SOUTH BRUNSWICK – Lawrence Cartolano “stepped up to the plate” when America entered into World War II.
At 19, he registered to join the U.S. Army and quickly headed into active service.
Cartolano served with the 784th Ordnance Light Maintenance Company of the 84th Infantry Division, which was nicknamed the “Railsplitters.”
He received the rank of specialist and earned a Bronze Star for his service.
In South Brunswick, his service was honored with a street dedication on Aug. 6. Family and friends of Cartolano, who passed away in 2019 at 97, celebrated the naming of the intersection of Holder Road with Kendall Road to “Cartolano Way.”
“It is such an honor to be connected to someone who is being recognized for what they did for their country. He was so proud to have served and for him to be honored I just cannot put it into words,” said Lauren Lepore, Cartolano’s daughter.
Lepore further said that she hopes when people come to Cartolano Way or hear her father’s story, they takeaway “a life well-lived.”
“He had seen a lot in those four years and to serve our country in any regard is an honor and a privilege. It should not be taken lightly,” Lepore said. “[My father and those he served with] should be proud. The camaraderie between them, they become a band of brothers that sees each other through the hard times.”
Family and friends were joined by South Brunswick municipal officials, neighboring township officials, members of the South Brunswick Township Police Department, veterans from Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 9111, and members of the South Brunswick Board of Education.
“We worked hard to get these signs for the veterans. We did a few so far, a lot have been WWII veterans,” said Bob Kelly, commander of VFW Post 9111. “People are respecting the veterans more when they see what we do. A lot of people do not have any idea what we did or went through in our service.”
Kelly said by doing the Veteran Street Sign dedications “the veterans they are honoring are getting more respect with the readings and writings of their service history.”
The township held its first Veteran Street Sign Dedication ceremony in 2019.
The township established the Veteran Street Sign program to recognize South Brunswick residents, who were wartime veterans with a secondary street sign on an existing municipal road.
“The mayor, Council and township think it is very important, that is why we established this Veteran Street Sign program. WWII ended a while ago and people forget,” Deputy Mayor Joe Camarota said. “One way to have it as an indelible memory is to have something like this. It is critical for people to realize what we had to fight for to stop this tyranny.”
According to a resolution recognizing Cartolano, the Veteran Street Sign program is designed “to promote and show appreciation for these veterans and their service in the American Armed Forces.”
“Men like Cartolano stood up and said, ‘I am going to try and stop this tyranny along with colleagues and friends’ and they did,” Camarota said. “These people are true heroes that sacrificed their lives in the ultimate sacrifice or injuries or memories that caused illness.”
The Rhineland [from Paris to the Rhine], Ardennes-Alsace [the Battle of the Bulge], and Central Europe [The Invasion of Germany] were European campaigns that Cartolano and 84th Infantry Division faced and served in.
The 84th Infantry Division also liberated two satellite camps of the Neuengamme Concentration Camp in 1945 – Ahlem [Hannover-Ahlem] on April 10 and Salzwedel, four days later on April 14.
He earned the Bronze Star for heroism in a combat zone in connection with military operations against the enemy in Belgium, Holland and Germany from 1944-45.
“We don’t want to lose that memory and Cartolano Way is not going anywhere. If that sign gets a little tarnished or worn out, we are going to put another one up,” Councilman Ken Bierman said. “That is in perpetuity in remembrance for what this gentleman did for the U.S., his family and Kendall Park.”
Bierman said those who served are “heroes that fight the oppression of people and tyranny going on in the world.”
“That is what we can’t forget,” he said.
Cartolano was a son of Italian immigrants. He was honorably discharged in January 1946 and returned to Staten Island, N.Y., where he raised his family. He eventually moved with his family to Kendall Park.
“This dedication is very important for us, especially for the immigrants. Our South Brunswick is very diverse community, and I want children to ask why the Cartolano name is here, so we can explain it to them,” Councilwoman Archana Grover said.
“I want to keep this going, have kids ask why signs are here throughout South Brunswick, and love this country.”
The 84th Infantry had reunions every year. Cartolano only started going in 1996.
Cartolano shared some light-hearted stories of his time of service.
“He usually told the same ones over again, because I think a lot of things were hard to talk about,” Lepore said.
One of those stories included the time her dad and his friend had to fix a Jeep and took it for a test drive.
“My father couldn’t drive for anything,” Lepore said. “He [ended] up trying to do a fancy turn when he was driving [and ended] up smashing the Jeep into a tree, so they had to fix it again so they would not get in trouble the next morning.”
Another story she relayed came from Cartolano’s days in basic training in the south.
“[The soldiers] are doing maneuvers at night and come across a watermelon patch. There they are with their bayonets and slicing into the watermelon,” Lepore said. “They were sucking the watermelon up, because they had been so thirsty and hungry. They were supposed to be experiencing what it was like to not eat or drink for hours or several days.”