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Honoring Outgoing Mayor Joseph DeSalvo

Submitted by Rutherford Borough Historian Rod Leith

Recently, Rutherford Borough Hall honored outgoing Mayor Joseph DeSalvo for his contributions to efforts to remember historic figures and events in the community. A framed copy of a 1904 vintage map was presented to him bearing an honorarium plate with the inscription, “Mayor Joseph DeSalvo, Jr. --a man inspired by history.” Several outstanding events were recited by the borough historian, marking the mayor’s contributions.

2012. Rutherford welcomed descendants of Lafayette Hoag, an African-American, who helped save the life of a Union Army officer, Capt. Alonzo Mabbett. The historic Hoag house at 127 Donaldson Avenue had been preserved.

2013. DeSalvo appointed a committee to begin planning the commemoration of those who served in WWI 1914-1918. The WWI Committee is still active in the community. In that effort, he placed a plaque on Orient Way to honor Herbert A. Barrows, an 18-year-old Army soldier who became the first from Rutherford to die in WWI. The next big WWI event here in Rutherford will be the long-overdue tribute to Congressional Medal of Honor recipient John C. Latham, who lived at 171 Montross when he enlisted. 

2015. Rutherford honored Fernando Callejo, a Puerto Rican composer, and historian who settled his family here in the mid-1920s. DeSalvo was instrumental in the tribute to Calejo, which is marked by a plaque honoring him at Tamblyn field, a stone's throw from the Callejo house on Delafield Avenue.

2016. Five generations of the family of Thaddeus L. Marshall came to Rutherford to participate in the dedication of a gravestone for Marshall who was William Carlos Williams’s inspiration for the 1922 poem, ”The Red Wheelbarrow”.

2018 and 2019. An ad hoc committee planned the celebration in tribute to six African-American brothers who served simultaneously in WWII. Mayor DeSalvo was central to the work of the committee which placed a plaque at the home of the Laval family on Rutherford's Wheaton Place.

Rod Leith explained, "My fondest 2019 memory was a historic moment --- the sight of Mayor DeSalvo, an Italian-American, standing on the sidewalk of Wheaton Place, named for one of Rutherford's English settlers, as he addressed a Memorial Day audience of several hundred. He dedicated a World War II service plaque in honor of the six African-American Laval Brothers, as it was unveiled in front of the former home of Moses and Ella Laval. The house, designated historic, was built by African-American carpenter-builder Christopher Walton, and is currently owned by a Latino-American father and daughter, Jose and Columba Martenez." 

Photo credit: Barbara Obiedzinski

Members of Rutherford's WWI Centennial Committee and the Historic Preservation Committee, including John Trosky (who chairs both Committees), Leo Nakashian, and Dr. Oksana Brezynskyj-Heimur were on hand for the presentation in the Borough Council chambers.

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