2023 Annual Memorial Day Observance
The Morris County Board of County Commissioners recognizes resident Veterans by presenting them with the Distinguished Military Service Medal. These medals are unique to Morris County, although copied in many ways, and were first issued in 1999 to honor WWII veterans on the 55th Anniversary of the 1944 D-Day invasion and the liberation of France from Nazi occupation. Morris County expanded the medals to include Vietnam and Korea, as well as general service in our military during other conflicts. In 2022, Morris County unveiled medals for Iraq and Afghanistan. These honors are presented to veterans who served honorably and who have helped to make our nation and Morris County a better place to live.
The 2023 Memorial Day Observance Ceremony
Morris County Distinguished Service Medals were presented at a Memorial Day Observance on May 24.
View photo gallery
Veterans Receiving Awards
Frank G. Blair, Gillette, (posthumous)
Mr. Blair was a veteran of the U.S. Navy who served in the World War II era from 1949-1953. He was a Storekeeper on the ship, responsible for ordering, stocking and issuing repair parts, clothing and general supplies. According to his daughter, this also accounted for why they always had excess inventory of just about everything in the house.
After military service, Mr. Blair was employed as a parts manager for Newark Buick for many years and always took exceptional care of the family cars. He is described as a man of many talents, who knew how to dance, shoot pool and bowl. He enjoyed playing the trombone, skiing, the Boston Red Sox, the stock market, playing cards and listening to Frank Sinatra.
Mr. Blair was a wonderful neighbor who was always happy to assist someone. He was a faithful, loving, and devoted husband and father. Sadly, he passed away on March 27, 2023.
He is survived by his wife of 50 years, Joan, and daughter, Nicole.
George Connolly, Jr., Mendham
George J. Connolly, Jr. is a veteran of the U.S. Army who served in Vietnam from 1965-1967. He earned a bachelor’s in business administration from Northeastern University prior to entering military service in the U.S. Army Signal Corps, where he served as a company commander as a First Lieutenant.
He was awarded the Army Commendation Medal and the National Defense Service Medal.
Following military service, Mr. Connolly worked in the pharmaceutical, banking and finance industries as a manager.
He has served on Mendham’s Open Space Committee, including as chairman and treasurer, and has also served on Mendham’s Townhouse Association and the Morris County Freewheelers Foundation as treasurer.
His hobbies include bicycling, cross country skiing and hiking.
Anthony D. Vara, Pequannock, (unable to attend ceremony)
Served in the U.S. Army as a sergeant from 1953 to 1955 during the Korean War.
He is the recipient of the Good Conduct Medal, Korean Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal and recipient of a Presidential Unit Citation.
Mr. Vara is the loving father of a large family with 7 children, 13 grandchildren and another on the way. In his free time, he enjoys reading.
Robert A. Newhouse, Florham Park
Robert Newhouse, known as “Bob,” is a U.S. Army veteran who served in World War II, including with the U.S. Army’s 78th Infantry in the Battle of the Bulge.
He enlisted in 1942, after graduating West Orange High School and though he trained in the Army Air Corps for six months, he was transferred to the Signal Corp with a specialty as a wireman.
Deployed to Europe in 1944, Bob landed in the Ardennes Forest and the Battle of the Bulge, where he laid telephone wire, day and night.
He was later wounded near the Rhine River, receiving the Purple Heart as well as the Bronze Star among his honors.
In civilian life, he became known as Dr. Newhouse, serving his community for 58 years as an educator in the Florham Park and Madison school districts, Kean University, Fairleigh Dickenson University and the College of St. Elizabeth.
Bob is a loving family man with 5 children, 10 grandchildren, 4 great grandchildren and 1 great-great grandchild. And at 98, he still works out three times per week.
Dr. Bob Newhouse, thank you for lifelong service to the United States, in the military and the community.
Robert K. Newman, Cedar Knolls
Served with the U.S. Navy from 1960-1966.
He is a Vietnam-era veteran who spent four years aboard the USS Boston CAG-1 guided missile carrier and was also on station during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He was also Commanding Officer of the Naval Reserve Manpower Center in Maryland.
Mr. Newman attended college after his military service and worked for United Parcel Service for 25 years before retiring.
He continued to serve his community volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, Habitat for Humanity Road Trip Crazies, Food Bank, and the American Legion Post 155.
Mr. Newman enjoys golfing and spending time with his wife, Bernadette, to whom he has been married for 57 years. He also has a daughter, Karen, who is a registered nurse in Oklahoma.
Joel Lebowitz, Lake Hiawatha
Veteran of the U.S. Army and New Jersey National Guard who served from 1970 to 1999 during Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
He is a recipient of the Army Service Ribbon, National Defense service Medal, Army Reserve Component Achievement Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, and the Armed Forces Reserve Medal. He was awarded the Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, New Jersey Ribbon of Merit, New Jersey Governor Award, National Guard Unit Strength, and NJ Meritorious Service Medal.
He earned a bachelor’s degree from Bloomfield College and was CEO of Wayne Camera Center. He is a member of the American Legion, Jewish War Veterans, and a Master Mason.
Joel and his wife Sharon have been married for 55 years. They have one son and two grandsons.
Kenneth Matzek, Dover
Veteran of the U.S. Air Force who served from 1964-1968, where he attained the rank of sergeant. He was stationed at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas.
Mr. Matzek is the recipient of the National Defense Service Medal and Air Force Good Conduct Medal, Foreign Service Medal and the Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon, among other service awards.
After military service, Mr. Matzek worked with UPS until retirement.
He is an active member of Post 782 Elks Lodge and is head of the lodge’s Veterans Committee.
Shane T. Richeal, Rockaway
Mr. Richeal is a Marine who served from 2012 to 2019, specializing as a Mortarman for three years.
He is a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom and recipient of the numerous service awards including: The National Defense Service Medal, the Marine Corp’s Good Conduct Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with one Star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Korean Defense Service Medal, two Sea Service Deployment Ribbons, NATO Medal - International Security System Force Afghanistan, and the Expert Rifle Badge.
Shane has gone on to earn his associate degree in liberal arts and continues to serve his community as a firefighter. He is also an avid reader.
James M. Koons, Morris Township
Mr. Koons is a Marine who served in 1975 and was honorably discharged after being disabled from an injury during his service. He was awarded the Good Conduct Medal, Marksman and Sharpshooter medals.
After his military career, he served as a security officer, caterer and fencing coach.
This veteran has given back to his community by participating in the American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Association, Rotary Club, Red Cross, American Legion, Knights of Columbus, Friendly Sons of St. Patrick and the local Assumption Church.
A loving husband to Janice, and father to 4 children, Mr. Koons enjoys woodworking in his spare time.
He is also a member of American Legion Post 59 in Morristown, where he is currently serving as Adjutant.
Gary R. Martin, Denville
Mr. Martin is a U.S. Navy veteran who served from 1974 to 1978. He is a Vietnam era and post-Vietnam era veteran who is a recipient of the National Defense Service Ribbon and a naval pistol sharpshooter.
Mr. Martin is also a graduate of the Morris and Essex Police Academy and served his community as a police officer. He is also a 32-degree Master Mason and past Masonic Shrine clown.
David M. Okada, Morris Township
Veteran of the U.S. Air Force who served from 1965 to 1969 including 2 years in Vietnam. He received the National Defense Service Medal and Air Force Medal 900-3. Mr. Okada was trained as a Radar Repairman in the Air Force and served at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi, Yokota Air Force Base in Japan, & Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Michigan.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the New York Institute of Technology and his employment history includes Director of Operations at Dun & Bradstreet, Licensed Real Estate Salesperson with Douglas Elliman, and producer of Asian Culture Film in New York.
Mr. Okada’s is also former co-president and board member of the Japanese American Citizens League.
He was active in New York City in supporting the establishment of Fred T. Korematsu Day, a celebration of Civil Liberties and the Constitution to commemorate the birthday of the Japanese American civil rights activist best known for resisting the internment of Japanese Americans in the 1940s.
Mr. Okada is a member of the American Legion Florham Park/Madison NJ Post 0043.
He is married, lives in Morristown, and enjoys golfing.
Carol P. Simmons, Madison
Ms. Simmons, a graduate of Parsippany-Troy Hills High School, served in the U.S. Air Force as a sergeant from 1985 to 1995 during Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm. She was honorably discharged from the Air Force Reserve in 1998.
An Air Crew Life-Support Journeyman, Ms. Simmons was responsible for installing life support equipment in aircraft including A-10s, F-15s and F-16s and assisted the pilots with their survival equipment. She attended Military College and has completed training in Arctic Survival, Combat Survival and Water Survival, in addition to other courses.
Ms. Simmons is the recipient of numerous other awards including: The Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Longevity Service Medal with One Oak Leaf Cluster, NCO Professional Military Education Ribbon with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, Air Force Training Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal and Air Force Good Conduct Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster.
She now enjoys gardening and attending flower shows.
Michael Wisniewski, Morristown
He served in the U.S. Army Military Intelligence from 1969-1978 during the Vietnam era.
Mr. Wisniewski graduated top of his class from Officer Candidate School as 2nd lieutenant. From there he was taught to speak Czechoslovakian and German and spent three years in Germany, where he was promoted Captain. He returned to the US in 1974 and was assigned Special Agent in Charge in the region of New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware.
Mr. Wisniewski is the recipient of the Army Commendation Medal and the National Defense Medal.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in Foreign Affairs and Political Science from Assumption University and an MBA from Southern Illinois University. A former Director of Human Resources at Pfizer, he also worked with FedEx and in recruiting.
Mr. Wisniewski has coached Little League and traveling soccer, and helped establish the Morris United Soccer Club. He has resided in Morristown for over 40 years with his wife, Katherine, the joy of his life, as well as their 2 children and 5 grandchildren.
Edward W. D’Angelo, Parsippany (posthumous)
Veteran whose military service spanned 43 years. Unfortunately, Mr. D’Angelo passed away in 2009.
Mr. D’Angelo was a career Naval Officer who enlisted with the U.S. Navy before his 17th birthday and served on active duty during the Korean War. He rose to Chief Petty Officer as a Seabee and retired as a Chief Warrant Officer-4.
Among his many awards were 2 National Defense Service Medals, 3 Naval Reserve Meritorious Service Medals and 3 Armed Forces Reserve Medals.
He continued to serve in the Naval Reserve while working as an electrician until 1990. He also served as a Morris County Deputy Sheriff and a Parsippany Police Department Special Officer.
This veteran also proudly raised 5 children, 4 of whom graduated from Penn State University.
Edward J. D’Angelo, Parsippany
Son of Edward W. D’Angelo and brother to Michael F. D’Angelo, he is also a decorated career naval officer. Mr. D’Angelo served in the Navy from 1986 until 2016 and is a veteran of Panama, Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Somalia, Bosnia/Herzegovina, Haiti, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
He attended Penn State and participated in Naval ROTC as a Midshipman from 1982 to 1986. He was commissioned as an Ensign and qualified as a Naval Aviator.
Mr. D’Angelo has flown over 4,000 hours, mostly in helicopters, and has completed 10 overseas deployments, 8 of them on aircraft carriers. He is credited with 15 life-saving rescues, including a dangerous ocean rescue during Hurricane Floyd.
His impressive resume also is on our website. But let me note, Mr. D’Angelo was promoted to Captain and his awards include 3 Legions of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, 3 Meritorious Service Medals and 5 Navy Commendations.
Mr. D’Angelo is happily married, living in Florida and is a proud father of twins.
Michael D’Angelo, Parsippany
A Morris Catholic graduate, Lt. Commander D’Angelo served in the U.S. Navy for 40 years from 1982 into 2022 and earned roughly 50 special military honors and awards for that service.
He began his career as a Naval Air Crewman on various aircraft carriers supporting escorts for re-flagged Kuwaiti tankers, Iranian retaliatory strikes and operations in Libya.
Although heft active duty in 1986, he joined the Naval Reserve, was recalled on 9/11 and was commissioned a Naval Cryptologic Officer in 2003.
His deployments included Afghanistan, and his many assignments included the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force supporting Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, commanding the Navy Operational Support Center in Pennsylvania, working in the Pentagon, serving on the Chief of Naval Operations staff, serving the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command and the Navy Personnel Command in Tennessee.
Michael’s son, David, is currently a Chief Petty Officer and Navy Seabee Diver.
The 9 following veterans were honored at the Washington Memorial Day Ceremony on Saturday, May 27.
Forrest Louis “Woody” Burgener
A Washington Township resident, he Served as a United States Air Force Sergeant during the Vietnam War from Marcs 1966 through January 1970.
Mr. Burgener was born November 6, 1944, in Nyack, NY. He graduated from Tappan Zee High School before serving in the Air Force, where he was stationed at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, CA, during active duty until 1970. Mr. Burgener received the National Defense Service Medal and the Air Force Good Conduct Medal for his service. He was honorably discharged in 1972.
Mr. Burgener earned a bachelor’s degree from Fairleigh Dickenson and his MBA from New York University. He taught History at Rutgers University, lecturing about the American Revolutionary War and the French and Indian War, and has also led presentations at West Point Historical Association and the Washington Township Historical Society. Sgt. Burgener continues to serve as the Vice Commander of the Washington Township American Veterans Association, a position he has held since 1978.
He is a proud father of two daughters and three grandchildren. Mr. Burgener enjoys gardening and historical research.
William James Carroll
Served as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserve during the Vietnam War from June 1969 through June 1973.
Mr. Carroll, a Washington Township resident, was born in Philadelphia, PA, on March 20, 1945. He served in the ROTC from 1963 to 1967 while pursuing his B.S. in Economics at Rutgers University. Mr. Carroll had completed his master’s degree in 1969 at the University of Massachusetts before the Army called him to active duty to serve as a lieutenant.
During his tour, Mr. Carroll received numerous honors and medals of distinction, such as the Vietnam Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Campaign Medal with 60 Device, and the Bronze Star Medal in recognition of "Heroic or Meritorious Achievement."
Honorably discharged from active duty in 1973, Mr. Carroll continued to serve in the Army Reserves until 1995. During that time, he earned his Ph.D. from Penn State, taught undergraduate Economics at Drew University, and served as a Senior Executive for a Fortune 500 company.
Mr. Carroll was also a clinical professor of marketing at Cornell University School of Hotel Administration for many years, where he was also faculty advisor for the Cornell University lacrosse team.
Rodney Samuel Della Salla
This Washington Township resident served as Petty Officer 3rd class in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War from 1970 through 1973. Stationed in Greece from 1971 through 1973.
Mr. Della Salla was born in Newark, NJ on November 5, 1951. While stationed in Greece, he was assigned to cryptography as a radio operator after training with Navy Radioman “A” School where he was a radio school military honor student. Mr. Della Salla was awarded the National Defense Medal for his service.
Honorably discharged from active duty, Mr. Della Salla obtained his associate degree from Union College and a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Seton Hall University. His post-military careers include working as a police officer from 1978 to 1982, as a fire captain for the fire department from 1982 to 2006, and providing commercial landscaping services for over 40 years. In addition, Mr. Della Salla has remained involved with the Washington Township Veterans Association.
Mr. Della Salla has a wife, four children, and seven grandchildren. His hobbies include fishing, landscaping, and carpentry.
Francis “Frank” Daniel Giaquinto III
The Washington Township resident served as a United States Marine Corps Sergeant during the Operation Enduring Freedom campaign in Afghanistan from 2008 through 2012.
Mr. Giaquinto was born on October 29, 1986. He grew up in Rockaway, NJ, and graduated from Warren Hills Regional High School in 2005. Mr. Giaquinto earned his associate degree from Warren County Community College before being deployed to Afghanistan in 2008, where he served for four years as a combat engineer.
In recognition of his bravery and valor, Sgt. Giaquinto received numerous awards and commendations, including the Purple Heart, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Combat Valor device, the Combat Action Ribbon, the Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon (twice), the Navy Unit Commendation Ribbon, Marine Corp Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, Operation Enduring Freedom Medal (four times), the Global War on Terror Service Medal, the National Sea Service Deployment Ribbon (twice) and the MATO ISAF Medal.
After being honorably discharged from active duty, Mr. Giaquinto earned his bachelor’s in criminal justice. He continued to protect and serve by becoming a law enforcement officer for the Washington Township Police Department.
Mr. Giaquinto is involved with various community initiatives and non-profit organizations including Toys for Tots, Wreaths Across America, and Operation Chill Out. He enjoys spending time with his wife, Samantha, and their dog Winston. He maintains an active lifestyle going to the gym and playing sports.
John Raymond Jones
This Washington Township resident served in the United States Army during the Vietnam War from November 1971 to November 1973.
Mr. Jones was born in Somerville, NJ, on March 14, 1951. While stationed in Europe, Mr. Jones was a quartermaster ranked Specialist 4 in the Artillery battalion. In recognition of his service, Mr. Jones was awarded the National Defense Service Medal and the Good Conduct Medal.
He was honorably discharged from active duty to the Army Reserve in Fort Dix, NJ. Mr. Jones remains involved in his community as a member of the American Veterans Association of Washington Township Post 1776, the Knights of Columbus and the Ramapo Assembly.
His favorite hobbies include model cars, fishing, and hunting.
Paul Robert Kolodziej
Served in the Navy on the USS Lloyd Thomas from August 1957 through August 1960.
Mr. Kolodziej, who lives in Long Valley, was born and raised in Long Branch, NJ, and entered the service when he was 18 years old. After three years of active duty, Mr. Kolodziej was released and transferred to the Naval Reserve. In recognition of his exemplary behavior and performance during active duty, Mr. Kolodziej was awarded the Good Conduct Medal in August 1960.
Honorably discharged from service, Mr. Kolodziej earned his bachelor’s in business administration from Trenton State College (now known as the College of NJ) and spent his career working for Jersey Central Power & Light for 35 years.
Mr. Kolodziej has two children and three grandchildren. He has continued his service life through his involvement in the Knights of Columbus organization, where he held high-ranking positions as the "Grand Knight" and "Faithful Navigator." He also spent 25 years with the Boys Scouts in Monmouth County and 15 years with the YMCA of Red Bank.
Paul William Richartz
The Washington Township resident served as a Sergeant in the United States Army during the Vietnam War from September 1968 through June 1971.
Paul Richartz was born in Newark, NJ, on May 16, 1944. He joined the Army when he was 23 years old. In recognition of his service, Sergeant Richards received the Nation Defense Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Armed Forces – Europe Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, and the Korean Expeditionary Medal.
Honorably discharged from active duty, Mr. Richartz owned and operated an advertising agency from 1987 until 2010, served as Chair of the Washington Township Economic Development Committee from 1990 – 1994, and taught part-time at Fairleigh Dickenson University from 2000-2017. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Upsala College and his master's in education from Boston University.
A resident of Long Valley, he is the father of two children, Amanda and Matthew, and enjoys hunting and fishing in his free time.
This Washington Township resident served in the Army National Guard of New York during the Vietnam War from January 1971 to January 1977.
Mr. Schettino was born in Brooklyn, NY, on December 25, 1950. After six years of service, Mr. Schettino was honorably discharged. He earned his bachelor’s degree from St. Peter’s College and worked as an Airport Duty Manager for the Port Authority of NY and NJ.
Mr. Schettino is a resident of Long Valley, where he is a member of the Knights of Columbus.
Kenneth William Short
The Washington Township resident served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War in 1970 and the Reserve National Guard from 1970 through 1977.
Mr. Short was born in Newark, NJ, and was drafted into the Army while he was a college student. He completed basic training at Fort Campbell, TN, and Advanced Individual Training at Fort Knox, KY, as an Armor Crewman.
Honorably discharged in October 1970, Mr. Short trained with the West Orange National Guard Armory for six years, where he was a turret mechanic and rose the ranks to become a Tank Commander. In his seventh year with the National Guard Armory he was a recruiter before being discharged in 1977.
Mr. Short earned a bachelor’s degree from Fairleigh Dickenson University, after which he owned and operated an insurance company for 36 years. In addition, Mr. Short served his community by volunteering in Washington Township for over twenty years with the Environmental Commission, the Planning Board, and on the Township Committee.
Mr. Short has been married to his wife, Susanne, for 53 years. Together they have two adult children, Lisa and Michael. His favorite hobbies include golf and traveling.
“Look Back on a Fallen Morris County Hero.”
Morris County Memorial Day Observance 2023
Morris County does not forget its heroes, especially those who have fallen in combat or during military service.
We have made it a tradition to recognize at least one by name at our Memorial Day Observance, and this year we look back on George W. Cook who died in the Philippine War, a conflict overshadowed in history by the Spanish-American War.
On Feb. 15, 1898, the sinking of the U.S.S. Maine in Havana Harbor lead to the battle cry, “Remember the Maine,” and by April 21st of that year, America was at war with Spain.
George Cook, born in Morristown on Sept. 3, 1875, was 22 years old when he enlisted in the U.S. Army on June 3, 1898 and landed in Company M with the 2nd New Jersey Volunteer Infantry.
After training in Sea Girt, he was stationed in Florida before returning to New Jersey, where he was confined to his home after showing symptoms of Typhoid Fever. He missed the War with Spain. By December 1898, the war ended with an armistice by which Spain left dominion of Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines to the United States.
But that triggered the Philippine-American War in which American soldiers fought from February 1899 into 1902, to suppress many of the same Filipino insurgents who had been revolting against Spain. Mr. Cook re-enlisted for service, and he was attached to the United States Army, 4th Regiment and deployed to Luzon.
It was there, near the City of Imus on June 18, 1899, that Private George Cook was shot in the temple and instantly died. The U.S. lost far more troops in the battles in the Philippines than in its entire conflict with Spain.
Private Cook was returned home for burial in Morristown, where fellow veterans from Company M served as his pall bearers: W. E. Roderman, George Abras, Fred Minderman, Al Stites, Tom Gilligan and Charles Eudal.
His funeral was held practically right around the corner at the Church of the Assumption on Maple Ave. TAPS was blown by Civil War veteran George Hessey as Private George Cook was laid to rest in St. Mary’s Cemetery.