Belleville Historical Society honors town’s (and Nutley’s) war heroes on Wreaths Across America day

Volunteers turned out in droves Saturday, Dec. 17, for the Wreaths Across America events sponsored by the Belleville Historical Society. The nationwide event brings together thousands of volunteers to remember and set wreaths on the graves of veterans from coast to coast.

In Belleville, locals gathered at noon at St. Peter’s Church, where the pastor the Rev. Ivan Sciberras blessed 100 wreaths before they were set in the church cemetery. Nutley author Anthony Buccino spoke briefly about the need to remember veterans and those lost in war.

Then, the first wreaths set were those of World War I soldiers and best friends Privates Michael Flynn and Edward Crowell, both lost during the war and buried side-by-side in the cemetery. Members of the newly formed Belleville ROTC and their unit leader Lt. Colonel Richard Wasserman then set a wreath at the monument to Belleville World War I Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. Fred Stockham, who also lost his life during the First World War.

Participants included Belleville veterans led by American Legion Post 105 Commander Joe Cobianchi, Belleville Mayor Michael A. Melham, Councilman Vincent Cozzarelli, Board of Education Trustee Frank Velez and former Board of Education Trustees Michael Sheldon and Nelson Berrera.

Boy Scouts from Belleville and Bloomfield and Nutley High School head football coach JD Vick and students were also on hand to help set wreaths. Bloomfield Scouts later proceeded to Mount Olivet Cemetery to set wreaths and Nutley students later set wreaths at Vincent and Franklin Reformed Church cemeteries.

Later in the day, volunteers assembled in the veteran section of Glendale Cemetery in Bloomfield, where scores of wreaths were set on the graves of young men killed in action.

The Belleville Historical Society had recently cleaned an entire row of 35 gravestones of young men killed in Vietnam. There, veterans were again joined by Bloomfield Boy and Girl Scouts, as well as a large contingent of Pfizer employees, who had sponsored many of the wreaths.

Former Belleville Police Officer Scott Sims played the bagpipe at both events.

The two ceremonies were the start of a three-day process where Belleville Historical Society members travel to set wreaths at more than 15 cemeteries in six counties in North Jersey, where young men from Belleville and Nutley who were killed in action are buried.

Approximately 350 wreaths will be set this year, Belleville Historical Society President Michael Perrone says. The society also sets wreaths on the graves of 10 of the Medal of Honor recipients.

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