Arts & Entertainment

Big Turnout in a Small Town as Mountainside Commemorates Memorial Day

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Vocalist Sophie Glenn sang the National Anthem and God Bless America Credits: Linda Condrillo
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Opportunity, safety, and gratitude were the essence of one of the winning essays recited by Emma Wargarki . Other winning essayists were Kiera and Frankie Kelly, Rylee Conover & Caroline Kodomin. Credits: Linda Condrillo
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Jerry Rice of VFW Post 10136 Credits: Linda Condrillo
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Bill Madden of VFW Post 10136 Credits: Linda Condrillo
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Private Christopher McLaughlin, son of Colonel Tim McLaughlin, read TAPS to the crowd of hundreds who turned out for the ceremony. Credits: Linda Condrillo
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Colonel Timothy McLaughlin stands with Grand Marshall Don Jeka of Mountainside along with of VFW Post 10136. Credits: LindaCondrillo
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Tony and Marie Love of The Spinners Entertainment Company kept the celebration lively. Credits: Linda Condrillo
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The parking lot of Our Lady of Lourdes Church was filled with townspeople ready to enjoy a delicious picnic lunch generoulsy donated by local restaurants. Credits: Linda Condrillo
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Little patriots on Bridle Path passed the time with old fashioned fun as they waited for the parade to pass by. Credits: Linda Condrillo
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L to R, Scouts Logan Alseika, Liam McLaughlin and Ryan D'Orsi Credits: Linda Condrillo
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MOUNTAINSIDE, NJ - Skies brightened with each passing moment on Monday afternoon, as Mountainside recognized fallen soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. Hundreds of residents, ages one to 101 gathered together on Constitution Plaza at the newly dedicated Veterans Memorial Park.

Sophie Glenn, a sixth grade student, sang the National Anthem at the onset of the event, and later led about 200 spectators as they sang God Bless America in unison. Bagpipes and drums played softly in the background as guest speakers each took a turn at the podium, honoring the memory of local heroes, and what Memorial Day means to them. 

Local dignitaries included Mountainside Mayor Paul Mirabelli and members of the Council, VFW Commander Colonel Timothy McLaughlin, Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz, and Father Richard of Our Lady of Lourdes Church.

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Marine Corp Veteran and longtime Mountainside resident Don Jeka, was chosen as Grand Marshall for the parade that followed.

Mayor Mirabelli spoke to the audience about Mr. Jeka’s service and impressive career, noting he joined the Marines in 1946, while still a senior in high school.  After boot camp at Parris Island, he was shipped to China, and upon the expiration of his enlistment, returned to the United States to finish high school and attend the University of Miami.  In 1950, he was called back to active duty with the Marines at the outset of the Korean War. He joined the staff as an instructor in ammunition and demolition explosives at the Ordnance school at the Marine base in Quantico, Virginia.  He received a WWII Victory Medal, a National Service Medal and a China Service Medal.  Mr. Jeka qualified as a sharpshooter with the M 1 rifle during his service.  He later returned to the University of Miami, majoring in Journalism and earning a Bachelor’s degree, and worked as a vice president for a leading public relations firm for 25 years. Both he and his late wife Yvonne were active in the Borough, where they raised two sons.    

Assemblywoman Munoz also stopped by to formally thank Mr. Jeka for his service on behalf of the Senate and General Assembly. 

At the conclusion of the ceremony, boy and girl scout troops led a procession of antique cars,  rescue squad vehicles and fire trucks, marching along the parade route from Bridle Path to Wood Valley Road to Our Lady of Lourdes Church, where townspeople gathered for a delicious catered picnic, courtesy of The Stage House Tavern, Echo Tap & Grille, Mazzella’s Gourmet Market and Vicki’s Diner.  Patriotic music provided by The Spinner’s greeted the guests upon arrival, and entertained throughout the day. 

According to Mountainside Council member Deanna Andre, the annual ceremony and parade is organized by a committee of individuals from the community, including Mountainside Borough, the Rotary Club, PAL, and the VFW.  She told TAPinto, “We would particularly like to thank VFW Commander Timothy McLaughlin for ‘getting us more organized’ with the ceremony and parade.

Sponsors also included Home Depot of Watchung, who contributed the plantings on the grounds of the Memorial Park, and Christoffer’s Florist of Mountainside, who provided the wreaths at the ceremony.

The Veterans Memorial Park was officially dedicated on Veterans Day in 2016.  Perpetual care on the property is funded by contributions from citizens.  Monetary donations in any amount are most appreciated and can be mailed to Mountainside VFW Post 10136, PO Box 1163, Mountainside, NJ 07092.  Personalized brick pavers can be ordered at any time.  To order, please visit www.polarengraving.com/VFW10136.

"America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination, and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand." –Harry S. Truman

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