Memorial Day Celebration

On Decoration Day (original name for Memorial Day), May 30, 1924 at 10:30 am, the Cenotaph in Armory Park was officially dedicated, in a grand ceremony. The keynote speaker, for the occasion, was General of the Army, John “Blackjack” Pershing. The gentleman responsible for his attendance and for the creation of both the park and the Cenotaph, was Robert D. Benson, president of the Passaic Board of Education, former city councilman, highly respected local businessman and “Father” of Passaic’s park system. Also in attendance was General Pershing’s “aide de campe,” Lieutenant George C. Marshall, future Secretary of State and Head of the Joint Chiefs, during World War II.

The Cenotaph was erected in honor of those young men who gave their all for their country in the Great World War (World War I).  The Cenotaph is located on park land behind Saints Peter & Paul Polish National Church on River Drive(adjacent to the Burger King).  Before the advent of Route 21, there was a beautiful park bounded by Main Avenue, Gregory Avenue, River Drive and Prospect Street.  The centerpiece of Armory Park was a National Guard Armory Building, that was unfortunately lost in the building of Route 21.  There is a bronze plaque on the wall in front of the church, that designates the location of the viewing stand that General Pershing was on when he reviewed the troops and parade in 1924. 

92 years later, to the day, we once again gather, at Passaic’s hallowed ground to remember, salute and pay our respects to all of Passaic’s sons and daughters who served and gave their all, in the cause of freedom and liberty!

The original photo is part of the collection of the Passaic Historical Commision (1969-1983).  It was taken by Halupka and was a gift of Francis H. Hopkins in 1972.

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Photo Sources

  • Color postcard of Armory Park, featuring the Cenotaph and the Armory, late 1930’s - Personal collection of Mark S. Auerbach, Passaic City Historian
  • Photo of Pershing, Benson and Marshall - From the Collection of the Passaic Historical Commission, gift of Francis H. Hopkins, 1972