Memorial Day Recollections of the Names of Those Remembered in Memorial Park
Journeys into River Edge
Another year is racing by. As we approach the half-way mark of 2022, many will be seeking comfort in familiarity over the next few days, hoping they will feel like “the first normal Memorial Day” in a couple of years.
Locally, our Memorial Day has felt out of sorts for a while. First there was the demolition of the old American Legion building. Then COVID canceled the traditional ceremonies. And then, of course, we are still trying to adjust to a world without Joe Maugeri, River Edge’s most revered Veteran– especially when we think of him at this time of year and how presided over the many annual ceremonies at Memorial Park.
Now, in 2022, the ceremonies have returned, though where the Legion building once stood is now a parking lot.
Through all the changes and challenges, the memorial statue and plaques remain as a connection to those who served as well as to local traditions over the years.
With the old American Legion building gone, the most striking and recognizable image now at Memorial Park is the statue entitled "The Soldier". It was created "in honor of those who served our country in time of need" by Sculptor Charles Blaze Vuchovich. It was sponsored by the American Legion Post 226 (Walter Brown) and the VFW Post 876, and first dedicated in 1970.
Following its dedication, more work was needed to make the memorial complete. A dedicated group of local volunteers engaged in a fundraising campaign to complete the sculptor in a way that it could endure. It was restored and rededicated in 2000 by an ad hoc committee that included Catherine Vuklovich and Judi Sussman.
Beyond the statue there are a number plaques situated around the park.
One immediately recognizable name is that of Sgt. Walter Brown – after whom the old American Legion Post (and its building) was named. He is recalled by small plaque to be found in the park. It notes his passing in action on a October 12, 1918, a victim of World War I.
Similar period plaques recall W. Caldrioney, an infantryman who died on October 18, 1918., and A.A. Klaiber, a machine gun battalion soldier killed in action on July 31, 1918.
There is a larger Roll of Honor which lists 56 names with the dates 1914-1918, who served the "Borough of Riverside", reflecting the name of the community at that time before the name was finally changed for good to River Edge in the early 1920's.
There is also a plaque recalling Private First Class Patrick J. Rems, a member of the military police, who died in a later American military, on April 1, 1966, our local casualty in the Vietnam War.
There are two other plaques of note.
One recalls Major Ross Mulhare, USAF, who died on July 11, 1986 just seven days past his 35th birthday in a crash while test piloting an F-11 Stealth Air Fighter.
The other is in memory of Andrew J. Camera, a former councilman (1979-1995) who was also past commander of VFW Post 876 and American Legion 226. In addition to the plaque in Memorial Park who is also remembered by the naming of a plaza I his memory. The Andrew J. Camera Memorial Plaza is the parking area between KBG Park and the Swim Club.
These names - some recognizable, some not - continue to matter. In most cases we never met those honored. But they are part of us – the fabric of our community. As such they merit our attention and thanks in significant ways.
The ranks of our surviving veterans continues to thin out from its peak in the post World War II era. Nonetheless, pride is a strong sentiment among those present for the speeches and wreath laying ceremony
Perhaps in the midst of sun, fun and barbecue during the upcoming weekend return to social interaction, you will recall them all, what they sacrificed for us all, and perhaps say a prayer and a few words of thanks.