Editor’s note: This story also ran in print but with an incorrect byline. Karen Zautyk wrote this story.
This story was born by pure chance during a recent visit to Holy Cross Cemetery in North Arlington. I was a passenger in a car driven by a friend who, knowing my abiding interest in World War I, spotted a statue and exclaimed, “Look! A doughboy!”
(For you younger readers who may not know: “Doughboy” was the nickname for the American soldiers who fought in that war. It has nothing to do with Pillsbury.)
Now, I have been to Holy Cross Cemetery many, many times, but I had never noticed this statue, even though it is fairly close to the main entrance. Intrigued, I got out and walked through the headstones to learn just who this doughboy was. It was a futile walk; the moss-covered inscription on the monument was virtually unreadable.
Later, I called Michael Perrone, president of the Belleville Historical Society, who has helped restore a multitude of military gravestones. I asked him if he could possibly check it out and simply read who this person was. He of course did more. He and members of the BHS restored the inscription — and the entire statue.
Once a mottled, aged black and grey, it is today its original brilliant white.
The monument marks the grave of a 17-year-old Kearny soldier — William Ward Crane: “Company C, 113th US Infantry; Born June 25, 1901; Died October 12, 1918; Killed in action, Argonne, France.”
The Battle of the Argonne Forest (also known as the Meuse-Argonne) raged from Sept. 26, 1918 until the Armistice of Nov. 11, 1918, ended The War to End All Wars. Note that Crane was killed almost precisely a month before the guns on the Western Front fell silent.
We have learned that Crane, who had been born in Belleville, was probably initially buried in Europe, but his body was brought home and reinterred at Holy Cross in 1921. The same plot bears a large headstone for James F. Crane, thought to be that of his father. In 1918, the soldier’s mother, Marie, resided at 38 Kearny Ave.
You can read more, including a handwritten note from Mrs. Crane, and see a photo of the young hero, at findagrave.com.
When the Belleville Historical Society was at the cemetery, they actually restored a second doughboy monument, about which little is known. Perrone and I are hoping some reader might be able to help with information.
The other statue (made of marble and even more difficult to rehab) stands somewhat to the east of Crane’s. How Perrone spotted it is a mystery; I had to hunt for it.
It bears the name of Leon D. Kasparian: Born Oct. 30, 1890; died June 20, 1922. He was 31 and obviously not killed in action. But, to earn this monument, he had to have served in WWI. And since he died less than four years after the Armistice, he might even have died from injuries received in the war.
When I visited Kasparian’s grave, just before Memorial Day, there were beautiful Rosary Beads that had been left at the statue. At its base were not only the American flag placed at all veterans’ graves for the holiday, but a smaller Stars and Stripes and a pink rosebud.
Kasparian has been interred there since 1922, but someone remembers. Someone is still honoring his memory. Descendants or other members of his family? If any reader is a Kasparian relative, or knows one, please me at email@example.com so we can learn more about him.
As for the third monument in the photos accompanying this story, that belongs to a Medal of Honor winner from the Civil War, who is buried in the Soldiers’ Circle at Arlington Cemetery, Kearny.
James McIntosh died May 28, 1908, while he was a resident of the “Old Soldiers’ Home” on Belgrove Drive in Kearny. He is believed to have been 76.
As reported in a 2012 Observer story, McIntosh’s medal citation reads: “On board the U.S.S. Richmond during action against rebel forts and gunboats and with the ram Tennessee in Mobile Bay, 5 August 1864. Despite damage to his ship and the loss of several men on board as enemy fire raked her decks, McIntosh performed his duties with skill and courage throughout the prolonged battle which resulted in the surrender of the rebel ram Tennessee and in the successful attacks carried out on Fort Morgan.”
His memorial plaque notes he was “C of T.” This translates as “Captain of the Top, which reportedly means “McIntosh would have been positioned at the top of the highest mast on the Richmond.” If his age at death is correct, he would have been 33 at the time of the battle.
The Belleville Historical Society also recently restored McIntosh’s headstone and plaque. If you go looking for him, seek the shining white stone in the sea of grey.