The Montgomery Veterans Memorial Committee was formed in 1991 but remained essentially dormant until 2001. At that time, under the leadership of Chairman Jerry Cianfrocca, the committee was reactivated and began the task of creating an appropriate veterans memorial. One of the earliest tasks was to decide on an appropriate name for the Memorial. The committee decided on “Montgomery Veterans Memorial” with the intentional omission of an apostrophe. An apostrophe would indicate possession of the Memorial of or by the veterans, and the clear intent is that ownership of the Memorial is vested in the people of Montgomery for the purpose of honoring the veterans. Thus “Veterans” is plural and not possessive.
The first major accomplishment was to secure the services of Montgomery architect Thomas C. Lee who agreed to serve as architect and general contractor for the Montgomery Veterans Memorial pro bono. Mr. Lee explored various concepts with the committee, and developed the design as it exists today.
The next major accomplishment was to select an appropriate site for the Memorial. Initially, a small and gentle hilltop adjacent to Pike Brook and overlooking Montgomery Park from the south was selected by the committee. The site was approved by the Montgomery Township Committee, and detailed design work began.
Along with the detailed design work, Huguette Castaneda started a major effort to gather the names of those Montgomery veterans that would appear on the Memorial. To date, more than eight hundred and fifty names have been identified, with the largest group being from World War II.
Following completion of the detailed design, the committee sought formal construction bids in 2007. The initial construction bids exceeded the committee’s idea of an affordable price by a factor of more than three, so basic changes had to be made. Architect Tom Lee pointed out that moving the Memorial from the hilltop site overlooking Montgomery Park to a flat site would eliminate expensive details such as curved retaining walls, railings, and an entire lower plaza, while preserving the original design concept with its central, fundamental details. The committee is now certain that this change delivers an exceptional Memorial design that is affordable to the Montgomery community.
In 2007, after the selection of our initial hilltop site, Montgomery Township acquired from the State of New Jersey the former North Princeton Developmental Center site, which came to be known as Skillman Village. The township began an intensive effort to clean up and revitalize the site as a “Village Within a Park” that would become a gathering place and a major social, environmental, and economic asset of Montgomery Township. In February 2008, the Montgomery Veterans Memorial Committee appeared before the Montgomery Township Committee and requested permission to relocate the Memorial to an appropriate flat site within Skillman Village. This request was approved.
In late 2009, Montgomery Township decided to pursue the sale of Skillman Village to Somerset County. Assuming that the sale would ultimately be consummated, Architect Tom Lee began early in 2010 to look for other sites within Montgomery Township which might be appropriate for our Veterans Memorial.
After a great deal of study and evaluation, we decided that the very northern corner of Montgomery Park was the best possible choice for a new location. It is in a lovely grove of trees adjacent to the upper parking lot and sits high, offering lovely vistas of the park, which has been renamed Montgomery Veterans Park. In October, 2010, we formally requested permission from the Township Committee to use that site, and permission was granted.