Street Plaque Project Seeks Additional Information
BY ROBERT KNIGHT
ROCKLAND COUNTY TIMES
The Town of Orangetown’s unique method of honoring its war dead of the past two centuries is growing in popularity and recognition, and now involves several different agencies of town and county government, along with veterans organizations and local historians who have joined forces to provide vital information.
The program was explained in detail at Tuesday night’s Town Board meeting by Orangetown Highway Superintendent James Dean, who spearheads the effort along with his administrative assistant, Stephen Munno.
Orangetown has 600 streets it maintains throughout eight unincorporated hamlets, including Pearl River, Blauvelt, Orangeburg, Tappan, Sparkill, Palisades, Snedens Landing and Upper Grandview. Dean said a survey revealed that about 60 of those streets are named for deceased local veterans who lived in the community, and were honored by having streets named for them as developments sprouted throughout the township following World War II.
The Highway Department now places small American flags on each of those street signs, directly below the names, for each Memorial Day period. As he explained the program to council members and the public Tuesday, Dean displayed color photographs of each step of the process, taken from his department’s section of the town web site on the Internet.
He said he and Munno are also attempting to collect a biography of each man so honored. A one paragraph version of that bio, including his branch of service, birth and death dates and other pertinent information, are then inscribed on bronze plaques which are permanently affixed to each street sign pole, as a permanent tribute to that veteran.
The program has become so popular in Orangetown that the cost of the bronze plaques and two larger plaques, in Town Hall and the Highway Garage listing all 60 veterans, are paid for by private citizens of the township. Dean explained that the 13 individual plaques, and more to come in the future, are being donated by Betsy Brenner and her husband Donald Brenner, a retired town employee, as their gift of thanks for the supreme sacrifice given by the residents being honored.
The Brenners were present at the meeting, and said they were only two happy to be able to return such a small favor to honor the Orangetown veterans who gave so much with no thought of remuneration or glory, but only wanted to serve their fellow citizens.
The two larger plaques, which contain the names of all 60 streets honoring veterans, were donated by and are maintained by Pearl River resident Jay Thiese. One hangs in the lobby of Town Hall in Orangeburg, and the other is in the office of the Highway Department, off Route 303 in Tappan.
Residents and anyone else interested in the project can view it on the Orangetown website at www.orangetown.com, Dean said. Hover over the list of town departments and click on “Highway Department,” and from that menu select “Streets dedicated to our fallen servicemen heroes.” Munno can also be contacted directly about the program or for any questions or to submit additional information by calling (845) 359-6500 or e-mailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dean explained that a handful of the veterans having streets named for them are well known in town, and their biographies were fairly easy to obtain from relatives, friends and other sources. So far 13 such biographies have been collected, and plaques created to adorn their respective street signs.
They include Bruce Frank Ablondi, Heinz Ahlmeyer Jr., Edward Amory, Robert E. Bauer, William T. Dorsey, Louis Stephen Duhaime, Valentine J. Goehring Jr., Robert A. Hagan Jr., Joseph E. Hartz, Michael R. Kernan, Norman P. North, John Secor and William R. Turner, Jr. Their biographies can be read on-line by clicking their blue-underlined names on the website list of 60 streets.
Dean said his department is most interested now in getting biographies of the 45 men about whom little is known, other than that they were veterans and had streets named for them after the fact.
These men include Walter H. Allison, Charles R. Blauvelt, Raymond O. Blauvelt, Newton Bollinger, Sylvester O. Brown Jr., Florence W. Campbell, Louis J. Casazza, Joseph Conklin, Bernard Conklin, Howard L. Cox Jr., Ellsworth H. Dederer, Vincent DeLongis, Victor R. DelRegno, Raymond W. DeMeola, Fred Elmendorf, Peter A. Giadeczka, David Green, Ralph Green, Frank A. Greene Jr., Bernard F. Haring, John R. Hoffman, Dennis Hogan Jr., Edwin W. Holt, Robert Horn, Edward L. Ingram, James Jones, Lewis Jones, Howard M. Knight, James W. Lang, Wendell H. Lovett, Anthony T. Marsico, Dennis McHugh, William E. Meyer, Charles H. Morris, Michael L. Murphy, William Oldert, Arthur J. Owen, Henry C. Paul, Howard D. Pilgrim, George J. Pinto, Willis Pollhemus, George J. Retz Jr., Deane Ross, Charles Ross, Ogden W. Rowen, Ludwig T. Schreiber, Halliday S. Smith, Hilton H. Smith, Philip Staubitz, Crawford Wheeler Jr., George H. Wilding II and Moses Yadanza.
In addition, Dean said that there may be additional roads in Orangetown named for veterans, in which staff just did not recognize who the veteran was, and they are thus not included in the town’s master list. He said his department would be very appreciative of residents recognizing streets named for veterans not yet noted to contact the highway office as soon as possible so they can be added,
Dean explained that many sources were contacted for information about the 60 known veterans, including the town historians office, the Rockland County veterans coordinator, county veterans burial commissioner, the several American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and other veteran organizations in Orangetown and Rockland County and the many historical societies and local historians that serve portions of Orangetown.
Any and all help in identifying the veterans will be greatly appreciated, Dean said, and will go a long way to helping honor those men and women who paid the supreme sacrifice during America’s time of war and need, and should be honored in at least this minimal way and not just be forgotten.
Mrs. Brenner said she and her husband would be pleased to continue providing the street sign plaques as more veterans are identified.
“Orangetown is not only ‘Rich in History’ (its motto) but it is rich in heroes,” Mrs. Brenner told the board and audience as she also encouraged them to step forward with information about additional veterans who may have streets named for them, and for biographies of all of the known vets so appropriate plaques can be created and installed.