BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ -- Dreams do come true. In this case, the dream was that the renovation and refurbishment of the Veteran's Memorial would be finished in time for this year's Memorial Day commemoration. It is. 
 
The rededication of the memorial and Memorial Day commemoration will be held at Veterans Memorial Park immediately following the Parade that begins at 9:30 a.m.
 
 
The Veterans Memorial story began about 30 years ago, in 1986, when then Mayor Ted Romankow and the Township Committee decided a suitable memorial honoring the veterans of World War I, World War II, the Korean and Vietnam wars should be built. Members of a memorial committee, including future mayors John Elward and Leon Ciferni, designed, built and raised the money to build a new memorial at the corner of Plainfield and Park avenues.  
 
Romankow said the idea was the memorial should be "a place of honor, a sacred place where one would come to pause a moment and remember all who served" in those wars. Once it was finished, Veterans Memorial fulfilled its purpose and served as the centerpiece for both Memorial Day and Veteran's Day ceremonies and became a town landmark. 

 
As the years passed, the memorial began to show its years. The wall holding the memorials to each war began to deteriorate as did the brick walkways. Trees and shrubs either grew too large or died. The Norway Spruce behind the memorial, planted in 1970 by the VFW, showed its age. 
 
In 2015, Romankow, sought the blessings of the Township Council to do something about the deteriorating memorial.  The council not only agreed the memorial needed to be fixed up, members asked him to serve as chairman of the committee. At first the committee was small, but soon it was made up of 11 residents and they quickly set about the task of restoring the memorial. 
 
The committee was made into A 501c3 corporation, which made it tax free, and acquired its own website. Romankow wrote a grant application to help fund the renovation and submitted it through the town to Union County. The Freeholders awarded a $55,000 matching grant to the committee. Romankow credited former Freeholder Chairman Mohammed Jalloh and the other Freeholders with helping to "jump start" the project.
 
By Dec. 2, 2015, the landscape plan was ready for its public debut. The renovation of the memorial turned into a true community effort -- donations from $1 to $10,000 rolled in from residents and local businesses. In the end, the committee raised more than $125,000, including the grant, and received more than $30,000 of in-kind contributions from residents and local businesses 
 
Senator Robert Menendez sent the committee a flag that flew over the Capital Building, Romankow said. One local World War II veteran will receive a Quilt of Honor from a church group. Schools have honored local veterans and helped spread the word about the project. The park adjacent to the memorial has been renamed Veterans Memorial Park.
 
As anyone who drives through this area knows, the memorial has changed. There's a new monument on the rebuilt wall, for those who fought in the Gulf War and against global terrorism.
 
There is a new, 25-foot tall, Norway Spruce, other new plantings, a new walkway, benches, lighting, a refurbished flag pole, turf, flower beds, and, near the corner, a "fallen soldier statue" donated by Vito Mondelli, said Romankow.
 
All of this was done with contributions from residents and businesses, it was not paid for by the township.
 
All veterans who attend the Veterans Memorial rededication on Memorial Day,May 30, will also receive an engraved "challenge coin," with an image of the fallen soldier statue on one side of the coin and an image of the rebuilt memorial on the other side.