HAMILTON TOWNSHIP — Gary Baker sat down at the folding table and took out photos and a booklet.
If Atlantic County was going to start a veterans’ museum, he wanted it to include a record of his half-brother Irvin Baker’s time as a Marine in the World War II battle of Iwo Jima.
Museum advisers June Sheridan and Stu Lockhart marveled at the details in the photos and the lengthy story Gary Baker, 63, of Atlantic City, set down in front of them.
“Having this to go along with the photos really tells everything and allows it to come alive,” said Sheridan, who also serves as Egg Harbor Township’s historian.
Atlantic County’s Veterans History Museum Committee took donations of military memorabilia Saturday afternoon at the Mays Landing branch of the county’s Free Public Library. The county plans to open a veterans’ history museum at the historic Estell Manor House in Estell Manor early next year.
The house is the former home of Rebecca Estell Bourgeois Winston, New Jersey’s first female mayor. The county bought the 1832 home in 1993, but it has remained unoccupied. It is adjacent to a county park and veterans’ cemetery.
County officials are particularly interested in items that tell a story of a local resident’s time in the service, said Cindy Mason-Purdie, administrator of the county’s Office of Cultural Affairs. People interested in donating fill out a sheet, she said, that acknowledges the items are loaned or donated. The paper also asks for contact information and a description of the material.
The county plans to hold other, similar events in the future. It hopes to receive artifacts from conflicts from the Revolutionary War to the present day. She said that county residents have long served in different theaters of war, throughout the world. It is this story they want to preserve with artifacts.
“The whole idea is to have information about these people and their service, and honor them through exhibits and educational programs and so on,” Mason-Purdie said.
On Saturday, members of the county veterans’ committee took in donations. Different people brought in World War II uniforms from the Army, Navy and Marines. Much of what was donated appeared to be World War II vintage, driven by people wanting to find a way to commemorate a family member’s part in a global conflict.
Carmen Simpkins, of the Milmay section of Buena Vista Township, brought in the medals and discharge papers of her father, Carman A. Siciliano. He was honorably discharged from the Army at Fort Dix on Aug. 19, 1945, after fighting in North Africa and Europe.
“This is a legacy that we’re losing for our children and our grandchildren,” veterans committee member Earl Cain said.
“Basically, you’re looking at American history right here,” committee member Marco Polo Smigliani said. He added later, “Today you take out the trash in the rain and you’re a hero. These are the real American heroes.”
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