WWII Vet, Sandy Survivor Asks for Help With Toilet-Crowned Billboard

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A World War II veteran is asking his community to help him repair his Sandy-damaged home. But not everyone is happy with the way he's doing it. NBC10's Ted Greenberg has the details. (Published Tuesday, Jul 15, 2014)

    From longtime residents to drivers passing by, an unconventional plea for help is drawing plenty of attention in a South Jersey community.

    It’s a large billboard that sits across a golf course along Heald Road in Brigantine, New Jersey. The sign says the following:

    President did good. Governor did good. Fireman, Police and City Workers did excellent. Mayor Guenther in his infinite wisdom built the senior center and was a life support for all of Brigantine. He saved the people that didn’t leave for the storm. When the others returned, he fed, clothed and gave all types of aid. I am asking for contributions. I am 88 years old, and a veteran of the WWII. I don’t want to die and leave my wife not safe. Please help me fix my house.

    Perhaps the most eye-catching part of the sign is what sits on top of it, a toilet.

    “I don’t like to be a beggar,” said the billboard’s creator, 88-year-old Bernard Byrnes, a World War II veteran. “But I put a sign out. That draws attention.”

    After Superstorm Sandy swept through Brigantine two years ago, destroying most of his possessions, Byrnes says he tried more conventional methods to seek help in repairing his home.

    “All I got was paperwork and paperwork,” Byrnes said. “I said, ‘I’m fed up with it.’”

    Not having the money to complete the repairs, Byrnes came up with the idea of creating the billboard and crowning it with his toilet, one of the few items that wasn’t destroyed by Sandy. Byrnes, who put the sign up last week, says he’s asking for help because he doesn’t want to die and leave his wife Rita alone and unsafe.

    “She’s ten years younger than me,” Byrnes said. “I’m going to go first. I have to have everything right for her.”

    The couple says the billboard has gotten positive feedback so far.

    “Everyday somebody new knocks on the door, wanting to help out,” Rita said.

    Not everyone is happy with the billboard however. One resident, who did not want to be identified, told NBC10 that the sign and toilet are causing a problem in the neighborhood. Any negative reception isn’t enough to dissuade Byrnes however.

    “I do by the law, my way,” Byrnes said. “This here is 100%. The city can’t do nothing about it.”

    NBC10 reached out to Brigantine officials for comment about the billboard. They have not yet returned our calls.

    Byrnes hopes to use any donations to replace his storm-damaged siding and windows. However, he also doesn’t plan on keeping any of the donated cash if there’s not enough to complete the repairs.

    “Ain’t no good to me,” Byrnes said. “I will take it and give it to the different churches in Brigantine.”
    If you would like to donate to Byrnes, you can write a check payable to:
    BJ Byrnes Flood, 45 Heald Road, Brigantine, NJ, 08203