After first being announced last October, the Fourth of July seems an appropriate time for the renaming of Veterans' Park in honor of J. Robert Tracey.
The official naming of The J. Robert Tracey Veterans Memorial Park, at South Street and Madison Avenue, will begin at 10 a.m. on Wednesday. Tracey, as well as Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty and Morris Township Mayor Peter Mancuso are expected to speak at the event.
Tracey, 86, has for years been an advocate and aid to veterans affairs in Morristown, including fundraising as well as refurbishing the various monuments around town, Councilman Anthony Cattano said. He was one of the proponents for the name change .
"I believe it's important because of what's he's accomplished for vets in Morristown," Cattano said. "I'm not talking about his war record, but what he's accomplished afterward for veterans. He deserves this recognition."
Cattano is no stranger to renamings, as High Street became Cattano Avenue in 1991 after his father, former mayor Anthony Cattano Sr. That renaming event also was held on the Fourth of July. One of the Master of Ceremonies for that event 21 years ago? J. Robert Tracey.
While Cattano's father did not live to a street renamed in his honor, he said it was going to be great Tracey's children–and Tracey himself–would be in attendance for the July 4th event. "I'm sure there will be a lot of happy people, including a lot of veterans," Cattano said.
A temporary sign will be unveiled at the event, with plans to open a fundraising account to pay for full landscaping later this summer.
When the resolution to rename the park was passed in October, Tracey said it would be "a beautiful thing" to pass the corner of South Street and Madison Avenue and see a sign with his name on it.
"I'm ecstatic," he said. "I've never had anything like this."
Tracey said at the time the honor called to mind the words of his friend and Morristown's first black police officer, James Gregory.
"When he was dying and we had a dinner in his honor and a street was named after him, he said, 'It's awful nice to get the flowers while you're alive because you can't smell them once you're dead.' That's exactly how I feel," Tracey said.