Year-Round Salute to Vets

by Russell Swanson, Exec. Dir., VDID, Main Street Vineland

Every year we pause on November 11 at 11 a.m. to commemorate and honor our veterans who have, over the years, risked their lives to defend our country and keep us free. Even though Veterans Day was last week, it’ not too late to commemorate our veterans—by taking a good look at our mini-parks at Landis Avenue and the Boulevard.

Those four mini-parks are full of historical significance related to our armed services. Most recently, we added a military mural that overlooks the southwest mini-park—an addition of which we’re most proud. That, however, complements other historical connections. For that I quote from my column that appeared in these pages in July 2016. It’s worth repeating.

I came across a thick file in my office with paperwork that chronicles the birth and development of the four mini-parks. It’s a history that dates back to the early 1990s when bids were originally put out for redevelopment of the four corners of Landis Avenue and the Boulevard—demolition of some of the existing buildings and the subsequent landscaping. Construction took place in 1995 on what became known as Arminava Park, Lucina Park, Torpedo Park, and Artillery Park.

The four parks were collectively renamed by City Council in 2000 the “Vice Admiral Wallace M. Beakley Square,” with a memorial to Vice-Admiral Beakley dedicated on the Arminava quadrant of the square. Who was this man to whom this area was dedicated? The story, which may be unknown to many, is fascinating.

He was born in Vineland in 1903 and educated here. He then entered the Annapolis Naval Academy and led a distinguished naval career spanning 43 years and two wars, earning the rank of a Three-Star Vice-Admiral. On one daring mission, he stayed afloat for four hours after an enemy torpedo downed his aircraft carrier and 900 shipmates. Another time, he logged a record of over 11 hours airborne in an aerial dogfight. Among his honors and accomplishments were the Presidential Distinguished Service Medal, as well as decorations by leaders of several countries abroad.

Delving deeper into the mini-park file, I also found early plans for making that area a destination for events and gatherings—an amphitheater in Torpedo Park, enlargement of the parks, and an open-air market in the two parks west of the Boulevard.

So, take the opportunity to take a look around the mini-parks and explore their historical significance. In doing so, you can commemorate Veterans Day throughout the year.

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Our annual Christmas Parade is planned for later this month—Saturday, November 28 (rain date: November 29) at 5 p.m., on Landis Avenue. We’ll have COVID-related safety measures in place there, including social distance and wearing of masks or face coverings for spectators and participants. The major sponsor this year will be Century Savings Bank, with Lidl and Newfield National Bank as supporting sponsors. “Peace on Earth” will be this year’s theme with a contest for the best floats. Participants and vendors may register at TheAve.biz. Volunteers to help out at the parade welcome, just contact our office.

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On the Ave