John W. Brown sees couple off on marital voyage Liberty ship lovers tie the knot on board

September 26, 1993|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,Staff Writer

Their passion is diving below the Atlantic to the wrecks of sunken Liberty ships.

And their love for one another was consecrated in marriage yesterday on the deck of the John W. Brown, one of only two American Liberty ships remaining out of 2,710 that carried supplies overseas during World War II.

In a light afternoon rain alongside Pier One on Clinton Street, longtime companions Karen Ellen Flynn and Douglas Wilson Newlon took their vows from the Rev. Ramon Reno on a platform above the No. 2 cargo hold.

Behind them, an Irish duet on piano and guitar sang: "You must give yourself to love, if love is what you're after, open up your heart to the tears and laughter . . ."

Out beyond the bow lay downtown Baltimore and the stretch of brown harbor between Clinton and Pratt streets dotted with sea gulls and sailboats.

And along railings on the port and starboard sides of the massive gray ship, more than 150 friends and relatives watched the southern Anne Arundel County couple from Rose Haven pledge to live the rest of their lives as one.

"We were engaged in February and were diving off of Norfolk over Memorial Day weekend when the John Brown was in port there," said Ms. Flynn, 33, an architect with NASA. "We'd been looking for a place to get married that was significant to both of us. When we saw a sign that said the Brown could be rented for parties, we knew we'd found the place."

"We didn't even know its home port was Baltimore," said Mr. Newlon, 33, a NASA computer manager. The John W. Brown was launched from Bethlehem Steel's Fairfield shipyard on Sept. 7, 1942.

On a table near the gangway, the couple displayed some of the treasures they have retrieved from the wrecks of ships such as the John Morgan, the Ocean Venture, and the Empire Gem.

The table was laden with shattered portholes, belt buckles, brass light fixtures, miniature tea sets and porcelain dolls, and, alongside the table, the prize of prizes: an intact, 72-year-old bell from the Victolite, rechristened the E. M. Clark for duty in World War II.

Mr. Newlon and Ms. Flynn recovered the bell during a July dive in waters off Ocracoke, N.C.

As the bride and groom clasped hands to ring the bell for the first ceremonial time in 50 years, best-man Mark Huling said: "It's about time these two got married."

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