Photo courtesy of the Historical Society of East Orange

Posted May 26, 2014
By Greg Hatala
The Star-Ledger
No Longer Accessible on the Star Ledger Web Site

EAST ORANGE — This photo, taken on May 30, 1950, shows the dedication of the World War II Memorial in East Orange. The memorial, located at the southwest corner of City Hall Plaza, displays the names of the men and women of the city who served in the war.

This year’s (2014) Memorial Day activities in East Orange will begin May 26 with a wreath-laying ceremony at City Hall Plaza at 9 a.m. followed by a parade at 11 a.m. starting at the corner of Central and South Arlington avenues.

Memorial Day 2018 - Memorial Day Parade 2015 - Memorial Day 2014 - Memorial Day Parade 2013 - Memorial Day 2012

Memorial Day 2011 - Memorial Day 2010 -

East Orange Delegation to Support Designation of VA Hospital as Historic Site

East Orange, NJ, July 18, 2017: A delegation of over 50 seniors, veterans, and employees will be heading to the state capitol on Thursday, July 20th to demonstrate support for the designation of the East Orange Veterans Administration Hospital as a national historic site.

A public hearing will be held at 10am in the Department of Environmental Protection Building at 401 East State Street in Trenton, NJ. All are welcome to attend. Director of Property Maintenance Dwight Saunders and Director of Public Safety Sheilah Coley, both veterans, will be leading the delegation on behalf of Mayor Lester E. Taylor III and the City of East Orange.

Built in the modern Art Deco architectural style in 1950 and opened in 1952, the East Orange complex — with its nine original buildings — is one of only two VA New Jersey Health Care Campuses in the State of New Jersey. Constructed to serve veterans returning from World War II, the 32-acre was the former estate of retail mogul Louis Bamberger of L. Bamberger & Co. Department Store in Newark, NJ. Designed by the architecture firm of Ziegler, Childs, & Paulsen, the hospital has remained a leading researcher and health care provider for nearly seven decades.
In the early 60s, one of the VA’s pioneering researchers, Dr. Oscar Auerbach, proved the connection between smoking and lung cancer which ultimately led to the Surgeon General’s health warning on cigarette packages. In the 90s, the hospital continued its trailblazing research and became one of three VA hospitals to study the effects of environmental hazards on veterans of the Persian Gulf War.

“The East Orange Veterans Administration Hospital is much more than a historical landmark. It is a place where ground-breaking history was made, transforming health care not just for veterans, but for everyone living in the United States of America. With the quality of care of our veterans currently under much criticism and scrutiny, East Orange is proud to be home to a model program for providing exceptional care to improve the health and wellbeing of our veterans,” said Mayor Lester E. Taylor III. “By designating the East Orange VA as a historic site, the State of New Jersey is officially preserving a rich legacy of service and compassionate care that this facility has provided for those who have sacrificed the most.”

Class Ring

Found Class Ring - 1950

Helen B. Van Ness Red Cross Uniform

We received the following e-mail today (08/30/18) from Susan Van Ness:

"I found my grandmother’s World War II Red Cross Uniform while going through boxes. The Red Cross museum already has one of these uniforms in their collection, but provided me with your contact information as an organization that may know of historical societies that may have facilities with a World War II display. I hate to throw this away if it has some historical value.

"Thanks for your guidance,
Susan Van Ness"

We are currently trying to help Susan Van Ness find a location in East Orange where the uniform can be on display along with other East Orange Historical artifacts.

Follow-up - 09/04/18: Susan has been contacted by Richetta Lobban of The Historical Society of East Orange who has said they would love to have her grandmother’s uniform. When it is on display, I will post the information on its location here.

Helen B. Van Ness in full uniform, circa World War II

Helen Van Ness (born Butterworth Parmelee) was born on August 2, 1896 in Elizabeth, NJ to Arthur and Louise Parmelee (born Warren). On March 23, 1918 Helen married Elwood Benson Van Ness (born on October 6 1895, in Newark, NJ) in Elizabeth, NJ. They raised their 2 children – Robert Parmelee Van Ness and John Hoole Van Ness – in Maplewood, NJ.

Throughout my childhood, my grandmother often shared memories about her time working with the Red Cross. She felt it was quite an honor to serve her country during World War II while both of her sons served in the US Navy.

“When I was 14, Grandmother shared the rule that they were never to let the gas tank get below due to gas rationing. This was particularly memorable – a rule that I have lived by my entire life!”

After retirement, Helen and Elwood split their time at homes in Putney, VT and Venice, FL. Helen passed away on December 1, 1983, at age 87 in Venice, Florida. She was buried at the Pompton Plains Reformed Church in Pompton Plains, NJ.

Veterans Note: Son, John Van Ness, born 30 May 1921 and died 28 May 2005 (aged 83), is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Arlington County, Virginia, USA; PLOT - Sec: 60, Site: 1788.

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