The Ridgewood Patch

By Laura Bertocci

On November 8, 1931, the Village of Ridgewood planted 14 trees affixed with bronze plaques honoring the Ridgewood casualties of World War I.

“No more impressive or inspiring ceremony ever was held in this Village in peace times than Ridgewood‘s Community Armistice Service, which took place on Sunday in Graydon Park in the sunshine of a Fall afternoon,” said a Ridgewood Herald article dated November 10, 1931.

Eighty years later, many of the trees have died or been bulldozed, and all but two of the plaques have disappeared or become buried beneath the ground. The four remaining trees stand with little knowledge of their original symbolic value to passerby.

Today, plans are in motion for a rededication ceremony for this year’s Veteran’s Day, which will include the installation of a new memorial inscribed with the names of those original 14 soldiers.

“If they hadn’t made those sacrifices, we wouldn’t be able to walk freely,” said Chris Stout of the American Legion Post 53, who is spearheading the project. “I also think it’s important for people to know why things are called what they are, and why they’re located where they are.”

Post 53 was part of the 1931 effort to plant the trees, the same day that renamed what was previously “Linwood Park” to what is now Graydon Park in honor of “the late Samuel D. Graydon who donated the site and did so much in other ways to make Ridgewood a place of beauty,” according to the Ridgewood Herald article. 

The Legion initially proposed to put the new memorial in the corner of Graydon Park near the Stable, “symbolically adopting” a red oak, and placing a boulder with a new plaque, and a bench at the site.

However, Stout spoke at Wednesday’s council meeting to explain changes to that plan. Now, the Legion would like the new memorial to be in the “patio area” near the ticket booth at Graydon, which receives more foot traffic.

“We realized that the corner we had proposed was pretty remote, and that defeats the purpose of perpetuating the memory, and our desire to bring greater knowledge of history to the community,” said Stout.

The site, in addition to having greater visibility, is also already ADA compliant and favored by village historical boards. The original plan had proposed re-working the fence in that corner to build a path that would have allowed disabled residents to visit the memorial.

The new plan features a bronze plaque that would be placed on a roughly three-foot post, engraved with a note remembering that 1931 Armistice Day and listing the names of the soldiers as well as the locations and dates in which they died.

The only issue, Stout said, is that the new location may impede lifeguards rushing to help a victim in peril, should crowds gather around the memorial.

“Exactly where it goes, I hope [the council] will give us the authority to make that deal with the pool manager [Steve Diamond],” said Stout.

Beyond that, The Preserve Graydon Coalition (PGC) does not believe that location is best. “So far, no suitable spots have been found on the Graydon patio, the requested site. We look forward to further discussions,” said co-chair Marcia Ringel, in an email.

Until the permanent site is determined, the Legion cannot estimate what the cost will be. Two thousand dollars were allocated for the project by the council last year and, “with less ‘stuff’ we should be under budget,” said Stout in an email.

Any plaques that can be recovered will be donated the the Library Heritage Center, headed by Peggy Norris who has been working with the Legion to research the history of the first dedication.

The council expressed their support for the project at the July 6 meeting. “This is wonderful and I think we’re all very excited about this,” said Councilman Paul Aronsohn.

The plan is still under way, but should be ready by Veteran’s Day this November for a new ceremony, echoing the one that took place on a sunny fall day eighty years ago.