By CAROL COMEGNO
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.
C.R. ``Bus'' Kelver can't wait until he can stand again on
the battleship New Jersey, on which he once served.
But he will have to wait two years before that happens.
Kelver is a member of USS New Jersey Veterans Inc., which
decided to postpone holding its annual reunion in Camden
until September 2002.
``Camden's just fine with me. You can bet we will be
there in two years,'' said Kelver, 73, of Osceola, Ind., a
former boiler tender who boarded the ship in 1950 in
The veterans organization is a national association of
nearly 1,200 former crew members of the Navy's most highly
Members want to hold a reunion as soon as possible, but
were fearful that restoration would not be fully completed
when the ship is due to open as a museum and memorial in
``We don't want to go aboard just to be on the top
decks,'' said Richard Esser of Loraincee cue, Ohio, who was
re-elected group president Sunday. ``We want to go below
deck to see the areas where we lived and worked.''
At a private meeting last weekend, Esser met with New
Jersey group members and with retired Navy Capt. David
McGuigan, president of the Home Port Alliance, the South
Jersey group in charge of overhauling the ship and creating
the floating museum near where the ship was built at the
former Philadelphia Naval Shipyard.
McGuigan told them the intention is to open the ship by
Labor Day 2001, even if work is not completed.
There is still dissent among some veterans over the
recent Navy decision selecting Camden as the permanent site
for the ship instead of Bayonne. Some, including several
New York members, cited Camden's national reputation as a
poor city with a high crime rate.
George Whitlock, of Buffalo, N.Y., proposed a petition
drive opposing Camden via the group newsletter, though
others said the tactic at this date will accomplish
``Only by working to make the alliance an all-inclusive
board can we mitigate these negative feelings,'' said
McGuigan. To that end, he has proposed a committee of crew
member veterans to work with the alliance.
Esser appointed John Horan of Cherry Hill to head the
liaison committee and will be appointing other members,
including Robert Walters of Cinnaminson.
``The war is over, let's stop crying,'' said member
Robert Levine of Warren, Somerset County. He said some
North Jerseyans are responsible for creating the
Esser said his group hopes to have a reunion in New
Jersey as soon as possible because many of its World War II
members are passing away. Nationally, the group gained 96
members last year, but lost 46. One World War II veteran,
Frank X. Cullen of Pennsylvania, died Saturday at the
convention hotel while he slept.
``He died where he wanted to be,'' association officer
Richard McDowell said, ``doing what he wanted to do.''