FAIRFIELD, NJ — Even with the cancelling of the West Caldwell/Caldwell Memorial Day parade, Fairfield still found a way to celebrate Memorial Day Weekend.

Residents like Bob and Sharon Laner, who displayed more than 100 American flags on their front lawn, and many other Fairfield residents decorated their homes in red, white and blue in honor of the holiday and had their first official barbeques of the season. Although temperatures and sun were not cooperative, the activities continued.

The Fairfield Township pool opened its gates on Saturday morning, and according to Councilman Thomas Morgan, liaison to the pool, “There were two brave children that went into the water, and they came out like icicles.”

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“Even though the adults did not go in the water, they had a good time,” said Morgan, adding that the water was so cold because of so many rainy days.

However, the real meaning of the holiday was celebrated at the Fairfield VFW Post 7925 on Monday at noon.

An opening prayer was given by Saint Thomas More Pastor Marek Chachlowski. Father Marek asked God to bless the country with freedom, peace and righteousness.

Al Birchler, VFW quartermaster, began the ceremony by remembering all those who served to protect the United States, especially those who gave the ultimate sacrifice of their lives. He then placed a wreath of remembrance on the memorial stand.

A white carnation was placed on the stand as a symbol of purity with the message that future generations should emulate the unselfish courage of all men and women who fought for freedom. A red carnation, as a tribute to devotion and everlasting remembrance, was placed in memory of the heroic dead who fell in defense of the country. A blue carnation was placed as an emblem of eternity to immortalize the brave deeds of the military who gave their lives on the land, sea, and in the air.

The American flag, as an emblem of the nation, was then displayed. The words were spoken, “The flag of our country was theirs to defend. Its glorious colors shall wave over them in death as in life for everyone to behold.”

To the departed, a silent salute was given, and then these words were spoken, “These solemn services we hold in tribute to you.”

Birchler then thanked the clergy, public officials, the police department, and all those who came to remember the real meaning of Memorial Day.

Saint Thomas More Deacon Aidan King gave the blessing over the food, which was catered by Franco’s Pizzeria and Restaurant in West Caldwell.

“It is a great honor to be participating in this VFW ceremony that truly honors the real meaning of the holiday,” said Fairfield Councilman John LaForgia.

Jovanna Bartelloni, a senior at West Essex High School, showed true love and patriotism by coming, not only to the celebration, but also to help set up the VFW hall the day before in support of Ray DiGuilio, a Korean War veteran.

“Ray was there to help me, so I wanted to return the favor,” she said.

Peter Schiffelhuber, Jr., a longtime Fairfield resident, remembers when he was about ten years old and his father, Peter Schiffelhuber, Sr., was the main contractor in building the VFW hall on Plymouth Street.

“I have many fond memories of listening to the guys as they and my father worked building the VFW,” said Schiffelhuber, Jr., who also said he remembers hearing their stories and remembers them being kind to him by allowing him to help.

VFW member Peter Schiffelhuber, Sr. and his wife Theresa remember having many parties at the VFW, celebrating birthdays and wedding anniversaries. Schiffelhuber, Sr. was born in Fairfield in 1931 and was a mason for many years. He also worked for the township in the public road department for 20 years.

VFW member Walter Bomhoff and his wife, Peggy, remember all the fun fund raisers the VFW used to sponsor. They remember Halloween parties and the annual Holly Hop. Peggy’s sister, Claire Filipow and her son, Stephen, were also at the VFW Memorial Day Celebration reminiscing about old times.

The VFW Post is looking for younger members to join them in their work of keeping the real meaning of Memorial Day alive. Most of their members are over 80 years old, and they are not able to do as much as they used to do.

Veterans of foreign wars who would like to join the post should contact Commander Kenneth Rohlff at 973-335-6767.  

The post was going to have to close its doors last year because of lack of funds, but through a fundraising campaign originating from Fairfield Township Mayor James Gasparini and the township council, the post was able to stay open. The veterans of the post are very grateful to everyone who helped.