Back row (left to right) Dick Furlong and Ron Stark of the Veterans Affairs Committee, Committeeman Anthony Fiore, Mayor Gerry Scharfenberger, and Committeeman Stephen Massell
Front row (left to right) Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Dennis Beauregard, Vice Chairman Tom Garretson, Tom Hackett and Marty Keating of the Veterans Affairs Committee, Sculptor Franco Minervini, Deputy Mayor Stephanie Murray, and Assistant Director of Public Works & Engineering, Lory Hubbard
MIDDLETOWN, NJ – Middletown Township today announced that the World War I Doughboy Monument restoration will be completed by the end of August. The circa 1930’s life-size monument is located on Church Street in Belford and is being restored by Master Stone Carver, Franco Minervini.
The Veterans Affairs Committee identified the monument in need of repair. The Township Committee then commissioned Minervini to do this important project to ensure that the monument would be fully restored, rather than replacing it with a replica. He is one of the only sculptors in the country with this type of stone carving expertise.
“This year marks the centennial of the United States’ entry into World War I, so we wanted to commemorate the several dozen WWI veterans from Belford, Port Monmouth, and New Monmouth by restoring this monument to its former glory,” said Mayor Gerry Scharfenberger, an archaeologist and long-time member of the Township’s Landmarks Commission. “Our Doughboy statue is a way for our residents and visitors to pay homage to these veterans who sacrificed so much for us. It is also a reminder to future generations of the role Middletown played in one of the most significant conflicts in our nation's history."
Middletown has a rich history dating back to 1664, and the Township has been focused on showcasing its heritage sites to the public. The Township is more than 350 years old and is home to five historic districts, including Middletown Village, Fort Hancock, and Sandy Hook where the nation’s oldest continually-lit lighthouse can be found. “We want to preserve our history, and taking care of our cherished monuments is part of that,” said Deputy Mayor Stephanie Murray, who recently spearheaded the launch of Middletown’s Heritage Tourism.
Over the last month, Minervini has been making reparations such as fixing the Doughboy’s rifle strap and trigger guard, as well as the brim of the soldier’s hat and his left ear, fingers, and uniform pocket. While the Doughboy had managed to stand the test of time for almost a century, the elements started to take their toll. There is also evidence of possible vandalism, according to Minervini.
The Township is organizing and aiding this project through funds from the 2016 capital budget and generous donations from both American Legion Post 338 and the Friends of the Veterans Affairs Committee. A dedication ceremony is being planned for Saturday, November 4, 2017 at 12:30 PM.
Other memorial/monument heritage sites around Middletown include the World War II Memorial located on Leonardville Road at Croydon Hall, the Korean War Memorial on Wilson Avenue, and the Vietnam Veterans Monument on Harkins Drive off Palmer Avenue. The Township-appointed Veterans Affairs Committee is currently researching all of the names listed on Township monuments to verify accuracy.
Additional Township programs that honor and support local veterans include the Fallen Veteran Commemorative Street Sign Program. More than 50 signs have been installed Township-wide to pay tribute to veterans killed in action from World War I to the present. The program is managed by the all-volunteer Veterans Affairs Committee with support from the Public Works Department.
As part of the Honorary Veterans Parking Program, the Township has also designated parking spaces for veterans at Town Hall, the Middletown Township Public Library, and Poricy Park.