At the heart of Glendale Cemetery's rolling hills and towering trees is a new veterans memorial, a peaceful, artfully designed space where veterans and families can go to reflect.
"Essex County cannot do enough for our veterans," said Essex County Executive Joseph Divincenzo Jr. during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday at the memorial.
The veterans area was designed with symbolism in mind, according to Mike Piga, of French and Parrello Associates, the engineering firm behind the memorial.
At the center of the memorial is a 35-foot pole with the American flag, which casts a shadow onto the seven surrounding 15-foot poles with flags from each U.S. military branch. The granite walking area around the flag poles features designs of a sundial and star, representing the United States. And the circular shape of the memorial, lined with benches, symbolizes unity and trust, Piga said.
Brown and red brick pavers – representative of earth and blood – have been placed in walkways leading up to the memorial.
Families can also place ashes of their loved ones in the "Eternal Garden," a small patch of earth near a working bell for ceremonies.
"What he (DiVincenzo) leaves us here today is one of the best looking cemeteries," said Joseph Fornoratto, commander of the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 22 of Belleville-Nutley.
Fornoratto said as of next year, Belleville's veterans memorial ceremonies will begin at Glendale Cemetery.
Last year, the Essex County Veterans Memorial Plaza, located near the county courthouse in Newark, was dedicated to Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Jorge Oliveira, a county sheriff's officer killed in Afghanistan last October.
The 110-year old Glendale Cemetery spans 55 acres in Bloomfield and Belleville. The veterans memorial is located on a county-owned section maintained by the Glendale Cemetery Board of Trustees.
Shauger Property Services, of East Orange, was awarded a $276,551 publicly bid contract to perform the construction work on the memorial, which began in June and was completed in three months.
"This is a tribute to all those who really ensure our rights," said Dennis DeCarlo, president of the cemetery's Board of Trustees.