ROXBURY, NJ - Roxbury officials on Saturday re-dedicated the township's veteran's memorial, a ceremony led by a Bentley University student who conducted research this summer that improved the accuracy and completeness of the plaques at the Horseshoe Lake Park installation.
The student, Jacob Rosenstein, conducted the research while serving as an intern in Roxbury Town Hall. Rosenstein, 19, dug deep into records, made scores of telephone calls and otherwise doggedly worked to make sure the memorial included the names of all Roxbury war veterans and that all the names were spelled properly.
“After being tasked with putting together the list of names and conversing with the engraver, I thought this was just an ordinary project," Rosenstein said at Saturday's event. "But as I did more and more research into the veterans and informed them and their families of the plaques, I realized it was much more. I realized that America's veterans truly embody the ideals that our country was built on over 200 years ago”.
Rosenstein mentioned Judy Casey, whose family has lived many generations in Roxbury.
It seemed Casey and Rosenstein were destined to meet Casey, who was in attendance Saturday, said: “I was enjoying a walk along Memorial Park, when I noticed a number of my family members names were missing from the plaques.” So she contacted the town to see how she could add the five family members who had served in World War II and the Korean War, she said.
Casey became fast friends with Rosenstein as they pieced together the war records of Casey's father, Ervin Morgan. Casey said she will never forget the day her newly drafted father waved goodbye to her as he departed the Chester Fire Department for war, leaving behind his very young wife and small children as he served in WWII.
Many other families who attended the ceremony came with their own proud stories and expressed gratitude to the young man who took the time to make their loved ones, wartime contributions a permanent fixture at the park.
Rosenstein found almost two dozen names to be added. His doing so, followed by his phone call informing her of his discovery (followed by a "thank you for your service,") really hit home with Dottie Baylor. She was also at the ceremony proudly pointing to the inscription of her husband, Lester R. Baylor, who served in World War II.
"My husband who passed away three years ago, and I often came to the park for a nice walk through this area," Baylor said. "In fact, this would have been our 69th wedding anniversary." she added, smiling ear to ear.
The ceremony began with the national anthem sung by eight members of the Roxbury High School Choir and taps was performed by a school trumpeter. The Roxbury Police Department officiated the changing of the colors in silence.
During the dedication, U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance offered some kind words to those gathered enjoying the unseasonably mild October day. Then Rosenstein took to the podium and humbly began describing his journey from intern to historian.
"To know that I have contributed a small part to honor our heroes cannot be expressed in words and that is why they are engraved into plaques as their courage, honor and sacrifices will never be forgotten," he said. “Today is not the culmination of this summer’s work, but simply the beginning. The beginning of plaques, memories and sacrifices that will live on forever. I can genuinely say this is the most momentous and heartwarming task I have worked on.”