Contact: Beth Bozzelli, Clerk of the Board – (609) 465-1070
Cape May Court House, NJ (Nov. 15, 2017) Cape May County’s Veterans Day Ceremony observed on Sat., Nov. 11 took on further meaning for Freeholder Director Gerald M. Thornton. In honor of Thornton’s career-long dedication to the nearly 8,000 Veterans currently living in Cape May County, the Freeholder Board has rededicated and renamed the Cape May County Veterans Cemetery as the Gerald M. Thornton Veterans Cemetery.
Thornton, a U.S. Air Force Veteran, was recognized by the Board of Chosen Freeholders for his leadership and dedication to the creation of the cemetery. Freeholder Vice-Director Leonard Desiderio, Freeholders E. Marie Hayes, Will Morey and Jeffrey Pierson, joined by the Clerk of the Board Beth Bozzelli, Director of Operations Michael Laffey, and Veteran’s Bureau Director Virginia Tomlin celebrated the occasion by presenting a framed copy of the original Resolution authorizing the creation of the Cape May County Veterans Cemetery.
“I am really taken with this honor. I want to thank my fellow Veterans. Anything that I have done to receive this honor, I have done to acknowledge your sacrifice,” Thornton said.
“I would also like to thank the current and former Freeholder Boards. Without their support, the creation of the Veterans Cemetery and the Veterans’ Bureau would not have been possible,” he added.
The Veterans Cemetery, which was first dedicated in 1980, has been serving as the final resting place for the County’s Veterans and their spouses for 37 years. When the 17.6-acre cemetery was officially opened in Cape May County, it was the second burial site for veterans in the state and one of two counties in the nation with a local cemetery for its veterans.
Thornton’s work to create a cemetery dedicated to the service of our local men and women began in 1977. At the time, as the Freeholder Liaison of the Department of Health, Welfare and Charities, he worked with local veterans and proposed the County
owned land to the Freeholder Board. With a unanimous vote to move forward, Thornton met with local veterans who requested a Veterans Cemetery in the County because the
nearest federal Veterans burial sites were in Long Island and western Pennsylvania. When the cemetery plan was announced, there were 8,500 County veterans and their spouses who would have access to free burial plots.
History was made in May of 1980 when the Cape May County Veterans Cemetery was opened with room for 6,300 grave sites. On the opening day of the Veterans Cemetery, Thornton considered his work with the Veterans’ Organizations in establishing the County’s Veterans Cemetery “as one of his most rewarding accomplishments of my career.”
Thornton expressed the same sentiment on Veterans Day when he told the audience that “the creation of the Veterans Cemetery is my proudest accomplishment.” “Every time I hear the Pledge of Allegiance, I feel such pride; and when I hear taps, I feel such sadness for the sacrifice that it represents.”
Pictured from Left: Veteran’s Bureau Director Virginia Tomlin, Director of Operations Michael Laffey, Clerk of the Board Beth Bozzelli, Freeholder Vice-Director Leonard Desiderio, Freeholder Director Gerald M. Thornton, Freeholder Jeffrey