Sgt. Joseph Anthony was once a young boy who played ball in an empty lot across the street from his home on 87 Palisade Ave. Over time he’d learned to perfect his pitch as a star player on the Dickinson High School baseball team -- enough to get the attention of the Dodgers and the Giants, who offered him contracts at the age of 18.
Yet at the time the country was immersed in World War II. He turned down those offers to heed the call of the Army Air Corps. He served as a tail gunner on the crew of a B-29.
“It is our way of decorating his grave. It is emblematic of the grave he doesn’t have.” -- Barbara Petrick
At the time of his death he had already been cited for bravery and flown 39 missions.
He is one of countless soldiers from Jersey City who never returned home from war and whose families seek a way to remember and celebrate their lives.
For this reason, the once empty lot was converted into a park on May 1, 1949 and named Sgt. Anthony Park in his honor. Today the park is alive with visits from neighborhood families and local residents who go to enjoy the basketball court, dog run, community garden and playground.
On Monday, May 30, the Sgt. Anthony Park Association will host its annual Memorial Day ceremony at the monument.
History and poetry
The event begins at 10:30 a.m. with a spoken tribute to Sgt. Joseph Anthony followed by the history of the park, poetry, a reading of the names of lives lost in WW II from the neighborhood, and taps sung by neighborhood resident Norrice Raymaker.
Sgt. Anthony’s sister-in-law, Helen Anthony, will be in attendance.
“It is our way of decorating his grave. It is emblematic of the grave he doesn’t have,” said Barbara Petrick, current president of the Sgt. Anthony Park Association.
Originally named Decoration Day, Memorial Day dates back to May 30, 1868 and was established after the Civil War.
The holiday was observed with visits to the cemetery to leave flowers at soldiers’ graves.
The city will also see a Memorial Day event in the afternoon. The Historic Jersey City and Harsimus Cemetery will host the third annual “Honoring Our Heroes” Memorial Day Tribute at 1p.m. Activities include a military and musical tribute followed by refreshments and a walking tour to explore the park’s history and nature.
The cemetery was the site of Revolutionary War battles and serves as the resting place of thousands of soldiers from the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, the War of 1812, the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, and beyond.
It is also home to many Jersey City legends including the city’s early founders and leaders. Volunteers hope to achieve state and national landmark preservation status for the cemetery.
Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at email@example.com.