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By CAROL COMEGNO
Marino Calombaris was a young man from Greece when he took to the sea. He worked on cargo ships in the merchant marine, a job that took him around the world.
He sailed on many vessels, surviving torpedo hits on two supply ships sunk during World War II. He abandoned seafaring after immigrating to the United States, marrying and starting a trade as a painter.
Now a major contractor, he paints ships and buildings and this month gave another World War II seafaring veteran - the historic battleship USS New Jersey - fresh coats of gray and black paint at its repair dock in South Camden.
Calombaris, who owns M.C. Painting Co. of Ridley Park, Pa., won a $950,000 contract to repaint the battleship's exterior as part of restoration work for its planned opening next month as a museum on the downtown Camden Waterfront. The Home Port Alliance, the diverse South Jersey group in charge of the ship, gave him the contract because his was the lowest of several bids.
Despite the heat wave of early August, he finished the work before the Aug. 25 deadline.
"The weather didn't affect the acrylic paint. It did decrease daily production of the workers but not enough to miss our deadline," said Calombaris, 75, who lives in Ridley Park.
Among the company's other accomplishments are the painting of the Academy of Music and Veterans Stadium, both in Philadelphia, and the naval ships USS Seattle and Detroit.
"We had a good team of skilled craftsmen. The only difference is that this ship is much bigger and more historic, so it was an honor to get the contract," he said.
The USS New Jersey, docked at the South Jersey Port Corp.' s Broadway Terminal and nearly three football fields long, now sports a shade called "haze gray" with some trim and the waterline mark painted black.
Union workers from the Vineland and Philadelphia districts of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades applied more than 1,600 gallons of non-lead, acrylic paint supplied by Finnaren & Haley of Conshohocken. They used high-pressure water hoses to remove rust and old paint before repainting the Navy's biggest and most decorated battleship.
The 88-year-old paint company donated about half the nearly 3,000 gallons of interior and exterior paint for the ship and discounted the rest.
The paint on the battleship is expected to last 10 years, said Chris Robinson, a district sales manager for the South Jersey area.
"It got done a lot faster than we thought it would and the ship probably looks as good as it did when it was built," said Joseph Balzano, chairman of the alliance construction committee.
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