It’s been there for three quarters of a century. Thousands drive past it every day. But you have probably never seen it. That is unless you regularly walk Schuyler Avenue near CVS and Seabras Supermarket.
It is a monument to employees of the Pollak Manufacturing Company, once a major stronghold on Schuyler near Bergen Avenue in Kearny and according to a local historian, it was a major defense contractor during World War II.
Belleville Historical Society President Michael Perrone says Pollak was a manufacturer of munitions for the Army and Navy and was recipient of the Army and Navy’s highest awards for their war-effort production. Many of the young men employed by Pollak enlisted in the service during the war and 28 of them lost their lives.
In 1946, in memory of their fallen co-workers, the surviving employees of Pollak erected a monument consisting of a reddish concrete column with a large, finely detailed engraved plaque with four soldiers and the names of the 28 lost men.
Originally, the monument also anchored a flagpole.
What makes the monument unique, according to Perrone, is the plaque is not made of bronze or brass like most other plaques.
“When we first visited the monument, we couldn’t understand why the column was constructed of a reddish concrete. But after we began cleaning, we were shocked to see that the plaque was not bronze or brass but was instead made of copper, which explained the matching reddish concrete,”Perrone said. “We had never seen or heard of a plaque being made of copper.”
Copper is a soft metal and difficult to cast, and during the war years, was very hard to come by as it was used for manufacturing munitions and other military equipment.
“We have restored many military plaques over the years and they are all either bronze or brass — except this one,” Perrone said. “It became apparent to us that the employees of Pollak had used some of their war effort copper stock to create the beautiful plaque in tribute to their fallen friends.”
The monument rests on property now owned by Russo Development. The Belleville Historical Society reached out to owner Ed Russo, who Perrone says graciously accepted the society’s offer to restore the memorial. The society has restored more than 50 veteran and military monuments over the past few years, all free of charge.
“There are very few options out there when it comes to restoring a monument or plaque. You either spend a small fortune hiring one of the few professionals out there or you let it deteriorate,” Perrone said. “We are fortunate in having our own pros in house.”
Perrone’s family has been in the masonry business for more than 40 years and handles the masonry repairs and restorations while society Trustee Val Hadshinow, of North Arlington, has been a professional monument designer and engraver for over 25 years.
“We feel that this is the least we can do to honor those who gave everything,” Hadshinow said.
Like the Kearny monument, the Belleville Historical Society also recently restored World War II monuments in Belleville and Bloomfield in time for Veterans Day (Friday, Nov. 11.)
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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.