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The Battleship New Jersey Museum Society has signed a contract to refurbish an area on the retired warship with historical artifacts.
Vince Falso of Mountainside, society president, said his group will be bringing models of the ship, including a 10- foot wooden replica, as well plaques and other ship memorabilia that members have collected for more than 25 years.
"We feel elated to at least be part of the ship and thank Admiral Thomas Seigenthaler for the effort to get us the space," said Falso, a gunner and baker on the ship's crew during the Korean War.
Seigenthaler, the Home Port Alliance executive director, and Falso signed the contract Friday after months of negotiation. The main display area will be the officers' lounge inside the ship's wardroom on the main deck, where officers once gathered to eat. The room is now being used for temporary storage.
Seigenthaler said it also will be the place where disabled visitors can watch a video tour of the ship.
The Navy put the ship in Camden as a museum by awarding it to the alliance, a nonprofit coalition of business, labor and government leaders from southern counties. An application from the state battleship commission to berth the ship in Bayonne was rejected in a spirited competition in which the Navy deemed the Camden proposal superior.
"At first we were not being offered any space by the alliance, but eventually they did and it took awhile for both groups to put together a contract," Falso said.
It was the museum society that started the effort to bring the battleship home to its namesake state in the 1970s when the ship was still in service. Falso said this resulted in the creation of the state battleship commission.
Although Falso and some other society members believe the Navy should have chosen Bayonne as the site, he said his group will cooperate fully with the alliance.
The next society meeting is scheduled for Aug. 21 at the Old Scallion restaurant in Leonardo, Middlesex County.
"We are delighted to have them aboard and glad we could accommodate them," said Seigenthaler, a retired rear admiral.
He said the New Jersey Militia is also going to have an office on the ship. The militia will recruit volunteers to serve as watch-standers on the ship and help officiate at ceremonies aboard the ship.
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