To the Editor:
Each Memorial Day, the people of Berkeley Heights honor and celebrate the memory of those who have fallen in our country’s conflicts and those who have served in them. The day’s ceremonies consist of a parade that ends at the Memorial where floral wreaths are placed. The GL Band plays the National Anthem and Echo Taps are sounded before and behind the Memorial. Speeches are then delivered at the Memorial. The Memorial is the center of activity at the township’s most important public event. The inscription on the Memorial wall calls upon us to take time to pause and remember the sacrifice made by those who answered America's call to duty. The Memorial now needs repair, restoration and the help of the people of Berkeley Heights.
Before asking for that help, it is important to review the Memorial’s history. Its beginnings go back to the years just after World War I, when the Township of New Providence, as Berkeley Heights was then known, commissioned a memorial plaque to honor service in that conflict. That 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. 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.
As time passed, shrubs grew too large or died. The stones weathered and grew moss. Two more wars had come. In the mid 80s, a group of volunteers, members of the VFW, American Legion and a number of public officials decided to update the Memorial. A committee was formed in 1986. Various plans were considered, funds were raised and a new Memorial was unveiled on Memorial Day of 1987. It consists of a low wall bearing the inscription mentioned above, a brick walk leading to the flagpole and wall, appropriate landscaping and most importantly, two new stones and plaques, commemorating those who served in Korea and South East Asia. It is a landmark of which the town can be proud, and a fitting tribute to those whom it honors.
It is 2015, and again time has taken its toll. The brick walkway leading to the flag pole and wall has buckled, cracked and been damaged. Much of the landscaping has withered and died. The flagpole is discolored, the light fixtures rusted, and the benches mildewed. Other elements need to be refreshed. The huge Norway spruce which stands behind the Memorial is in dire condition and will likely need to be replaced. The job of restoration must be done. A group of volunteers, public officials and businesses have come forward to offer support and help. The Town Council has established a Memorial Committee. Its mission is to restore the Memorial to a pristine condition by Memorial Day 2015. Once again the residents, local businesses and organizations will be called upon soon to help with various aspects of the work, and for financial support. Those whom the Memorial honors deserve it.
Berkeley Heights Memorial Park Restoration Committee
Ted Romankow, Chairman
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