Nightly News   |  August 18, 2013

Message in a bottle makes its way home 50 years later

Fifty years ago a 12-year-old boy threw a message in a bottle out into the ocean. The message ended up being a lot closer to him than he realized. NBC’s Michelle Franzen reports.

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>>> it's a timeless summer ritual, perhaps you were one of those kids who put a message in a bolt, hoping someone would find it and write you back. fair to say that most of them are lost to the sea, but on the jersey shore , one of those bolts, actually a jar, washed up during hurricane sandy, half a century after a young boy tossed it in the ocean, nbc's michelle franzen with what happened next.

>> reporter: dennis combza waited nearly a lifetime to see this may san jar again and the note tucked inside.

>> fragile.

>> amazing, isn't it?

>> reporter: amazing because it's been half a century since he cast the jar and letter into the ocean during a family vacation to new jersey's seaside heights .

>> reminds me a lot about the time i spent at the shore. every august, we would go down there and remind, all these things flash through your head.

>> reporter: then just 12 years old, combza and his father wrote the note.

>> enclosed is 5 cents for the stamp. i said why where did you find the bottle, date when found, how did you find it anything else which might help me?

>> reporter: nickel was included for the return stamp for the stranger who would find it.

>> this is where the bottle was found.

>> reporter: that stranger, norman stanton. he found the jar while sifting through piles of debris from superstorm sandy at his sister's home in seaside heights .

>> finding and being a part of the history of seaside, i just feel privileged.

>> reporter: pushed ashore by sandy's force and just a stone's throw away from where combza had thrown it out to sea all those years ago.

>> if it wasn't for super storm sandy, the bottle wouldn't have been recovered.

>> reporter: he and his sister, sharon, a chance to meet combza this weekend and return the jar.

>> this is, to me, memories of my childhood.

>> reporter: much has changed since that august of 1963 .

>> did you think odd very to wait 50 years?

>> when you're a kid, you think anything's possible.

>> reporter: a belief and a jar that holds a much bigger message for the jersey shore .

>> to me, i think this is a message to seaside that the town can come back, this can happen, anything can happen.

>> reporter: new memories that have yet to be tossed and found. michelle franzen , nbc news, hillsborough, new jersey.