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Posts Tagged ‘NJN’

One thing my father noticed on our recent trip down Route 295 and across on Routes 70 and 30 to the Battleship New Jersey Museum and Memorial (see previous post) was a lack of signage directing visitors to the most decorated battleship in the history of the U.S. Navy.

Sure, there were several signs that said “Waterfront Attractions,” but nothing that bragged of the great warship’s presence on the Camden waterfront. We knew where we were going and had planned our trip, so we didn’t need the signage.

But my father, a World War II Navy veteran who served in the Pacific, wanted to know why the presence of this treasure wasn’t trumpeted along the heavily travelled highways. Put another way: Why wasn’t New Jersey bragging about the presence along its shores of the U.S.S. New Jersey? (more…)

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The veteran I know best is my father.

Like a lot of men of his vintage, ca. 1924, he served during World War II; in the Pacific Theater aboard the U.S.S. Cheleb. The Cheleb was a supply ship that travelled alone and ferried ammo and other necessities of war to the fight; making runs back and forth between California and Hawaii and the Phillipines and other island chains for the duration.

After Japan surrendered on August 14, 1945, young Tommy Hooker (as he was known then) and his shipmates were sent to Tokyo Bay to support the U.S. occupation. One fine day the Bronx native and his buddies loaded the U.S.S. New Jersey, later to become the most decorated battleship in the history of the U.S. Navy; and that’s saying something.

My Dad’s memory is worse even than my own, so thankfully, his mother had saved about a dozen of his letters home from those years and in re-reading them 65 years later, we discovered his connection to the New Jersey, or BB 62.

My father gets a kick out of a connection we share with the New Jersey. See, I was part of NJN’s team of reporters that covered the New Jersey being towed up the Delaware on the last leg of its journey out of mothballs out in Bremerton, Washington, back in 1999. My Dad watched NJN’s team coverage¬† as she was berthed at Camden and the connection was born for him. Built just down river at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in 1942, she had come home again to become the Battleship New Jersey Museum and Memorial http://www.battleshipnewjersey.org/.

I’d been on its decks several times since then doing stories for NJN News. Once several years ago I went down because the New Jersey’s state funding was being cut and I wanted to do a story on how the crew expected to survive. They’re struggling but they’re managing, with help from museum-goers and innovative thinking like overnight stays, event rentals, golf fundraising outings and the like.

One time while on deck, I called my Dad to tell him where I was and promised I’d get him down there from his Long Island home for a visit.

We finally made that a reality a couple of weeks ago and he loved it. Like so many surviving veterans who served in World War II and now even Korea and Vietnam, they’re getting on in years. My father’s not as agile as he once was — a guy in such good shape that he played golf (poorly, like his son!) and took to the ski slopes well into his 70’s now could really use a wheelchair. And that’s just what was offered to us by the helpful staff there. We took our tour that way and my father could relax and enjoy it.

His legs wouldn’t let him go below decks like he did as the 19- and 20-year-old Navy guy he was when he served. But the tour we got was one to remember; with her huge, 16-inch guns on full display and the great warship’s history — including “Big J’s” stint as the flagship of the Third Fleet in the Pacific Theater for the Elizabeth, N.J., native Admiral Bull Halsey — ably laid out for us by a volunteer docent named Tom who was himself a Navy veteran.

One engaging story Tom told our group involved U.S. troops getting fired upon from a hill above them and calling in cover fire from the New Jersey just offshore. Since its guns can fire accurately for 30 miles or so and providing cover fire was a big part of its job, the battleship was happy to oblige the request.

A short while later, the New Jersey brass radioed back to see whether the problem had been taken care of. “We can’t tell what’s happened to the enemy, sir” came the reply. “The hill is gone.”

It was like old home week for my Dad, surrounded by vets who’d served and who are volunteering their time aboard the U.S.S. New Jersey or paying their respects to the great ship that saved so many U.S. servicemen’s lives and protected our shores.

My father hadn’t laid eyes on her since Tokyo Bay, more than 60 years ago, but to him and the rest of us, she was just as beautiful a defender of freedom as ever.

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After writing the blog post on Missy Rebovich and her dad, David, I received an email from Rider University’s communications director, Dan Higgins.

Dan had dug into his files and sent a few photos along with his note. I’m posting those but I also wanted to share with the blog’s readers (with his blessings) the note Dan sent because of its candor and what it says about Missy.

As I said after the piece that aired, David would be proud. Her Mom, Jane O’Connor, surviving grandparents and the rest of her support team are, too, and rightly so.

Missy with Ben Dworkin, director of the institute named for her father, David.

Missy, Ben and others involved with the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics.

Missy Rebovich helps Rider University President Mordechai Rozanski unveil the re-named Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics back in November, 2008.

Jim,

When I was first interviewing for this job, one of the attractions was that I was going to have the opportunity to work with David Rebovich and the Institute for New Jersey Politics. I had watched him on NJN and read his insights in all of the New Jersey papers and politickernj.com for years. We had a couple of meetings in my first two months on the job and were making plans for future programs at Rider. Then, I received the phone call about his heart attack. The entire Rider community was in shock.

But somehow, having Missy as part of our Rider family helped all of us heal. The announcement to keep the Institute going and to rename it in honor of her father was made at the 2008 Commencement ceremony, and the formal dedication was held in the fall with Missy and President Rozanski unveiling the new Rebovich Institute sign. Missy and I served together on the hiring committee to find a new director, and I know it has been a great help to Ben Dworkin that Missy not only endorsed his selection, but in fact advocated for it.

As I am sure you found during your interview, she is quite an impressive young lady and has a great future ahead of her. Thanks again for sharing your blog with me. I have posted it on our Facebook page and hope that all of our fans take a look at it.

Dan

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¬†On Monday, election eve, I did a story on Missy Rebovich, daughter of the late Rider University political analyst David Rebovich, a fixture on the New Jersey political landscape until his untimely passing three years ago at the age of 58. What follows is the back-story to that story, a link to the story itself, and a couple of photos on the Rider University campus, where Missy, 21, is a senior now, and where NJN News photographer Bob Hartman and I caught up with her several weeks ago for an interview. (more…)

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About our special election show last night, I think it was pretty much as advertised. Three pretty competitive Congressional races in a state where you’re lucky to get one among our 13 seats in any given election year.

But national politics looks to have played here as well so the 3rd, 6th and 12th (see previous post) didn’t disappoint in terms of drama at least early in the night when early returns showed the Republicans sweeping the Democratic incumbents out of all three. (more…)

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After my last post on StoryCorps, I wanted to give credit where credit’s due in terms of who from NJN was responsible for getting the group here; add a couple of photos of the gang out at the StoryCorps site in Trenton and provide a link to NJN’s site specially set up for the program where you can find some Jersey folks who’ve offered their stories (and from which you can also get to the organization’s main site).
First off, it was Susan Wallner, a producer/director who works on State of the Arts and other fine NJN programming, who arranged for StoryCorps to come and for NJN to share its name and co-sponsorship with such a fine organization.
She didn’t brag about it; in fact I had to ask her to get it out of her. She said she got the wheels rolling about a year ago. The project was all booked up at the time, but was kind enough to pen Trenton into the calendar for the past month or so that they’ve been here.
At bottom are a couple more photos. You’ll see Susan, myself, Lilly Sullivan of StoryCorps and Sia Nyorkor of NJN News and Radio in the first shot. And Susan, myself, Lilly and NJN News Cameraman (and resident history buff) Tim Stollery in the second shot.
Lilly’s co-workers on the road are Virginia Lora, raised in Peru before moving to Miami when she was 11; and Marquita James, Louisiana-bred.
Oh, and one last thing from a parting conversation Lilly and I had last night.
She says the time has flown by; she doesn’t know where it’s gone and she’s gonna miss this place.
We’ll miss you and yours, too, Lilly. Thanks for stopping in and brightening things up around here for awhile.
Oh, and you’re welcome back around these parts anytime.
Here’s the original story we did on Storycorps:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Left to right: Susan Wallner, Jim Hooker, Lilly Sullivan, Sia Nyorkor

From left to right: Susan Wallner, Jim Hooker, Lilly Sullivan, and Tim Stollery

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One of the stories that sticks out from the nearly two dozen interviews Lilly Sullivan’s “facilitated” — that’s what they call it at StoryCorps — in Trenton the past few weeks was the guy who helped design machines for Bingo and other games. Quirky, sure, but it caught Lilly’s fancy.

All kinds of stories are coming from the life experiences of everyday folk while StoryCorps is camped out on the plaza between the State Library and State Museum along West State Street in the state Capitol complex. Even though I had nothing to do with StoryCorps setting up shop here, it makes you proud as a member of NJN’s staff to know the network is a co-sponsor of this noble endeavor’s stop here. (more…)

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