A great blue heron flying eastward was silhouetted against the white sky as the Montclair Police Department honor guard fired a salute to the fallen at the township’s annual solemn observance of Memorial Day on Monday.
Because of the rain, the ceremony was held in the Township Council chambers in the municipal building. A crowd that might have looked thin at Edgemont Memorial Park filled the room to capacity for the 45-minute event, which was presided over by Deputy Mayor William Hurlock.
Pat Brechka, Montclair director of recreation and cultural affairs, returned early from a weekend at the shore to make arrangements after guest speaker Jocelyn Gilman of the American Red Cross Northern New Jersey Region had to cancel, owing to a death in the family. Hurlock filled in for Gilman.
Before and after the ceremony, a 15-member detachment from the Montclair Community Band played patriotic tunes, led by Band Manager Barbara Rudy. In attendance were Montclair Mayor Robert Jackson and council members Renée Baskerville, Sean Spiller and Robert Russo. Also present were Police Chief Todd Conforti and Deputy Chief Wil Young, as well as Township Fire Chief John Herrmann.
Assemblyman Thomas Giblin, D-34, was also present. Veterans in the audience were asked to stand and be recognized.
Participants in the ceremony included soprano Frances Duffy, who led the singing of the national anthem; Boy Scout Troop 12, which led the Pledge of Allegiance; and the Rev. John Rogers of First Congregational Church, who blessed the memorial wreath.
“Bless this wreath in the knowledge that the cost of war is too great,” Rogers said. “So may we restore peace within us, may we restore peace in this land, and may we restore peace all over this world.”
In his remarks on the Red Cross, cobbled together from notes Gilman had given him and his own research, Hurlock described the founding of the Red Cross in Europe in the 1850s and its establishment in the United States thanks to decades of advocacy by Clara Barton. Montclair’s chapter was founded in 1898, Hurlock said, at the time of the Spanish-American War.
Carl Witzig of the Montclair Community Band played taps. The blessing and benediction were given by Rabbi David Greenstein of Congregation Shomrei Emunah.
In his closing prayer, Greenstein said, “May the powerful leaders of all nations be blessed with the power of compassion. … Let love and justice flow like a mighty stream. Let peace fill the earth as the waters fill the sea. And let us say amen.”