BLOOMFIELD, NJ– Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. dedicated a plaque recognizing the late Joseph Fornarotto, serviceman’s activist and longtime Belleville-Nutley Disabled American Veterans Commander, during Essex County’s annual Memorial Day observance in Glendale Cemetery in Bloomfield on Thursday, May 21st.
The plaque is located in the Veterans’ burial area in Glendale Cemetery that is owned by Essex County and where a formal memorial plaza was developed. Mr. Fornarotto was a resident of Belleville when he passed away on August 25, 2014, at the age of 88.
“Joe Fornarotto proudly served in the Navy during World War II. Even after he was discharged, Joe continued to serve his country as a vocal advocate for other veterans. He loved serving his country and worked tirelessly to ensure veterans received the recognition and support services they deserved,” DiVincenzo said. “One of the last projects we worked on with Joe was the revitalization of this area of Glendale Cemetery. It was Joe’s vision to provide those who served their country with a fitting memorial. Placing a plaque to honor Joe in this location is the perfect tribute and epitomizes the passion he had for his country,” he added.
“While we take time to remember Joe, let’s also pay tribute to the brave men and women throughout our country’s history who have put their lives on hold to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces at home and abroad. They made the ultimate sacrifice so we could enjoy our freedom and way of life today,” the Executive noted.
“What everyone expressed today about our father, we experienced as a family,” said one of Fornarotto’s daughters, Kathy Mazur. “Dad worked tirelessly to help others, so it is gratifying to see his efforts recognized here,” she added.
Many friends and elected officials shared stories about their friendship with Fornarotto and his passion for helping fellow veterans.
“When we look at all the flags around us, we are reminded about what a great country America is,” NJ State Senator and Essex County Deputy Chief of Staff Teresa Ruiz said. “Joe had boundless energy and never took a day off. He was always advocating on behalf of veterans because of what they sacrificed for their country,” she added.
“Joe made it clear to me that those in public service should never forget the service and sacrifice that men and women in the military have given to their country,” Freeholder Vice President Brendan Gill said. “He was out each and every day for those who made the ultimate sacrifice with their lives,” he added.
“As a veteran, I am humbled by this expression of appreciation for what Joe did during his lifetime and to remember him,” said Clarence Jackson, a member of the Disabled Veterans of American Newark Chapter. “He was relentless in his pursuit of getting veterans the benefits, services and respect they deserved,” he said.
The plaque starts with a quote from Brainbridge Colby, an American lawyer, co-founder of theUnited States Progressive Party and Woodrow Wilson's last Secretary of State: “The test of good citizenship is loyalty to country.” It continues: “Joe Fornarotto will be remembered for his willingness to stand up and be heard. As a young man, he served as a Naval Machinist Mate on a Minesweeper in the Pacific, during World War II. He fought fiercely for his country, as in later years he fought on behalf of his fellow ‘soldiers-in-arms.’ Never one to take no for an answer, as Commander of the Belleville/Nutley Disabled American Veterans, he made sure that the members of his troop received not only the benefits that they deserved, but also the respect and credit due them for their service. He was a true friend of Essex County and the guiding spirit for the beautification of this cemetery, where so many veterans rest. Long may the American flag fly by his side.”
A lifelong resident of Belleville, Fornoratto retired four years ago from the Essex County Division of Senior Services, where he worked as an advocate for veteran's benefits. Previously, he was employed by the Township of Belleville in the Department of Public Works. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and was the Commander of the Disabled American Veterans Belleville/Nutley Chapter. He was a member of the Belleville Senior Citizens Group and the Belleville Italian American Civic Association. An avid pigeon fancier and member of the North Hudson Racing Pigeon Club, he raised and raced homing pigeons for over 50 years. He passed away on August 25, 2014, at the age of 88.
He is predeceased by his wife, Jeanne (nee Rosamilia); parents, Carmen and Rose; brothers, Nick and Jerry; and sister, Nella Lisanti. He is survived by his son, Joseph Jr.; daughters, Kathy Mazur and her husband Walter, Joni Lewis and her husband Jim, and Jeanne Finnan and her husband Kevin; brothers, Salvatore, Anthony, Michael, Carmen and Albert; sister, Josie Rizzolo; grandchildren, Brandon and Jared Mazur, Jackie Obeid and her husband John, and James and Adella Finnan, and great-granddaughters, Jemma and Juliet Obeid.
The Veterans Section in Glendale Cemetery in Bloomfield is owned by Essex County. It had fallen into disrepair when Fornarotto approached the County Executive about doing something to revitalize it. The memorial featuring the American flag and flags identifying the seven branches of the military was completed and dedicated in September 2012. It is modeled after the military memorial in Essex County Veterans Memorial Park in Newark.