.m. to 9: 30 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

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