HAWTHORNE, N.J. -- The Borough of Hawthorne announced plans this year to honor four men who died in military service by dedicating street signs in their names as part of a program called Operation Fallen Hero.
Since the program to recognize the sacrifice of servicemen from Hawthorne who died during World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War started by Mayor Richard S. Goldberg in 2011, 28 street signs have been dedicated. This year's dedications would bring the total to 32.
“It brings a great sense of closure for the family and friends,” said Goldberg, who was encouraged by the response from people who attended the first dedication in honor of Lance Cpl. William Dutchess, the first U.S. Marine from Hawthorne who was killed in Vietnam. “I think that in the Billy Dutchess case, his friends were getting older and they saw their own mortality. At the time they wanted to find a way to keep Billy alive. Because if they kept Billy alive, they kept themselves alive. But every soldier has a compelling story -- the sacrifices that they made. There were also two cousins that died in Korea. Some we’ve been able to dedicate on the day that they died.”
Paul Chepurko, the coordinator of Operation Fallen Hero Coordinator who wrote a self-published book in 2014 on the 76 fallen heroes from Hawthorne and North Haledon called “Small Town -- Big Sacrifice,” said the town has an order in which it roles out the dedications: priority goes to the heroes with surviving mothers and wives, followed by children, brothers and sisters, then nieces and nephews.
He expects the program to continue another five years or so.
Below is a list the date and time of the dedication, name of the servicemen, date of death, home address and sign location. Additionally listed is any family members planning to attend.
- May 1, 1 p.m.
Pvt. Theodore K. Wiech, U.S. Army
Killed in Action: March 6, 1945 (World War II)
Home Address: 23 Elberon Ave.
Sign Location: Elberon Avenue and May Street
Attending: Unable to locate
Pfc. Bruce H. Mahnken, U.S. Army Air Force
Died: Jan. 10, 1945 (World War II)
Home Address: 48 Franklin Ave.
Sign Location: Franklin Avenue and May Street
Attending: Sons Bruce Mahnken Jr. and Bert Mahnken
- June 14, 1 p.m.
Pvt. Albert N. Riggenbach, U.S. Army
Killed in Action: Sept. 9, 1944 (World War II)
Home Address: 82 Mountain Ave.
Sign Location: Mountain Avenue
Attending: Sisters Helen Diebold and Alice Marion, as well as nieces and nephews
- Nov. 11. 1 p.m.
Technical Sgt. Delmar E. Smith, U.S. Army Air Force
Killed in Action: Aug. 14, 1943 (World War II)
Home Address: 49 Union Ave.
Sign Location: Union Street and Woodside Avenue
Attending: Family members