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Thursday, August 11, 2005Past Issues - S | M | T | W | T | F | S
South Jersey

Volunteers bring new life to battleship

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  • See a list of Big J volunteers with 200+ hours of service
    Courier-Post Staff

    Without volunteers, there would be no battleship USS New Jersey museum.

    Hundreds of volunteers from as far away as Australia came to give whatever time they could from a day to nearly a year to restore the aging warship.

    "They were and still are invaluable, special people who have done unbelievable tasks and asked nothing in return," said Joseph Fillmyer of Cinnaminson, director of volunteers. "They are the best in the world."

    Fillmyer said the volunteers have given a total of 90,000 hours since last year after the ship was moved in the summer from Philadelphia to Camden. About 300 volunteers have logged more than 200 hours each, he added.

    These devoted men and women worked in icy-cold weather with no heat and perspired in the summer heat without air conditioning inside the ship.

    Visitors who will start coming to the ship soon will see radio equipment that was repaired by volunteer engineers and technicians such as Peter Green of Moorestown from L-3 Communications. L-3 was among several companies that helped out.

    Volunteers also rehabilitated the ship's nine 16-inch guns.

    Most volunteers did tedious chores such as scraping paint, painting the ladderways, halls and compartments, cleaning lavatories and hauling furniture and equipment. Contractors were hired for major mechanical, environmental and electrical work and to paint the ship's exterior.

    John DiBlasio of Medford polished brass and is now going to be a tour guide. Patricia and Harry Becky of Mickleton made plugs for the teak deck; machinist Tony Altadonna of Pennsauken and woodworker Joe Miles also offered their skills.

    The oldest regular volunteer, 86-year-old Bob Castle of Mantua, hung paper, pulled heavy mooring line and painted and papered along with his friend, Ed Komczyk of Mount Royal.

    "I am in shape and love the physical work and the ship's history," said Castle, an Army veteran of World War II.

    Bernardette Menna of Cherry Hill started with taping and papering parts of the ship to protect them from paint. She is now one of the tour guide supervisors.

    "I like everything about the ship," she said. "When you come aboard, you fall in love with it and now there's the excitement of telling other generations about it."

    Volunteer photos

    (Top) Volunteer John Horan of Cherry Hill picks up a chair after a cermony on the USS New Jersey that honored Gloucester County Veterans. Photo by AVI STEINHARDT/Courier-Post. (Row 2) Volunteers Jim Moore of Westmont (left) and Frank larkins of Wenonah (right) work on the paining of the USS New Jersey's interior earlier this year. Moore paints the trim of a doorway while Larkins scrapes loose paint from a ceiling. Photos by CLARK PERKS/Courier-Post. (Row 3, left) Volunteer Bernardette Menna of Cherry Hill removes paper from a door earlier this year. Photo by CLARK PERKS/Courier-Post. (Row 3, right) USS New Jersey Volunteer Coordinator Joe Fillmyer was on the deck of the Big J with Pat Jones of the Home Port Alliance, after the ship was moved to its permanent berth. Photo by AVI STEINHARDT/Courier-Post

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