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Flagpole to honor those killed 9/11

“I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to these...

By Alex Ginsberg

Ed Shusterich was beaming last Thursday morning as public officials, veterans and about 30 Middle Village residents turned out for the dedication of the new flagpole on the east lawn of Juniper Valley Park.

“I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to these local elected officials who responded so positively to my requests for funding,” he said. “Without their support and assistance, this project would never have been possible.”

Shusterich, the 73-year-old Juniper Valley Park warden and president of the Pullis Farm Cemetery Historical Landmark thanked Councilman Dennis Gallagher (R-Middle Village) for his $2,500 donation and state Sen. Serphin Maltese (R-Glendale), who was not present at the ceremony, for a $3,150 contribution.

U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Kew Gardens), who unlike city councilmen and members of the state Legislature does not have discretionary funds, arranged for an additional $1,000 to be donated by the United Parcel Service.

Combined with another $1,000 from IBM and a $4,000 grant from the City Park Foundation, the money was enough to purchase the gleaming white, 45-foot flagpole and lay a foundation for it at the corner of Dry Harbor Road and Juniper Boulevard North.

“This was Ed’s dream,” Gallagher said during the festivities. “Not only to have a flagpole but also to revitalize the whole area.”

Shusterich, who has restored the east lawn over the past decade, continues to help improve the park by organizing groups of volunteers to clean up litter and keep the nearby historic Pullis Cemetery beautiful.

But the addition of the flagpole, which now flies the banners of the United States, New York state and the city Parks Department is also meant as a tribute to the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.

“There are many families in our community for whom a reminder is superfluous,” Weiner said, noting that many firefighers and police officers from Middle Village, Ridgewood, Glendale and Maspeth died in the attacks.

But he added that future generations of children might walk by the flagpole and ask their parents about it.

“I hope they are told the story of Sept. 11,” he said.

And members of the Catholic War Veterans Post 1172 were moved to see the Stars and Stripes over a park most of them have lived near for the better part of a century.

“It means we’ve done our job properly,” said Victor LaMagna, a 73-year-old Korean War veteran. “We did fight for the flag and will fight for the flag.”

But George Fantry, 82, who served in the Pacific during World War II, was not sure others would understand the monument’s importance.

“Let’s hope the people who pass by respect it,” he said.

Reach reporter Alex Ginsberg by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

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