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RED BANK: VETERANS MONUMENT RESTORATION PITCHED

Douglas Distefano of Monument Conservation Partners at the Red Bank Veterans Monument. (Photo by Brian Donohue. Click to enlarge.)

By BRIAN DONOHUE

When you walk past the Red Bank Veterans Monument on Monmouth Street maybe you take a quick notice of its plaques and three stone figures. Perhaps you give a mental nod to the heroism that inspired it. Or maybe you just notice the soldiers’ outdated clunky uniforms.

But Douglas Distefano notices a bunch of things the rest of us don’t. 

The monument has served as a backdrop for Veterans Day commemorations for decades. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

“There’s something funky growing on his hat,’’ he said, pointing up to the stone statue of a Civil War soldier.

Distefano notes the yellow and green stains from mold and lichen on various parts of the monument, and gaps in the granite where the mortar has worn away. And the bronze plaques stripped of their patina – and in some cases legibility – by 98 years of time and weather.

“It’s in terrible shape,’’ he says. 

Distefano is principal of Monument Conservation Partners, a company that restores and conserves bronze monuments, plaques and statues. 

He spoke at the borough council last week and told elected officials the monument needs a “complete restoration” to spruce it up and keep the damage from getting worse. And he’d like to be the one to do the job.

“I reside in Rumson,’’ he quipped before council. “I hope you don’t hold that against me.”

Borough manager Jim Gant told Distefano he would discuss the matter with the heads of the Department of Public Works and the Recreation Department to see if they think the work is necessary and whether the town is interested in hiring an outside contractor to do it. 

Lawyers would also need to research whether the job would have to go out to public bidding, Gant noted.

The statue, at the corner of Monmouth Street and Drummond Place, is titled “Handing Down Old Glory,” and depicts a Civil War Veteran handing the United States Flag to soldiers of World War I and the Spanish-American War, who flank him.

Bronze plagues on and around the statue pay homage to veterans and fallen heroes of World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Persian Gulf War.

Distefano estimates the work on the Red Bank monument would take about 150 hours, but declined to disclose a cost estimate while he is still seeking a contract for the work.

If borough officials agree with his assessment, Distefano said the work needs to be done by someone who specializes in monument restoration to make sure it’s done right and will last another 98 years.

That hasn’t always been the case, he said, noting it appears someone painted over some of the bronze plaques on the Red Bank Memorial.

“That’s like a crime to paint bronze,’’ he said. “That’s like buying a mint ’64 Corvette and deciding paint it purple.”

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