25, 1994 |
governor, give a listen to this lady's Waterfront idea
By ROSEMARY PARRILLO
not a heck of a lot to do when you're in the hospital day after
day, hooked up to a high-tech machine that's helping keep you
Not much to do but stare out the window and
'That's when I came up with the idea,' says
Lois Coskey. 'I was a patient in Cooper Hospital and I spent
a lot of time getting blood transfusions. So I'd sit and look
out at the Aquarium and picture the battleship USS New Jersey
along the Waterfront somewhere.'
Now, before you begin thinking Lois' terminal
blood disease has affected her mind, allow her to continue.
'Every year my husband and I used to go to
Wilmington, N.C., to visit the USS North Carolina Battleship
Memorial. Art was a boatswain mate and gun captain on the ship
during the war.
'Well, you just can't imagine what that battleship
attraction has done for the area. They have a picnic grove, shops,
restaurants. It's always crowded with tourists.
'And I think the same thing can happen in
Camden if we could bring the USS New Jersey to the Waterfront.
'How many people can you attract with just
an aquarium?' asks the 70-year-old Collingswood resident. 'If
it was the only aquarium in the United States, that would be
different. But Baltimore isn't that far away.'
The decommissioned USS New Jersey has been
in the Navy's reserve fleet off Bremerton, Wash., since 1991.
The famed battleship, launched at the Philadelphia
Naval Shipyard on Dec. 7, 1942, was last recommissioned in December
1982, during the Reagan administration. Only three other World
War II-vintage battleships remain: the Iowa, Missouri and Wisconsin.
So I called the Navy's inactive-ship detachment
in Bremerton to see how the old New Jersey is doing.
'It's just fine,' says sailor Bob, who is
too shy to give his last name. 'I'm looking at it right outside
Sailor Bob says the hermetically sealed New
Jersey could remain in mothballs 'forever.' But he suspects the
Navy would happily sell or donate the historic ship to a public
organization dedicated to preserving it.
Which brings us back to Lois, sitting in her
living room, tethered to a thick oxygen tube and forever digging
into her old suitcase full of USS North Carolina memories.
'There was a time when I lived for news of
that ship. Here's my husband's war diary,' she says, opening
it up to her favorite passage. 'See, every time they sunk an
enemy ship, he'd write, 'Another one for Lois.' '
Arthur and Lois started dating when they were
students at Haddon Heights High School. He was leaving in his
senior year to join the Navy. And Lois, who worked on the school
newspaper, was given the assignment to interview him.
'I didn't like him at all. He didn't want
to be interviewed and was giving me a hard time.'
But Lois got her story, and subsequently a
'When Pearl Harbor was attacked and Art was
told he had to report to his ship, I remember my mother telling
me, 'You be sure to kiss him before he goes.'
'Before he left, he asked if I would accept
an engagement ring. I don't know, I guess I was influenced by
the uniform. I hardly knew him, but I said yes.'
Art died six years ago. Feb. 12 would have
been their 50th wedding anniversary.
Says Lois, 'When we'd go to Wilmington, it'd
give me goose pimples to see those men with gray hair and pot
bellies going up the gang plank, saluting the flag. How can you
not be affected. These men are in their 70s now. They're passing
on so quickly now, it's scary.'
The USS North Carolina will celebrate the
50th anniversary of the end of World War II with a reunion ceremony
'I sure would like to go,' says Lois. 'But
now I live one day at a time.'
And each day is devoted to her dream of bringing
the USS New Jersey to Camden.
'It's my hobby now. Maybe it's just a pipe
dream. And if it never happens, I'll feel badly. But if I'm able
to do even a little to make it happen one day, wherever I am,
I'll know it.'
Lois says she fired off a letter to Gov. Christie
Whitman a couple of weeks ago, telling her about her great idea
for the Waterfront.
'But I haven't heard from her yet. And I guess
If she doesn't, Lois shouldn't feel too bad.
Harold Katz had an idea for the Waterfront, too. And we know
the kind of reception he got.