Veterans Day and the World War II Monument
Introduction by Jennifer Ersalesi
By Rod Leith, Borough Historian
Veterans Day is a National Holiday during which Americans honor the Nation's veterans. On November 11th, Veterans across the United States are recognized for their selfless efforts and dedication to the protection of the freedoms of American citizens and people around the world. Borough Historian Rod Leith wrote about the history of the World War II Monument and included photographs of the monument, as well as other monuments in Lincoln Park.
It was surprising to learn that little was known about the dedication of Rutherford's World War II Monument. There is no marking on the monument itself and little was known by Rutherford's veteran organizations. It was seventy years ago Memorial Day of this year that this stone-granite monument was erected to honor 108 Rutherford soldiers and sailors killed during WWII, 1941-1945. The dedication ceremony was held on Memorial Day 1951.
The events that led up to this dedication may be of interest to veterans, and perhaps other citizens of Rutherford. First, a pledge was made to the Gold Star Mothers (mothers of men killed in war automatically become known as Gold Star Mothers) by Rutherford's Governing Body that the men from the Borough who were killed during WWII would be honored with an appropriate monument.
The Gold Star Mothers gave as their preference a monument erected by the Township of West Orange. This was a large, rectangular-shaped monument with a brass plaque naming 124 West Orange men killed during the war, 1941-1945. It had been designed and erected by Newark Monument Company, now inactive. The Rutherford Service Organization, formally disbanded in 1946, supported the cause. The R.S.O. decided to donate its reserve of $900.00 (remember this is 1950 dollars) as a gift to the Borough of Rutherford "to apply toward the World War II Memorial to be erected in Lincoln Park."
On Memorial Day 1950, then-Mayor Paul W, Blye announced the exact site for the WWII monument in Lincoln Park. Plans for this site and the design of a monument were approved by the Gold Star Mothers and accepted by the committee appointed by Mayor Blye for this purpose. The Governing Body met with a representative of Newark Monument Company to plan the design of the monument. Mayor Blye went out of his way to thank Councilman Roy L.Reed for his tireless efforts in organizing the plans for the monument. Incidentally, Councilman Reed admonished Rutherford parents about markings found on the monument. "It is dedicated to the dead and should be respected," Councilman Reed asserted. Perhaps this advice should be heeded today since cleanliness is essential to respect the veterans on this monument.
The line-up for the Memorial Day parade on May 30, 1951 consisted of a very inclusive group of veterans. An African-American, Robert H. Smith of 90 Eastern Way was chosen as Grand Marshall. Smith represented John T. Hilton Camp # 3, United Spanish War Veterans. Benjamin M. Jaskot, immediate past commander of Post 227, VFW, was selected as adjutant. The aides were Cecil Roberts, Post 109; Joseph Sisco, Post 453; and William Korvlans, representing the Jewish War Veterans. A special tribute was paid to the Spanish-American War veterans with the formal surrender of the American flag that draped the coffin of Commander John T. Hilton at his gravesite in 1946.