Giving Back

Montville Township Historical Society and VFW Honor Past Veterans in “We Remember You” Project

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Art Graf next to a Revolutionary War veteran's grave  Credits: Courtney Sonn
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Representative members of the Montville Township Historical Society and VFW Post 5481. From right to left: Rudy Tippner, Art Graf, Dick Gamsby, Ben Zabel, Kathy Fisher, Alli Weidenschilling  Credits: Courtney Sonn
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Grave of William Wade with a WWII grave marker and American Flag  Credits: Courtney Sonn
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MONTVILLE, NJ – The Montville Township Historical Society and the Montville VFW Post 5481 are raising funds to restore and ensure that approximately 300 veteran graves located in the five cemeteries in town are marked and recognized.

The Montville Historical Society has already raised $5,500 through donations, dinners, and contributions to purchase the markers, which are being placed on the graves of veterans to make them more easily identifiable and to indicate the veteran’s service.

“The veterans and cemeteries must be remembered,” said Montville Historical Society President Kathy Fisher. “These people came before us and made supreme sacrifices. We must honor them and show respect.”

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This project began about fifteen years ago and was headed by Montville VFW Post 5481 member Joe Quade.

Quade placed American flags on the graves of veterans in town every Memorial Day with local students in what he called an “informal arrangement.”

“We got a lot of publicity one year about one of the graves being the grave of a Revolutionary War soldier” Quade said. “I thought, if we have Revolutionary and Civil War veterans in these cemeteries, we ought to do a little more than informally place flags.”

Quade recruited students from the Montville Township High School and began plotting the cemeteries and creating maps of where the veterans of each war were located so that the next Memorial Day it would be easier to place American flags on each grave.

“This grew for a couple years and we recruited students from Lazar Middle School to do this on a more formal basis,” Quade said.

The Montville Township Historical Society then got involved more recently to mark the graves and maintain the cemeteries in a more permanent way.

Headed by Kathy Fisher, the Montville Historical Society first researched the veteran’s names and their services with the help of Morris County Veteran Services Officer Charles Jorgenson, and went through historical records to locate veteran’s graves that were before unknown.

The research compiled in this part of the project is being recorded into lists of veterans, which are being distributed to the VFW, American Legion, and the cemeteries involved.

Fisher and the Historical Society have also taken on the task of restoring many of the cemeteries, and with the help of Boy Scout Troop 74, have cleaned many of the marble and sandstone graves as well as restored and reset disturbed grave stones.

Liam Gibson removed brush and reset stones in the Towaco Cemetery and Greg Schmidt cleaned cemetery stones in the Montville Reformed Church Cemetery for their respective Eagle Scout projects, according to Fisher.

For his Eagle Scout project, Conor Reid mapped, plotted, photographed, and recorded inscriptions of the Montville Reformed Cemetery’s North Side into a searchable database.

With the cemeteries and individual grave stones being restored, the culminating step in honoring the veterans in this project has been purchasing and placing the metal grave markers, which make it even easier to identify the graves of veterans on Memorial Day.

So far 151 markers have been ordered and Fisher has installed 90 percent of them.

VFW Post 5481 Commander Charles Ferry is proud of the work the VFW and the Historical Society has done for the veterans in these cemeteries.

“We’re honoring the people who have served for so many years but have been forgotten and neglected,” said Ferry. “We’re trying hard to take care of them. This is very important.”

The Historical Society is still conducting research to discover new graves, restoring the cemeteries in town, and purchasing grave markers detailing the veteran’s service.

So far, four Revolutionary War veterans, one Whiskey Rebellion veteran, 83 Civil War veterans, two Spanish-American War veterans, 41 World War I Veterans, 85 World War II veterans, 12 Korean War Veterans, and 5 Vietnam War veterans have been identified.

Donations for the “We Remember You” project can be made to the Montville Township Historical Society P.O. Box 519 Montville, N.J., 07045. 

 

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