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St. John’s University / Provided  

Ocean City High School graduate Sean Mooney pitching for St. John’s University earlier this season.

Seaview renovations finished just in time to welcome LPGA pros

Across the main lobby is the dinning area where renovations went on at the old SeaView Hotel. June 3, 2019 (Craig Matthews / Staff Photographer)

GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — Who knew nice carpets were so important to golfers?

Of the recent renovations at the Seaview Hotel and Golf Club, the new flooring in the guest rooms stuck out to Madelene Sagstrom, 26, of Sweden.

Sagstrom played in the ShopRite LPGA Classic two years ago and stayed in the hotel. She’s back to compete this year, and staying in one of the newly renovated rooms.

“It’s so fresh. It’s so clean,” Sagstrom said. “For us, it’s real important to be able to stretch on the carpet. All the carpet’s brand new. ... Everything just looks wonderful.”

Planning for the first renovations to rooms since the early 2000s started in July, and the club closed shortly after Thanksgiving for construction, said Mike Tidwell, director of sales and marketing for the Seaview. The renovations, which cost close to $18 million, were underway months after Seaview was bought by KDG Capital LLC, a Florida company, from Stockton University for $21 million.

GALLERY: Pro-Am at the ShopRite LPGA Classic

In March, the halls of the old hotel buzzed with construction equipment and laborers. And on Monday, LPGA pros returned to updated rooms with refrigerators and bathrooms with marble countertops and in-mirror lighting, and to the ornate, public-facing front now opened up, letting in more natural light.

As professional golfers from around the world practiced on the putting green by Seaview’s main driveway Monday, Tidwell showed off the final renovations inside.

The finishing touches were complete with just a few weeks to spare before the Classic got underway.

“These projects can drag on if you don’t put a hard end date in front of them,” Tidwell said. “Secondly, there’s a commitment — to the community, and to the clients — so we had to be done. It was a logical endpoint.”

Renovations to guest rooms in the Bay wing, which represents about half of Seaview’s 298 rooms, were completed and open to guests April 1. Renovations to the Pines wing were finished and ready for the public by May 17, about two weeks later than planned. LED lights replaced chandeliers, smart TVs were installed and historic photos of Seaview’s past were hung — just a few of the changes made.

The hotel also installed new hardwood floors in the main lobby, and all new furniture and flooring in the Lobby Bar, which was completely rebuilt over the winter. It all may come as a shock to visitors who have been coming to the Seaview for the Classic since 1986, with a brief hiatus from 2007 to 2009.

Inside one of the overhauled guest rooms, the smell of fresh paint lingered. Sleek shades and light fixtures replaced their outdated predecessors.

Not all of the competitors stay at Seaview during the week of events leading up to the tournament. And so golfers were not the only visitors whose return to Seaview was taken into consideration. The first impression visitors receive when they walk in the lobby is paramount, Tidwell said.

“This was kind of a reemergence of an iconic resort, and so the impression when you walk in has to be an impact,” Tidwell said. “So when you walk into a building that’s 105 years old and it’s looked the same for a long time, to finally walk in to see that whole first impression that the lobby makes when you enter is important.”

Scott Ensign, senior director of tournament business affairs for the LPGA, said he’s been coming to the hotel and golf course for a few years.

“To walk in the front door yesterday, (it) was just so noticeably upgraded and renovated. It looks really nice,” Ensign said. “I love that they kept the integrity of the history, down to the molding in the room, and still some of it goes back to the original.”

Sagstrom, too, appreciated that old touches were kept in place.

“The whole hotel’s got so much character itself, but we always want to be comfortable when we stay, and it’s super nice,” Sagstrom said. “You still get that old vibe. But everything is new and fresh.”

D-Day anniversary: 101-year-old Ocean City WWII vet recalls war

It was 1944, a few months after 156,000 Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy, and 25-year-old Philadelphia native Harry Yoa was celebrating with friends at a military base in Corsica, France.

The historic invasion of Omaha Beach was complete, but for Yoa, the war was far from over.

Stationed in Southern France, he was toasting the end of a successful mission there with others in the 321st Bombardment Group assigned to the 12th Air Force. A washed-out photo from that day shows Yoa, beer in hand and smiling, with his fellow servicemen on the tiny island of Corsica.

“North Africa, that was first ... then Rome,” the 101-year-old Ocean City resident said of his time in the military on the eve of the 75th anniversary of D-Day, considered the turning point of the war.

Yoa is one of about 496,000 World War II veterans still alive, of the more than 16 million who served, according to 2018 numbers from the National World War II Museum. Nearly 350 die each day, and in New Jersey, only 14,620 were living last year.

In total, Yoa took part in 63 missions. He was an aerial engineer tasked with fixing aircraft as well as a tail gunner, the crewman who fires a weapon at enemies from the rear of the plane.

Seventy-five years later and suffering from dementia, Yoa is able to remember very little from his time in the Army, and his family largely relies on his discharge papers and other official documents to piece together his service.

But he still recalled those intense flights.

“I thought I’d never come back,” he said Wednesday, sitting in his home.

Yoa was a 23-year-old truck driver living in the Kensington section of Philadelphia in 1942 when, like other young men his age, he left his family and friends to enlist in the Army.

He then joined the Air Force, he said, because the pay was better.

Yoa had recently married his wife, Valerie, a nurse living in Philadelphia, too.

“She cried when I went into the service,” he recalled.

Yoa returned to his family in 1945 after finishing Allied operations in Italy, and found work as a train conductor for SEPTA in Philadelphia.

He received multiple medals, including the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with three bronze stars.

Remembering those lost

Seventy-five years after the Normandy invasion, many local heroes who served that important day have since passed. But families and friends continue to keep their stories alive.

Bernard Friedenberg

Michael Ein / Staff Photographer  

World War II veteran Bernard Friedenberg, 94, pictured in his Margate home, Thursday May 26, 2016, is the most decorated in New Jersey. He has Gold and Silver Stars, and a Purple Heart to name a few. (Michael Ein/Staff Photographer)

Bernard Friedenberg, of Atlantic City, served as a first responder from 1941 to 1945 as a sergeant in the 1st U.S. Infantry Division. He died May, 1, 2018, almost a decade after he published a memoir about what he heard and saw as an army medic on Omaha Beach and in operations across Africa and Europe.

“Guys were drowning and being slaughtered,” his daughter, Susan Friedenberg, said of what her father witnessed in June 1944. “My daddy was a hero.”

He received multiple honors, including two Purple Hearts, and recognition from three New Jersey governors. Money is being raised to build a memorial in Atlantic City to him and other World War II veterans, his daughter said.

Harry Singley

Military Branch : Army

Town From Time At Service : Ventnor, NJ

Highest Rank : Captain

Years In Service : 2 years

Overseas Deployment: Normandy on D-Day June 6, 1944

Harry Singley was my mother, Peggy Hackney's brother. He made the ultimate sacrifice. My uncle harry is our families hero and deservedly so.

Harry Singley, thank you for your service!

Harry Singley, of Ventnor, was a well-known physician, Villanova University graduate and father to three young boys when he enlisted in the Medical Corps in June 1942. He died in action in Normandy.

Newspaper reports from the time describe Capt. Singley, battalion surgeon of the 42nd Field Artillery of the 4th Division, as the “first Absecon county casualty on D-Day.”

“He was a local hero,” said Peggy Kelly, Singley’s niece.

Harry Singley newspaper clips

Victor Kozub

Victor Kozub, of Philadelphia, left West Chester University to enlist in the Army in August 1942. He was a staff sergeant until his discharge in 1945, and served as a photo interpreter in the months following D-Day.

Kozub and other interpreters received photos of German operations on Omaha Beach taken from above by pilots. They used the pictures to identify enemy targets, determine the accuracy of artillery fire and gather strategic information.

“For days at a time, 24 hours a day, they would be in a basement studying those,” said Jerry Kozub, Victor’s son.

He died in April.

Provided by Kozub family 

Victor Kozub, pictured with his brother John on the left. 

Primary challenges fail in Mullica, Buena Vista; may succeed in Folsom, Corbin City

It could take until the middle of next week before official primary results are known in Atlantic County, election officials said Wednesday.

Atlantic County Board of Elections Chairwoman Evelynn “Lynn” Caterson said the board won’t meet to open and count mail-ins and paper provisional ballots until 5 p.m. June 12 at the board offices in Mays Landing.

That is to give the superintendent of elections time to investigate all provisional ballots, plus mail-ins that have been challenged.

State law requires mail-in ballots to be accepted through the close of business 48 hours after the polls close, as long as they are postmarked by election day. So the Superintendent’s Office won’t be able to start investigating until Friday morning, when all of the mail-in ballots have come in.

A total of 3,690 mail-in ballots were received by the close of the primary day countywide. The board accepted 3,525, with the rest either rejected for improper filling out by voters or sent to the superintendent of elections for investigation, said Caterson.

In the county, Republican Committeemen Jim Brown and Larry Riffle held off a primary challenger in Mullica Township, in unofficial machine totals after the polls closed Tuesday night.

Brown had 231 votes, Riffle 177 and challenger William James had 146.

In Buena Vista Township, the challenger also fell short.

Incumbent Democrat Committeemen John Williams and Steve Martinelli won with 284 and 252 votes, respectively. Challenger Carlo Favretto Jr. had 117.

But in Folsom, incumbent Republican Mayor Lou “Skip” De Stefano got 91 votes, and challenger Greg Schenker got 111. That’s close enough that mail-in and provisional ballots, which are yet to be added, may change the result.

And in Corbin City, write-in candidate Kris Surran got 57 votes to incumbent Council President Rose Turner’s 23 and William Collins’ 10.

About 60 ballots are being investigated in Atlantic City’s 4th Ward after candidate Surajit “Milton” Chowdhury challenged them, saying they were sent to commercial addresses.

Provisional ballots are used when someone who has requested a mail-in ballot shows up at the polls to vote by machine; if someone at the polls challenges a voter’s address or identification; or because of other anomolies.

Their in-person vote can’t be counted unless they never returned the mail-in ballot, Caterson said.

Caterson also said 64 of the 640 mail-in ballots returned by unaffiliated voters contained votes in both the Republican and Democratic primaries. State law allows voters to vote in only one party’s primary, thus joining that party. All had to be thrown out, she said.

Gretchen Carlson steps down as Miss America chairwoman

ATLANTIC CITY — One year ago, Gretchen Carlson was on “Good Morning America” announcing a new Miss America Competition without swimsuits, kicking off months of strife and division within the organization.

On Wednesday, Carlson announced she is stepping away from her position as chairwoman of the Miss America Organization.

“I’ve agreed to stay on as an adviser to the board to allow this work to continue,” Carlson said in a statement, “Miss America will always be a part of who I am, and I will enthusiastically watch as the organization continues to grow and succeed.”

Shantel Krebs, a former South Dakota secretary of state and Miss South Dakota 1997, will take over the position of chairwoman, and attorney Brenda Keith will serve as vice chairwoman.

“I am excited to support MAO in the chair role by helping to craft initiatives which will serve to inspire and motivate young women across the country to lead by example,” Krebs said in a statement.

Krebs and Keith have both been board members since October, according to the MAO, and were unanimously elected.

Carlson, a former Fox News host and Miss America 1989, took the position of executive chair of the Board of Trustees on Jan. 1, 2018, after a collective of former Miss Americas and pageant stakeholders called for the resignation of former CEO and Chairman Sam Haskell.

Regina Hopper was announced as CEO in May 2018.

While the dawn of 2018 spurred a bit of hope for the pageant, a schism quickly formed in the organization, with allegations of mismanagement, secrecy and mistreatment of the reigning Miss America.

Under Carlson’s leadership, Miss America 2018 Cara Mund called her year of service “tough,” saying she often felt “unheard or utilized or appreciated.” In an open letter, Mund described bullying from Carlson and other MAO leaders.

The allegations were reviewed by a Texas-based human resource firm and were deemed unfounded, but Mund continued to call for a change in leadership.

Miss America in A.C.

“I look forward to seeing the Miss America Organization continue to show women the power of their own voice as it approaches the 100th anniversary. I have learned that by having the courage to use one’s voice, influential change can occur. I wish Ms. Carlson the best on her new endeavors and fully support her decision to step down,” Mund said.

Jennifer Vaden Barth, the former MAO board member who claimed Carlson and Hopper orchestrated an illegal and bad-faith takeover of the organization in a lawsuit filed in Atlantic County Superior Court late last year, said Carlson’s resignation may be a good sign for the organization.

“Maybe she realized quitting is the best thing for her and the best thing for the Miss America Organization,” Barth said.

Barth said she noticed Carlson was not as engaged with the MAO on social media and at organization events. Carlson made a brief appearance at a conference in March for state executive directors, Barth was told by state leaders, and noted that Carlson’s efforts have been more focused on her role in the #MeToo movement and her Lifetime television series, “Breaking the Silence.”

Barth said she spoke with Krebs before she accepted the position on the board and explained many of the governing issues facing the MAO.

“I told her to give it serious thought before she joined the organization,” Barth said.

Miss America 1984 Suzette Charles was outspoken against Carlson and Hopper’s leadership following Mund’s bullying allegations and seeing traditional elements of the pageant fall by the wayside.

“I’m pleased to hear she’s stepping aside,” said Charles, “though the damage has been done — there’s gonna have to be a lot of glue to repair what’s been done to the tradition of Miss America.”

“I’m pretty upset about it. She was a strong leader,” Miss New Jersey Executive Director David Holtzman said of Carlson’s resignation.

Holtzman was appointed in December after the Miss America Organization agreed to reinstate the state organization’s license, which was revoked for breaking from the central organization’s new vision.

Carlson’s “Miss America 2.0” sought to empower women but failed to bring positive attention to the pageant, instead dividing loyal supporters and producing lackluster event attendance and TV ratings.

After contracts expired for a state subsidy from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority and television broadcast with ABC Networks, the MAO succeeded last month in partnering with NBC to broadcast the Miss America 2020 Competition. The pageant’s date and location have not been announced.