Dennis Komsa and his father put a message in a jar and tossed it out to sea in 1963. Now he has it back

By Sheila Cosgrove Baylis
Updated August 20, 2013 10:45 AM
Credit: Peter Ackerman/Asbury Park Press

It’s the stuff of songs and movies – a message in a bottle found 50 years later was returned to the man who cast it into the sea when he was just 12 years old.

In 1963, Dennis Komsa did something that many children have done before and since. He wrote a message and sealed it in a glass jar, hoping that when he threw it into the Atlantic, someone would eventually recover it and respond to him.

And that’s exactly what happened.

Almost 50 years later, about a week after Superstorm Sandy hit the Jersey Shore, Norman Stanton was looking through debris near his sister Sharon Roher’s home in Seaside Heights, N.J., when he spotted a glass jar that lay apart from the rubble.

“It looked like it was meant to be found,” Stanton, 53, told the Asbury Park Press. Stanton recovered the jar just two-tenths of a mile from where Komsa had thrown it in 1963.

When Stanton opened the jar, he discovered a neatly written questionnaire that read: “To Whom It May Concern, Please fill out the following questions and mail. This is a scientific experiment by Dennis Komsa, age 12.”

Komsa enclosed his Paterson, N.J., address and a nickel for the stamp. He hoped the reply would include answers to these questions:

Where was the jar found?

When was it found?

How was it found?

“Anything else which might help me?”

Komsa is now 61 and living in Hillsborough, N.J. He recalled that he and his father had worked on the project together. “My father and I used to do stuff like that all the time,” Komsa told the Asbury Park Press.

Komsa said he felt the recovery of the bottle had purpose. “Things happen for a reason,” he said. “I guess it’s good it came to shore. It shows anything is possible.”

The bottle was returned to Komsa at a luncheon on Saturday to celebrate the 100th birthday of Seaside Heights. Arthur Fierro, president of the property owners’ association in Seaside Heights, told the Asbury Park Press, “It’s great that somebody from that period is coming back to visit us to recover something he did with his father on vacation.”