Dedication of WWII photos in Teaneck:
"Our boys are back"
By Megan Burrow, Managing Editor
Teaneck Suburbanite, May 29, 2014, page 4
TEANECK - Teaneck High School celebrated Memorial Day a few days early this year with the dedication of 65 photos of alumni who fought and died in World War II. The photos had hung in the lobby of the high school until a renovation more than two decades ago when they were taken down and put away.
Alumni from the 1950s and 60s remembered the framed black and white photos, and recalled their principal Helen Hill referring to the young men as "my boys," reminding students to reflect on their sacrifice. They would ask Dennis Heck, the current principal of THS, where the photos were during alumni events, and he didn't have an answer.
That changed last year when he was looking for old school newspapers in the high school vault. "As I was looking through the bin, I found a stack of photographs, neatly wrapped in rubber bands," he told the alumni and students at the May 21 dedication. Bonnie Morrow, THS Class of 1960, worked with her graduating class and other groups to raise the funds to re-mat and frame the photos and hang them back on the wall of the high school lobby. "Thanks to the persistence of Bonnie Morrow, she has allowed us to reflect on 65 young men who gave their lives so we might have an opportunity to live our lives the way we want in a land that allows us to be free," said Ardie Walser, president of the school board.
Among the participants at the rededication were James Lyons Jr., a 1945 THS graduate who served 36 years as an admiral in the Navy, state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, retired Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, a 1963 THS graduate who served as the 16th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Joseph Cervino, a former coach at the high school and World War II veteran.
Many of the speakers urged current students to look at the photos and take lessons from the soldiers' sacrifices. "I would ask those of you who are students today to take the time to look at them," said Pace. "Those young men are forever young; they've been captured in time at your age. They have, in every sense of the word, sacrificed so you can live in the greatest country on the planet."
Lyons remembered following the news reports of battles as a student in THS during World War II. "We know that the liberties we enjoy are guaranteed and have been protected by the incredible service of our military men and women throughout our history," he said.
Emmett Francois, THS Class of 1957 and a retired Lt. Commander in the Navy, said one of the faces in the photographs was his neighbor. Robert Rutherford was a young private in the Army who had been sent to Holland to fight as a paratrooper. He was killed, and his father, who could not bear the loss of his son, died a short time later, Francois remembered.
"His mother was given a Gold Star Banner for her window where I recall seeing it displayed for many years. Like her, other counterparts in Teaneck who had lost sons always attended the Memorial Day services here at the high school field, until, one by one they too, were no longer alive," he said. "The Gold Star Banner disappeared from the window and the house was sold. Times change, people pass away and memories fade. The dead we honor here today paid the price so you can be free."
Cervino, who served three years in the army, 18 of those months in combat zones in Europe, remembered spending Christmas Eve in a foxhole with six inches of snow on the ground. "War is bad news, it's tough. These fellows gave their lives," he told the students at the dedication. "When you walk past and you see the pictures, say to yourself, thank you for your service, and when you see a fellow in the service, take the time to go up and maybe shake their hand and say thank you."
Morrow then read the names of each of the fallen servicemen as a slideshow of their pictures was shown.
"As teenagers these heroes sat in the seats where you are today, they stood on this stage, they lived on your street, perhaps in your house. We must remember how fortunate we are to have inherited such a safe and free country made possible by those who died to make it so," she said of the soldiers. "It gives me such joy to finally say: Mrs. Hill, your boys are back."