With talk of cancelling the Memorial Day parade and a fading military presence within Cedar Grove, the local VFW is working to bring patriotism back to the town, starting with a new commander.
Former VFW Post 6255 Commander Clifford Quinn passed the torch to Fred Urban at a convention in Wildwood June 21. Urban, a former quartermaster for the Cedar Grove post, is a Vietnam veteran who served as a surveyor in the Army between 1967 and 1968.
Five years ago, Urban was the commander of the Cedar Grove contingent while Quinn served as quartermaster. They switched positions when Urban said he “had enough of being commander.” It was only recently when Quinn was ready to retire that Urban felt the need to come back to the seat and make the “change in direction” the post needs, Urban said.
The position, however, has not been an easy one. Formed in 1946, Post 6255 at one point had more than 1,000 members. Now, it has a little over 200 members spread throughout the country and is in desperate need of more involvement from the Cedar Grove community, Urban said.
The struggle of Post 6255
Though he’s been a member of the local VFW since 1992, he isn’t a Cedar Grove resident. Raised in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, Urban moved to northern New Jersey in 1972, the Caldwell’s in 1975 and has been living in West Caldwell as an internet marketer since 1985. Since he was Discharged from service in 1968, Urban has been involved in veteran affairs, specifically tied to Cedar Grove’s VFW for over two decades.
Due to lack of membership, VFW members have struggled to pay the upkeep at its headquarters at 970 Pompton Ave. As a result, township officials had considered buying the land from the VFW to use the space as a community center. Officials then said they would not purchase the building. (The property was listed at around $1 million at the time.)
In February, the building collapsed due to this past winter’s build-up of snow. “I called it the St. Valentine’s Day massacre,” Urban said.
The only part of the post that wasn’t damaged from the incident was an original structure built in 1942, according to Urban. As for the remaining property, Cedar Grove Mayor Robert O’Toole has stated that “to my knowledge, the building is still for sale. The town wanted the VFW to donate the building … as a community center before it collapsed. It’s a shame because the building was a landmark to the town.
“The town has no jurisdiction as to what happens to the property now,” O’Toole continued.
Now, because the original post has no electricity, Urban and local VFW members have been meeting regularly in each other’s homes. As for the future, “we are talking to the Town of Cedar Grove and hope to come to an arrangement that will enable the demolition of the collapsed portion of the building,” Urban stated in a release.
Should they stay or go?
The collapsed building has served as a meeting place not only for the VFW, but for senior citizen groups and other organizations in need of gathering space. The facility was also rented out for special events. Without a hall, the post is unable to raise the monies necessary to fund programs it offers, such as “Voice of Democracy,” which gives high school students a chance to win educational scholarships.
The lack of money also makes it difficult to erect a new Cedar Grove post.
“The building needs to be demolished, but the VFW has no money. So I doubt that rebuilding of the space will happen. There have been VFW organizations who have joined with other posts due to lack of membership, and still remain viable. So I can see [Post 6255] doing that also,” O’Toole said.
Joining forces with another post is something the new commander has considered.
Urban said current VFW members will soon vote on whether to use the same Cedar Grove location or join a nearby post .
Overall, Urban is focused on getting the VFW membership back to where it was in the 1940s. “I’m hoping to grow to at least get up to 500 members, with 100 that are local and willing to roll up their sleeves, get involved and put in some sweat equity,” Urban said.
In a release to the community, Urban disclosed the post’s current circumstance:
“The members of Cedar Grove Post 6255 have traditionally been the WWII veterans who unfortunately are dying at an alarming rate. In order for us to continue serving the community, we are in desperate need of new members and funding to continue our work,” Urban stated in the release. “We need younger veterans to get involved and keep it going after we’re gone.”