February 26, 2020

Kittery shipyard supporters celebrate again

KITTERY – Supporters and workers at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard held yet another party during the weekend to celebrate their successful campaign to keep the yard open.

“Kittery and Portsmouth just don’t want to stop celebrating,” U.S. Rep. Tom Allen, D-Maine, said to the crowd. “After so much stress, your community is entitled to keep celebrating the rest of the year.”

Those at the shipyard’s block party on Saturday couldn’t help but reflect on the rally held on a chilly, gloomy day at the same spot six months earlier.

In April, a few hundred stood in the rain to support the yard and its unknown future, but Saturday was sunny, bright and warm.

“Today is the [culmination] of the journey from the past six months,” Kittery Town Manager Jon Carter said. “We stood here in April and froze in order to start the ball rolling, always hoping for this outcome.”

The yard was removed from a Defense Department closure list in August, saving the shipyard and more than 4,800 seacoast jobs.

“This is it; this is our grand finale,” shipyard union president Paul O’Connor said.

New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch took special note of the children who attended with their families.

“They are the future workers of our shipyard,” he said.

Deedee Schussler’s past and future are interwoven with the shipyard. She was born at the yard’s Navy hospital, met her husband there, and married him at the yard’s chapel.

“It’s in my blood,” she told the Portsmouth Herald.

Schussler reflected on the past few months of wondering if the yard would stay open.

“It was a horrific summer,” she said. “Now, I’m elated. We’re still celebrating.”

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