The “Kneeling Soldier At Cross” memorial that was removed from the front of the Roselle Park Veterans Memorial Library (RPVML) has found a new home at Chuch of the Assumption.
The silhouette was the center of a controversy in Roselle Park regarding whether or not its placement on public property, and subsequent approval by council by a 3-2 vote at the August 18th Mayor & Council meeting, was unconstitutional due to the cross-shaped silhouette. In late July, Carl Hokanson, in his capacity as mayor, had the memorial – which he donated as a private citizen – installed by the Department of Public Works (DPW) in front of the library. This was followed by a formal complaint filed by Greg Storey, spouse of Councilwoman Charlene Storey, and the American Humanist Association (AHA) to have the donation removed. After the August vote, a lawsuit was filed by Mrs. Storey, acting as a private resident, her husband, and the AHA in federal court in late September. Earlier this month, the memorial was removed and the resolutions approving the acceptance and placement were formally rescinded unanimously by council.
“The one from the library, Father Jim [Spera] called me and asked me if he could have it so I gave it to Father Jim which was, I think, installed today,” said Mr. Hokanson, speaking as a private resident. He also stated that the installation was done by the groundskeeper of the church this morning and that no taxpayer money was spent for that installation on private property.
In addition to that memorial, Carl Hokanson also donated a second one to the American Legion Post 60, which is also private property. Mr. Hokanson stated, “The American Legion, when they found out I was doing this, they asked for one. It took the gentleman about a month to make it. We were there Saturday and we donated one to the American Legion, Post 60.”
Commander George Szollosi of American Legion Post 60 remarked, “We like it. We had a vote on it and we accepted it. It’s a tribute for members that passed away and our comrades that fought in war.”
Reverend Spera was away and was not able to comment for the article.
Mr. Hokanson said that he is still getting requests from residents to place more donations on their property, commenting, “Right now, I’m getting overwhelmed by them. I’ve got orders for 20 smaller ones. I think I have one or two businesses that want the big ones so I will check with them. I’m doing my best to keep up with the orders.”