By VANESSA COLON
Helen Collins gave up part of her scrapbook for a
worthy cause: preserving the memory of one of the Navy's
most decorated ships.
The 75-year-old Palmyra woman donated a collection of
dinner menus, newspaper clips and pictures of her husband,
a former machinist on the USS New Jersey, for a museum to
be dedicated to the battleship.
Collins and her husband, Russell, also 75, were among
the scores of people who brought more than 200 mementos to
a table set up by the Home Port Alliance on the second
floor of Echelon Mall on Saturday, where artifacts for the
museum were being collected.
"I didn't think they would be interested," Collins said
about her items, many of which her husband had mailed to
her when he served in the Navy from 1943 to 1946.
Marie Nimetz, of Sewell, brought a plastic carton with
linen, a Navy manual and a bunk mattress, among other
things, all gifts from her father, James Mullen, who served
in the Navy, but not on the Big J.
Scott Kodger, curator for the nonprofit Alliance, which
is in charge of converting the ship into a museum, said it
received such items as Navy uniforms, magazines,
photographs and trophies.
The Alliance also signed up more than 30 volunteers by 3
p.m. to help give tours of the battleship.
On display at the mall's Strawbridge Court is a model of
the ship, made by former Marine Joe Schultes of Wenonah.
The ship was launched in 1942 at the former Philadelphia
Naval Shipyard and will become a museum on the Camden
Waterfront. It served during World War II, the Korean War,
Vietnam War and in the Middle East before being retired in
For Russell Collins, the museum will preserve fond
"It wasn't a bad life," Collins said.
"We always had three meals. They were good. It also was
safer (than being on land)."