On June 10, 2017 the Chatham Historical Society commemorated the 100th anniversary of the United States entering the Great War by remembering Lieut. Eugene P. Hubbard, Sgt. Van Horn D. Wolf, Private Paul Van Fleet, Private Fred Reinhold Pihlman and Private Frederick Percy Parcells, the five Chatham soldiers who lost their lives in France during the “war to end all wars.”
In 1919, a year after the WWI ended, the Chatham community planted five red oak trees in honor of these young men. The trees were planted on the front lawn of Public School #1, now Borough Hall, but time and construction took their toll and none of the original five oaks survived. We set out to dedicate a new memorial honoring these men. On a sun-filled June day, that idea became reality. A red oak tree, with a memorial boulder beneath it listing the names of Chatham’s fallen soldiers, was dedicated on Chatham Borough Hall grounds.
Jackie Pindak, a trustee of the Historical Society, welcomed the large crowd that included local and state officials. Among those in attendance were Senator Thomas Kean, Jr., Assembly woman Nancy Munoz, Madison Mayor Robert Conley, Chatham Township Committee member Michael Kelly, Chatham Borough Council President Victoria Fife and Councilmember Peter Hoffman. Pindak thanked Mayor Harris and the Borough Council for their enthusiastic support of this project, and Chairwoman Colleen Truppo and the Shade Tree Commission for their enthusiasm and guidance in the tree selection and placement. She made special reference to the Department of Public Works noting, “We are indebted to the Public Works Department, especially Tony Torello and his crew, for helping to make this dream a reality.” Chatham Boy Scout Troop 8 led the crowd in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
Mayor Bruce A. Harris dedicated the memorial with an inspiring speech, stating “The world saw what the industrial revolution had made possible in war – devastating artillery, chemical weapons, aerial warfare, sixteen million died. Five million were buried in unmarked graves. Millions of minorities were brutally relocated and killed. The carnage was horrifying. Perhaps that is exactly why we remember these events and remember those who served in these gruesome battles fighting for freedom.” As Mayor Harris remembered each young man a representative from the Chatham Girl Scouts placed a beautiful bouquet of white roses at the base of the boulder.
The ceremony closed with the thought, “It is hoped that this memorial will give people pause to reflect on what is given during war – the wars of yesterday and today.”