By Matthew Sockol
FREEHOLD – A pocket park on Throckmorton Street in Freehold Borough will be rededicated to a resident who gave his life for his country in World War I.
At 11 a.m. May 7, Mayor Nolan Higgins will rededicate Gere Park to Cpl. James A. Gere, who was the first Freehold resident to die in World War I. The park is on Throckmorton Street between Main and Broad streets and borders the bus station parking lot.
According to borough historian Kevin Coyne, Gere was born on July 29, 1891, and lived at 16 Center St. Before the war, he worked as a bartender.
Gere enlisted in the U.S. Army on March 17, 1918, as a private and was promoted to corporal on May 6, 1918, according to a 2012 News Transcript article about Gere Park.
According to Coyne, Gere served in Company G, 39th Infantry, Fourth Division.
Gere sustained wrist, thigh and head injuries at Château-Thierry, France, on Aug. 7, 1918, and died in a hospital on Aug. 30 at the age of 27, according to Coyne. At the time of his death, Gere was not married and had no children.
The park was initially dedicated to Gere on Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1928, the 10th anniversary of the war’s end. A plaque that remains in place at the park notes that a tree dedicated to Gere was planted on that date. However, according to a newspaper article provided by Coyne, the tree was planted on July 4, 1919.
According to former councilman John Newman, who spoke about Gere Park during a Borough Council meeting in 2012, the tree at the park in 2012 was not the 1919/1928 tree that was dedicated to Gere. He said The tree that was in the park in 2012 was a replacement tree that had been planted in 1961.
The May 7 rededication follows the restoration of Gere Park, which began in 2012 when Newman suggested that the park be restored to better honor Gere’s memory.
According to Higgins, refurbishments and enhancements at the small park included the removal of trees, the grading of the site and the trimming of bushes.