Now that Mitt Romney seems to have cemented his frontrunner status as the next Republican candidate for U.S. president, I'm left wondering what an online political commentator also has asked — why doesn't the candidate ever mention an incident in which he rescued a Hunterdon County family in a sinking boat?
At the time, on July 4 weekend in 2003, I was a reporter covering Tewksbury Township for an area newspaper.
That year, Mitt Romney was just starting his time as Massachusetts governor. Apparently, he was vacationing with his family on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire, as was the Morrissey family from New Jersey.
As I remember it, the story was that it was getting dark when the Morrisseys' boat began to sink. Meanwhile, Robert Morrissey's cell phone hit the water just as he was attempting to call for help.
A report published in Massachusetts from the time says the then-governor "rode to the rescue over the weekend during a vacation trip — using his Jet Ski to help pluck a New Jersey family and their dog out of Lake Winnipesaukee after their boat sank."
In an account that jives with my memory, two of the Romney sons and their father each sped out on jet skis to the six members of the family, whose boat had sprung a sudden leak, and were afraid that they would not be noticed on the darkening lake.
The Romneys, working together, managed to rescue the six passengers—and their dog, too—prompting my interview with Robert Morrissey in 2003 during which the Tewksbury resident expressed his gratitude to the governor and his sons.
So this week, having made a phone call or two before and not getting through, I again called Morrissey to update the story and ask the question that certainly had me very curious. Was he going to vote for Romney in the upcoming primary election, and in the presidential election if he is chosen as the Republican nominee?
Perhaps because he remembered my name (who knows?), the Tewksbury resident picked up the phone—but then said he didn't want to talk about Romney yet again.
I gathered from our brief conversation that Morrissey had been beseiged by reporters from Boston on down back when the incident occurred in 2003. Now, "I don't want to rehash it," he insisted politely.
Like any good reporter, I urged him to give me a call if he changed his mind about talking.
He softened a little, and said he might call me if the former Massachusetts governor indeed becomes president of the United States. In that case, he quipped, "My boat will be worth a lot more."