For Rich Chivers, working aboard the Red Oak Victory isn’t a chore. It’s a labor of love.
Chivers, 65, has volunteered for 23 years as an electrician on the World War II ship, which was built and launched in 1944 from the Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond and is now berthed there as part of the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park.
“It’s the best-kept secret in town,” he says. “Not to steal someone’s quote, but it is.”
The retired electrician for the U.S. Postal Service became interested in the Red Oak Victory after he heard that the Richmond Museum of History, which owns and operates it, was trying to acquire one of the ships anchored in the “mothball fleet” at Benicia in 1996.
“We went out and visited the ship, saw the shape it was in, and that made it even more exciting — because I’m into junk, repairing and fixing things,” he said.
Chivers is a former Navy sailor, enlisting for a three-year commitment as an 18-year-old before being honorably discharged in 1975. After his military service, he enrolled in electronics courses at Contra Costa College when “computers were new and Atari video pinball had just come out.”
He spends three or four days a week aboard the Red Oak Victory, tackling electrical projects and pitching in wherever the need arises: hauling deck gear, giving tours or providing security during on-board events.
Chivers is most proud of the electrical work he’s done on the ship during the long restoration process.
“It’s a passionate thing,” he said.
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