Committee starts collecting artifacts for Atlantic County Veterans History Museum

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Joe Tomasello who donated old issues of ‘Stars and Stripes’ among other items is flanked by Cindy Mason-Purdie and Richard Squires. Joe Tomasello who donated old issues of ‘Stars and Stripes’ among other items is flanked by Cindy Mason-Purdie and Richard Squires.

HAMILTON TOWNSHIP – Members of the Atlantic County Veterans History Museum Committee accepted donations for three hours at the library here Saturday, Feb. 22 – the first of many such sessions that are anticipated.

One of the biggest donors was Joe Tomasello, 61, of Cape May Court House, a retired Army sergeant.

“I was everyplace from 9/11 to overseas with Operation Enduring Freedom,” Tomasello said. “I retired in 2004.”

The veteran said he rigged parachutes for food drops early this century.

“I was in Germany rigging parachutes for the Afghanistan mission where we dropped food,” Tomasello said. “The chutes were from 1950. They were rigged and stored away. We redid the weight to handle the food drops. At first the chutes weren’t opening.

His donations included a trenching tool, mess kit, lantern, canister and gas mask, utility belt, sleeping bag, survival cards, a parachute log record and sunglasses, as well as framed vintage editions of the service newspaper, “Stars and Stripes.”

The items filled the bill of what the county is looking for – things that tell the story of  local residents’ service experience, according to Atlantic County Office of Cultural Affairs Administrator Cindy Mason-Purdie.

“We’ve got a good number of people making donations today,” Mason-Purdie said.

Former Atlantic County Executive Richard Squires, chairman of the museum committee, said things were going well, and pointed to Tomasello as a great example of someone giving toward the project.

“I’m just a Pleasantville boy,” Tomasello said. “I only moved to Cape May Court House around three years ago. I actually lived in Dorothy for about 25 years after growing up in Pleasantville. My family has always lived in Atlantic County.”

He said he’s one of five brothers – who all served in the Army, though not together.

His oldest brother, John, who lives in Folsom, served in the 9th Infantry in Germany after World War II. Twins Carl served in Korea and Al was stationed at Fort Dix during that time. Carl has died, and Al lives in Hammonton. Frank, who also lives in Hammonton, served in Vietnam.

“I served 32 years – from the 1970s to 2004,” Tomasello said.

He said he currently has a museum of his military history in his home.

“As time goes on I’m going to be donating more to the veterans museum,” Tomasello said.

Another standout donation Saturday was made by Charlotte Ripley of Mays Landing.

She donated her late husband’s U.S. Marine Corps dress uniform.

Robert A. Ripley served in the Marines 1948-1952. He died in 2005.

“I hope to be having more to donate – if I can find things,” Ripley said. “I’d rather have it hanging in the museum than in my attic.”

Though, she said, the uniform she brought in was very well preserved after a long spell upstairs.

“It’s in very good condition,” Ripley said. “It’s been in its original garment bag.”

The veterans’ history museum is expected to open in the Estell Manor House at the county park in Estell Manor next year.

Donors fill out descriptive sheets indicating whether their items are loaned or donated. The museum committee plans to hold similar events to collect donations.

To donate items email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or call 609-625-2776, ext. 6314.

To make a monetary donation send a check made out to the Atlantic County Veterans Museum Foundation Inc., to the foundation at 332 Tilton Road, Northfield, NJ 08225.

For information and updates see aclink.org/vetsmuseum.

Photos by Steve Prisament

Charlotte Ripley of Mays Landing donates her late husband’s United States Marine Corps dress uniform. Charlotte Ripley of Mays Landing donates her late husband’s United States Marine Corps dress uniform.


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