Community Life

Reflecting on the Reason For the Day at Clark's Memorial Day Ceremony

The community young and old look on as the flag is lowered during Memorial Day ceremony. Credits: Elizabeth Clee
Butch Switeky, Tammi Angelo, Jack Doran and Chaplain Steve Burczynski
Presenting wreaths at the memorial ceremony. Credits: Elizabeth Clee
Mayor Bonaccorso with military personnel at the conclusion of the ceremony. Credits: Elizabeth Clee

CLARK, NJ –The grey clouds hanging overhead didn’t deter crowds from lining the roadway for Clark’s annual Memorial Day parade on Monday morning.

After two years of parade cancellations due to stormy weather conditions, parade organizer Councilman Al Barr was pleased with what he projected to be the largest crowd he has seen at the event.

The parade traveled up Westfield Avenue toward Arthur L. Johnson High School.  Clark Police, Fire, Emergency personnel, government officials and many civic organizations marched. The high school band played patriotic music throughout the parade and at the memorial event.  The National Anthem was performed by Ryan Rutano, a senior at ALJ.

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The ceremony was led by Butch Switek, Commander of the American Legion 328 in Clark.  Switek welcomed the crowd and thanked the mayor, council and Barr for organizing and attending the day’s event.   He continued with a reminder and then words of appreciation to the crowds gathered across the lawns surrounding the high school.

“There are two holidays a year that celebrate our military.  One is Veterans Day when we celebrate all who have served and the other is today. Memorial Day is to remember those that gave their life for this country.   I’m glad and thankful that you are all here today instead of at the mall and with the sales, you know the true meaning of this day,” said Switek.

Commander Jack Doran of the John L. Ruddy VFW 7363 of Clark addressed the crowd offering a somber reminder to attendees of the reverence Memorial Day holds.   “Freedom isn’t free; it’s been paid for with the lives of sons, daughters, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters and friends. Their debt is one that can never really be repaid… there is no better way to honor them, then to remember them,” said Doran.

Tammi Angelo, President of the Ladies Auxiliary of Clark American Legion 328 reminded those assembled of the difference between Memorial and Veterans Day and what the flags placed everywhere represent.  

“So on this Memorial Day and those to follow, be sure to honor those who died fighting for our country and pay attention to the those flags everywhere and remember what they mean, these men and women made a huge sacrifice and we are very thankful for them.  The military does so much for us and we would not be so free without them,” said Angelo.

Mayor Sal Bonaccorso addressed the crowd giving thanks to all the residents, civic and government groups that joined in the event.  He too thanked Barr and his parade committee for organizing a wonderful experience to honor those lost before sharing his thoughts on the day.  

“Today we remember the fallen heroes who gave us our way of life…it’s about remembering the great, great men and women of this country that give us the freedom we have,” said Bonaccorso.  “This town is a town with American spirit each and every day of the year but on a day like Memorial Day you come out to show how much we love our country our fallen heroes and our veterans, God Bless you and God Bless America.”

Wreaths were placed at the memorial in front of ALJ high school by the following groups:

  • Clark American Legion 328
  • Clark American Legion 328 – Ladies Auxiliary
  • Clark Board of Education
  • Clark Boy Scout Troop 145
  • Clark Fire Department
  • Clark Mayor and Council
  • Clark UNICO
  • Clark VFW Post 7363

The following is a list of Clark’s own fallen heroes researched and complied by retired Clark Police Officer William Duffy.  

Civil War

  •  Cpl. James Bullman

World War I

  • John B. Miller, US Army

World War II

  • S1C Bennie Bienko
  • Pvt. Charles Bitsko
  • Pfc. Paul Clauss
  • Pvt. Melvyn Graves
  • Pvt. Russell Green
  • 2nd Lt. Alvin Grossman
  • Torpedoman’s Mate 3C Eugene Hutchinson
  • Edward Makowski, US Army Air Corps
  • Joseph Padusniak, Tech 5, US Army
  • John L. Ruddy, Jr. S2C
  • Cpl. Martin Schmitt
  • Pfc Joseph Witkowski

Cold War

  • 1st Lt. John Wilkes


  • Cmdr. Richard Hartman
  • Kenneth Kuspiel, SP4
  • Capt. Robert Sevell
  • LCpl John Winters

Operation Iraqi Freedom

  • Pfc. Stephen Benish

Operation Enduring Freedom

  • Sgt. James W. Harvey II

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