Somers Point hoping for deal soon on repatriation of hero's remains
By VINCENT JACKSON, Staff Writer
After a more than decade-long effort by Somers Point officials, the city should know within the next two months whether it will receive the remains of Navy Master Commandant Richard Somers from
"We are currently in negotiations with
to return all 13 men from the Intrepid crew back to the Libya , and when that deal is complete, they
will be buried in Somers Point," said Sally Hastings, president of the
Somers Point Historical Society. United
Somers' father, John Somers, founded Somers Point. The younger Somers, who was born in 1778 in the area of what is now Somers Point, became a
hero during the First Barbary War. U.S.
In 1804, Somers was ordered to load the ketch USS Intrepid with explosives, sail it into
and explode it among the
ships of the Libyan fleet. Tripoli
The Intrepid exploded prematurely - possibly intentionally to prevent enemy pirates from getting their hands on the ammunition. The bodies of Somers and his 12 crew members have been buried on "enemy soil" ever since, despite sporadic efforts over a century to secure their return.
In 2004, the State Assembly passed legislation calling for Somers' return. Somers Point, meanwhile, has been trying for more than a decade,
"We worked with the government for a couple of years, and the government under (former U.S. Secretary of State) Hillary Clinton said that they don't want to be involved anymore, so we still have some congressmen and senators that are backing our efforts," Hastings said.
The departments of Defense and the Navy are also no longer involved, she said.
While ancestors cannot be found for 10 of the 13 men, she said, one family wants to perform DNA tests on the remains. The decision about where to re-bury the remains will likely fall to the local group.
Mayor Jack Glasser said the return of Somers' remains is an "outstanding" issue that will be resolved soon.
"There have been so many people who have been working on getting the remains of Richard Somers and the crew of the Intrepid, not just here in Somers Point, but in Washington - our Congressman (Frank) LoBiondo and Congressman Mike Rogers from
who is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee," Glasser said. Michigan
The effort to bring Somers' remains home is being fueled by the city's creation of a Heritage Tourism District.
Inspiration for the district came from a grant the Somers Point Historical Society recently received from South Jersey Industries to increase tourism to the area,
said. The $1,500 grant will be used to promote the city's three museums via
printed brochures, radio and newspaper ads and the Internet. The Somers Point Business
Association also donated $500. Hastings
Regardless of Somers' final resting place,
said, the monument will be located on a plot of land that was the city's original
next to the Atlantic County Library System's Somers Point branch. It will be
renamed Veterans Park . Richard Somers
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