Vets Raise Seaside Cross

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NORTH WILDWOOD – April 12 was an Easter for the history books. Yet, for Navy veteran Chris Balma and local entrepreneur Tom Olsen, the Easter celebration of 2020 took on a more personal meaning.

Balma is a founding member of the Living Waters Veterans Memorial Chapel, Wildwood, and Olsen serves as a leader in the chapel’s outreach team. Together, they fashioned a cross out of driftwood, found behind the Hereford Inlet Lighthouse March 19.

According to media sources, Balma and Olsen were able to create not only the cross at Hereford Inlet but also for the chapel.

In recent years, an original cross stood among the dunes, also made from driftwood. Local veteran Michael Horst erected the cross and it stood for several weeks until dune replenishment required the cross’s removal. Residents and tourists paused along the city’s seawall to take pictures of the iconic symbol.

As the nation found its way through the coronavirus pandemic, Balma and Olsen wished to spread a message of hope. The world seems to hold a collective breath, awaiting resurrection.

Rev. Deb Moore (founder of Living Waters Veteran’s Chapel) brought the cross’s attention to the Herald April 8.

“I knew as soon as I saw the driftwood, it was meant not only for Chris and Tom to make a cross for the Chapel but to give hope to many this Easter with the return of a cross on the beach,” Moore said, in a prepared statement. Moore led a virtual Easter sunrise service via “Watch the Tramcar Please” website April 12. The cross’s location was not disclosed in order to prevent drawing a crowd.

Visitors were instructed to remain in place of residence until May 9 per Gov. Phil Murphy’s order.

To contact Rachel Rogish, email rrogish@cmcherald.com.

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