Town’s WWI memorial dedicated 100 years ago
On May 15 members of the local Tri-Veterans, comprised of veterans from the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Passalaqua Post 1026, American Legion F.A. Funston Post 186 and Disabled American Veterans (DAV) along with other volunteers placed flags on the graves of about 2,000 veterans in advance of Memorial Day.
The flags are always placed on the graves two Saturdays before Memorial Day, VFW Post 1026 Chaplain John DeLucca said.
DeLucca, who organizes and emcees the Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies each year along with VFW Post 1026 Commander John Griffee, stopped by The Gazette offices a few weeks ago and dropped off a copy of an American Legion Memorial Day program for Hammonton from exactly 100 years ago this year. The program was titled “Memorial Exercises and Dedication of World War Monument and Tablets At School Park Hammonton N.J. May 30, 1921” and included a complete program of that day’s events.
The memorial, which still stands today in what was once known as School Park on Bellevue Avenue and is now known as Veterans Memorial Park (subsequent wars added more memorials to the park) is an impressive stone rectangle with a large plaque on it topped by a stone globe with an eagle sitting atop it. Smaller stone markers on the ground nearby honor each man from Hammonton who died during World War I.
I was standing in Veterans Memorial Park this past Sunday. It was hard not to feel reverent on the quiet, nice spring evening. I noticed that flags had also been placed at all the monuments in the park as part of the weekend’s effort by the vets and the volunteers. They never forget to remember.
Here is an excerpt from that American Legion Memorial Day program held on May 30, 1921 in the same park I was standing in this past weekend, the same park where the town’s Memorial Day Ceremony will be held on May 31, 2021.
“1:00 P.M.—F.A. Funston Post and all ex-service men will assemble at Rod & Gun Club and will be escorted to School Park by a Guard of Honor, composed of Memorial Day committees, the Mayor and members of Council and the Board of Education and accompanied by the L.O.O.M [Loyal Order Of Moose] Band. Route of March: Up Egg Harbor Road to Bellevue Avenue, to School Park.
“1:00 P.M.—Concert by Hammonton Band at School Park.
“1:30 P.M.—Presentation Address by Herbert C. Doughty, President of the Hammonton Chamber of Commerce.
“Dedication Ceremonies and Unveiling of Monument by F.A. Funston Post, No. 186, American Legion. Hammonton Band will play ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ during unveiling.
[The program continues with presentations.]
“Closing Chorus ‘America’—everybody sing.
The American Legion program from 1921 also included the following words: “It is more than necessary that each member attend. Bear in mind the honor and respect to be shown and the services rendered in that great cause that we can never repay … We greatly appreciate the co-operation of the many organizations and individuals of Hammonton. We are here to support our homes, town and country as we willingly accepted our fate in the past war for the protection of our country in that wonderful cause.”
On May 31, 2021 one hundred years after the ceremony above occurred, this year’s Memorial Day ceremony will take place in the same park, now known as Veterans Memorial Park. The World War I monument and markers are there a century later, along with the monuments that followed after the ones for World War I.
According to DeLucca, there will not be a parade, but the ceremony will begin at 11 a.m. Mayor Stephen DiDonato and Atlantic County Fifth District Commissioner James Bertino have been invited to speak. The colors will be walked in by a group of five veterans comprised of members of the DAV, American Legion and VFW. There will be a welcome and an invocation. The Pledge of Allegiance will be recited. “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “Amazing Grace” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” will be sung by Robin Pellot. VFW Commander John Griffee will say a few words. A bell will be rung for each of the 100 veterans who have died in the last two years (no ceremony was held last year due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions).
Members of the Col. Louis R. Francine Camp No. 7 Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War will fire a volley.
Taps and echo will be played by two Hammonton High School students, followed by a moment of silence. Then there will be a final comment, a benediction and the American Flag will be raised to full staff, DeLucca said.
Again, all of this will occur at the exact same location in the park where the World War I monument was dedicated in 1921. So much has happened in the intervening century, but veterans and the public will still gather on Memorial Day on Bellevue Avenue in Hammonton to honor their dead and veterans.
A side note, members of the Col. Louis R. Francine Camp No. 7 (S.U.V.C.W.) will be holding their version of the original Decoration Day ceremony from 1868 on May 30, at the Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Statue at the top of the hill in Greenmount Cemetery, according to Past Department Commander Dave Hann said. Decoration Day’s name was changed to Memorial Day, and May 30 was the date the nation observed it until it was moved to the last Monday in May. The location will be the same as it was when the statue was dedicated in 1885.
In Hammonton, traditions and anniversaries are observed with reverence, particularly for our honored military dead and our veterans.
This Memorial Day those traditions and anniversaries will be observed again, joining together those who will always be respected and those who will always respect them.
Gabe Donio is the publisher of The Hammonton Gazette.