I was very disappointed in years past to see that my father’s memorial plaque was not in place by the Nativity in Pearl River as it was meant to be since 1966.
My father, Edward J Smith Jr., was a fair and honest businessman known for his dedication to helping others in times of need. He was a sworn Deputy Sheriff and volunteered his services as Parole Officer. His real estate and insurance business on Franklin Avenue thrived. My father, however, measured his success by the people he served with both honesty and integrity. He often opened our home to those who had lost their homes in a fire. On Christmas Eve, my mother would start preparing for the full Christmas turkey dinner. Our doors were opened to the police department until dawn; police cruisers would come by and officers would have a hot turkey dinner in thanks for all they did throughout the year for the community in Pearl River.
In the mid 60’s, the Nativity remained behind closed doors because the statues were in dire need of repairs and refurbishing. My father took the initiative to locate it and put forth the money and effort to do what was needed to bring the Nativity back for public display. He formed a committee and they all worked tirelessly until the task was complete.
In December of 1965, my father passed. In December of 1966 our family were honored to hear that there would be a dedication and plaque erected acknowledging my father and his good works. This was a project made possible by the Jaycees and each year thereafter, during the Christmas season the plaque was placed next to the Manger as a memorial to my father. For the past few years, however, no one could locate the plaque.
My nephew was able to locate the plaque this year and installed it next to the Manger as it had been before it was lost. The Crèche’ Committee made it clear they were not happy with the plaque being placed next to the manger. My nephew was told that it was 50 years old and no longer belonged next to the Manger. He was told that many others had kept watch over the Manger since his grandfather’s passing and it should no longer be placed next to the manger. While the presence of the plaque was under debate, this year’s Nativity was dedicated to the 20 school children that recently lost their lives in the Sandy Hook School shooting in Connecticut. There was an assembly during which the names of the children were read from a list. This list was then duct-taped over the E.J. Smith Jr. memorial plaque. Perhaps more time and thought could have been spent framing the names of the children and placing the frame at the base of the Manger. I found this to be disrespectful to the children and to my father.
In closing, I hope and pray that my father’s memorial plaque will be found in its rightful place, next to the Manger, for years to come. After all, aren’t memorials timeless, created so future generations can learn from the goodness done by those who have gone before them?
Thank you for your time.
Barbara A Smith
Editor's note: Bob Reers of the creche committee did not respond to inquiries regarding this letter.