Dick Vermeil Goes Long To Save ‘America’s Ship’

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BY RORY McGLASSON/ Legendary NFL coach Dick Vermeil is helping to call the plays in a bid to to save the SS United States.

The Former Philadelphia Eagles was applauded for his volunteer work to save the historic ocean liner that sits rotting away in South Philadelphia, at a reception held at Independence Seaport Museum.

LEGENDARY NFL COACH Dick Vermeil is lauded for his volunteer work for Save SS United States campaign at reception held at Independence Seaport Museum. Vermeil, joins Susan Gibbs, executive director of the SS United States Conservancy and board member Marc Byers. Photo by Rory McGlasson

Vermeil, 75,  jumped aboard the bid to save the rotting liner, when he recorded a public-service announcement to aid Conservancy’s efforts. It aired last month.

“The ship is such a symbol, emblem of America, our country’s history. We are fighting to save it,” said Susan Gibbs, executive director of the Conservancy and granddaughter of the ship’s designer William Francis Gibbs. She said the cost of a partial restoration would be $25 million. A full renovation with a museum, theater, and restaurants would cost up to $250 million.

As the 60th anniversary of her record-breaking maiden voyage nears, Philadelphia’s own “Lady in the Harbor” sits docked at Pier 82. The SS United States Conservancy wants to restore it and build a museum so the public can experience what it was like to be at sea 60 years ago.

At the special reception,  the SS United States Conservancy, the owners of the historic ship and the group spearheading her restoration saluted Vermeil with the National Flagship Champion Medal. Vermeil joins past recipients broadcaster Walker Cronkite and philanthropist Gerry Lenfest. It was Lenfest who saved the ship on Jul. 1, 2010, when he donated $5.8 million to the Conservancy, enough money to purchase the SS United States and maintain her at her current berth while funds are raised for her redevelopment.

“This great ship needs our help,” said Vermeil, who coached the Philadelphia Eagles, Kansas City Chiefs and the St. Louis Rams, copping a Super Bowl win. “She bears the name of our great country. She represents the best of America, and through these preservation efforts this ship can be a source of pride again for all of us.”

The evening was capped off by the premiere of the latest documentary about the American liner, entitled SS United States: Made in America. Produced by noted filmmaker Robert Radler, the film is a sequel to the award-winning 2008 American Public Television film SS United States: Lady in Waiting. The new 50-minute film features rare historical footage of celebrities, political leaders, artists and historians as it highlights the plight and potential of “the most famous ship that didn’t sink.”

Shot in high-definition, the film follows the journey of America’s only superliner, from a mid-20th-century maritime marvel to a largely forgotten relic. It also chronicles the ship’s purchase by the Conservancy and its vision for the vessel’s rescue and restoration.

“It’s been nearly 60 years since this ship made world history,” said Gibbs. “During her years of gallant service and in the decades since, she has touched the lives of millions the world over. This irreplaceable piece of American history – this symbol of our nation – deserves to be saved and repurposed for future generations. Thanks to champions like Dick Vermeil, we are constantly moving closer to achieving that goal.”

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