By Briana Vannozzi
Today they honored a man who kept the memory of veterans alive 365 days a year in Essex County — no holiday needed.
“The reason that this plaza is here today is because of Joe’s persistence each and every day to make sure that we never ever forget,” said Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo.
Joe Fornarotto died a little less than a year ago. He was 88 years old and a World War II vet. He served as the commander of the local Disabled American Veterans post. He’s the reason Essex County cleaned up and renamed parks and courthouses to honor fallen service heroes. And today was his turn.
“He had that veterans’ home built from basically donations and people he contacted and convinced. It’s an amazing feat,” Assemblyman Ralph Caputo said.
“It’s really such an honor that everyone outside of his immediate family and outside of the people that he helped directly, can recognize all the things that he has done and all the contributions he’s made to everyone. So it’s really special to us,” said granddaughter Jackie Obeid.
The Glendale Cemetery Plaza in Bloomfield is now named in his honor, a small token of appreciation.
“Joe is well deserving of this recognition today. But let’s not forget all veterans who’ve died in the service of their country,” said Bill Steimel, commander of DAV-NJ Chapter 22.
“There’s something I always admired about Joe and that is that as a veteran, even I became complacent and indifferent if you will because there was a time… You know, the veteran parades are not what they used to be. And we all know that. Joe would not tolerate that,” said Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura.
“In some ways they think they’ve been forgotten and us in Essex County, we’re going to make sure they’re never forgotten and Joe was very much a part of that,” DiVincenzo said.
The Department of Military Affairs says there are roughly 27,000 World War II vets still living in New Jersey as of September 2014. Peter Neri fought in it. He’s 89 years old and Joe Fornarotto’s first cousin.
“I can only remember all the veterans that died. I mean, I can’t say much, but I miss them, I miss them all,” Neri said.
Memorial Day ceremonies are a longstanding tradition in Essex County. The county executive says it only seemed fitting this year to hold it in the cemetery that Joe Fornarotto fought so hard to have redone. Next year though, they’ll be back in the county Veterans Memorial Park.