BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - John Patrick Elward, Jr, a long time Berkeley Heights resident and former mayor passed away on Friday, Jan. 1, 2021 at the age of 85. He served on the planning board, board of adjustment, township committee, including a year as mayor of Berkeley Heights.
He was a member of the committee that designed and constructed the Berkeley Heights Veterans Memorial in 1987 and a board member of the Veterans Memorial Park restoration in 2016, joining Ted Romankow, and the late Vito Mondelli and Leon Ciferni to form the restoration committee.
The history of the memorial began just after World War I when a memorial plaque was set in a concrete marker and erected near the train station. "There it rested until the end of Word War II. Seven sons of the Town had been lost in that war, and a plaque bearing their names was commissioned, set in a stone, and erected in front of a copse of trees in the park across from Town Hall, near the northwest corner of Park and Plainfield Avenues," Romankow said. Sometime later, the WW I plaque was removed from its concrete marker, set in a matching stone, and erected next to the WW II stone. The park in which the memorial stones were placed came to be known as Memorial Field.
Romankow recalls being on the township committee with Elward when they started talking about restoring the memorial in late 1986. "John took it upon himself to design the memorial wall," said Romankow. "'A Time to Pause and Remember' was John's suggestion. -- He literally designed the memorial. He then presented it to the planning board as I remember, and back to us on the committee," said Romankow.
The project included a brick walk leading to the flagpole and a low wall bearing the inscription that calls visitors to take time to pause and remember the sacrifice made by those who answered America's call to duty. Most importantly, two new stones and plaques, commemorating those who served in Korea and South East Asia were added. Various plans were considered, funds were raised and the new Memorial was unveiled on Memorial Day of 1987.
Thirty years later, the late Vito Mondelli, who lived across the street from the memorial noticed it had fallen in disrepair. "We started another round, and John was an integral part of that," said Romankow. "He put a lot of thought into it and really wanted it completed. That to me is the best part of the legacy he has." The 2016 dedication unveiled the newest monument that honors those who have served most recently in the Persian Gulf and the ongoing War on Terror -- and sits beside the four existing memorial stones honoring those who served in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Southeast Asia.
John Elward's obituary can be read in its entirety here.
Elward was born and raised in Newark and graduated from St. Benedict’s. After high school, he served four years as an electronics technician in the United States Navy and was cited as company honorman. After completing his military service, John earned a degree from Newark College of Engineering and joined Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, where he worked as an electrical engineer for 30 years.
His obituary further stated, he was known to his family and friends as an avid storyteller and adept 'grill guy,' John loved all types of sports, politics, fishing, gardening, and cooking, especially his mother’s renowned Irish soda bread. He took great pride in his Irish heritage.
John is survived by his loving wife of 61 years, Barbara (nee Ponzini); children, John Elward and his wife Kara, Kevin Elward and his husband Gene Crocker, Alison Elward, Jaimie Mercer and her husband Galen, and Matthew Elward; sister, Marie Duggan; and sister-in-law, Frances Elward. He is also survived by his cherished grandchildren, Sean, MaryKate, Colleen, and Patrick Elward. John was predeceased by his parents, John and Mary (nee Feely); brother, James; and brotherin- law, Patrick Duggan.
Donations in John’s memory may be made to St. Joseph’s Health Foundation online at https://givetostjosephs.org/give/ or by mail at P.O. Box 29000, Newark, NJ 07101-9888.