August 17, 2000
Paul Barrett was a driving force in bringing the USS New Jersey to Camden's Waterfront
By Al Klimcke
Usually loquacious, Paul Barrett has a hard time explaining why he became "totally obsessed" with the successful campaign to bring the battleship USS New Jersey home to Camden.
"I'm a pretty passionate person," says the 41-year-old, never-married advertising salesman from Runnemede. "But I never got involved in a cause to this extent before. I gave it 150 percent."
Barrett is president of the Blue Ribbon Committee for the USS New Jersey, an organization he created, with help from several relatives and NOTE: friends, to increase awareness of community-wide efforts to put the great ship in Camden where it was built.
The Navy decided Jan. 20 to berth the USS New Jersey in Camden. The battleship finally arrived in Camden on July 28 from Philadelphia, where it had been since arriving in the Delaware River in November from Washington state. It is now at the Broadway terminal for renovation. The battleship will be turned into a floating museum and will be permanently housed in Camden.
"I think our driving force was patriotism," Barrett says. "The ship is a symbol of freedom, American prestige and military might.
"The men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice on Navy ships built in Camden as well as the people who built those ships are heroes," he says. "They helped keep us free and they deserve to be recognized."
A history buff and an avid reader who spends much of his spare time browsing in bookstores, Barrett is a member of Laurel Hill Bible Church in Lindenwold.
Over a 2"-year period, he gathered thousands of names on petitions and wrote numerous commentary pieces and letters to the editor that appeared in area newspapers including the Courier-Post.
He fired off news releases to media reporting on committee activities and established a still active Web site, www.USSBattleshipNJ.com.
One goal was to get motorists to tie blue ribbons to the antennae of their cars to demonstrate support for "bringing the battleship home."
"Cars go everywhere," Barrett says. "When people started putting ribbons on their cars, it became a simple but powerful message."
Barrett says he spent many long hours on the phone and at the fax machine jawboning movers and shakers, and many hours delivering fliers to shops and American Legion and VFW posts.
"It was easy to get into places and talk to people because most of them believed the ship belonged here," he says. "What we did was suggest something tangible they could do to show support."
Besides soliciting a small fortune in materials from area businesses, Barrett says he spent several thousand dollars of his own funds on the campaign.
In recognition of his efforts U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews, D-N.J., presented Barrett with a certificate of appreciation for "outstanding contributions to the community."
"It was a lot of work but it was the best experience of my life," Barrett says. "I've benefited a great deal from my efforts.
"It has improved my communication and speaking skills and taught me a lot about creative thinking," he says. "It could lead to a new career in promotions."
Barrett says he discovered, "the more you give in life, the more it comes back to you. I'm just starting to learn that."
Feature writer Al Klimcke can be reached at (856) 486-2446 or by fax at (856) 663-2831.