By CAROL COMEGNO
The delay in the opening of the USS New Jersey as a floating museum has frustrated some battleship aficionados, including the USS New Jersey Veterans Inc.
"Some of our members are not coming to our convention in Branson, Mo., this month because they want to be in Camden when the ship opens," said Dick Esser of Ohio, president of the group.
State Sen. John Matheussen, R-Gloucester, said the Home Port Alliance has received a number of calls from people who traveled long distances for this weekend's expected opening.
"We're going to try to accommodate them by at least taking them on the ship," Matheussen said Friday.
Lauris Touchet, 74, a former New Jersey crewman, came with his wife and daughter from Lafayette, La. He made his travel plans months in advance and couldn't afford the expense of changing plane tickets. He came anyway, hoping to get a last glimpse of his "mother ship."
Matheussen arranged a special pre-opening tour for them Saturday morning.
"It was real nice of them to take us on board," said an ecstatic Touchet, who was a storekeeper in the ship's aviation department in 1945 before the end of World War II. "I can't believe I set foot on her. They changed her a lot over the years, but she's still big and beautiful."
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