By Ron Leir
The Portuguese Cultural Association, headed by Jose Maria Matos, will be donating to the Town of Kearny a monument intended as a tribute to the contributions of the Portuguese-American community to the town.
And that monument will be placed in the Frank M. Cardoza Park (actually an extension of Riverbank Park), just north of the intersection of Passaic Ave. and Stevenson Place, west of the benches opposite the on-site parking area.
On Jan. 28, Mayor Alberto Santos and the Town Council voted to accept the gift and agreed to take on the responsibility for its maintenance and upkeep once it has been installed at the park.
The park, developed on the site of the former Maguilian Oil Co., was dedicated Oct. 22, 2013, and named for the late Frank M. Cardoza, a founding member of the old Portuguese Club of Kearny who was deputy mayor from 2000 to 2012 and served as a commissioner on the Board of Health and Urban Enterprise Zone board. He was also a past commander of the American Legion post and United Veterans Organization of West Hudson.
One of the driving forces behind the push for such a monument has been First Ward Councilman Albino Cardoso, president of the Portuguese Holy Family Association, who noted that the choice for its location was fitting, given the years of dedication to Kearny by a Portuguese-American resident like Cardoza.
“Four years ago, I presented the idea for a monument on the observance of Portuguese Day, which is held on the first Sunday of June, and the idea started germinating,” Cardoso said.
Then, last year, Cardoso said the association sent a letter to the mayor and Town Council expressing the intention to proceed with the notion, hoping that the town would be receptive to the idea of providing a public site for the structure.
“Originally we conceived of having the location at the foot of Peden Terrace because it was easily visible,” the councilman said, but after consultation with members of the club and association, it was felt that Cardoza Park was a more logical choice.
In early January, the association took up the campaign in earnest when it sent a solicitation letter to prospective donors for a fundraising effort to support construction of the monument.
The letter noted that, since 1979, the Portuguese Cultural Association has sponsored “numerous cultural events throughout the year, provides Portuguese language instruction classes and offers scholarships for college-age students [and is] now seeking your support to purchase and install a granite monument … that would recognize the contributions of the Portuguese- American community to the Town of Kearny.”
The letter then provides design details about the monument – which is to be built by Thomas Meloro & Son of North Arlington. It will be “five feet in height, topped by an 18-inch sphere that depicts the national [Portuguese] coat of arms.”
Directly below, on the obelisk itself, will be a cross, which, Cardoso said, is representative of the Templar Order which sponsored the early Portuguese mariners. And, below that, will be an excerpt from a 16th century Portuguese poem, “Lusiadas,” Canto 7, by Luis de Camoes, which translates to: “If more worlds exist, we will reach them,” symbolic of the pioneering Portuguese explorers.
And, below that inscription, will be an image of an eagle – representative of America – holding a book, symbolizing Portuguese culture, Cardoso explained.
The project is “budgeted at $15,900,” the letter says.
According to Cardoso, the association “has already paid the first of three installments. The second is due in March and the third in June,” which is approximately when it is hoped the dedication can take place, he said.
“We plan to plant azaleas around the base of the monument and have a permanent display of the Portuguese and American flags,” Cardoso said.
Thomas Goffredo Jr., a principal of Thomas Meloro & Son, said the 97-year-old family-run business has been responsible for many public memorials and monuments in Kearny, including the four war memorials installed in the town’s Monument Park on Kearny Ave.