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Queens Chronicle

A living memorial is rededicated in Qns.

Forest Park Drive is co-named to honor Woodhaven World War I vets

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Posted: Thursday, May 25, 2017 10:30 am

Lt. Arthur Engles is an unfamiliar name to most in Woodhaven these days — but at the beginning of the 20th century, the young man was well known for running around the neighborhood and setting hurdling records at one of the old Madison Square Gardens.

Engles, like many his age, served overseas in World War I and, ironically, suffered a severe leg wound that eventually got infected. He died weeks later.

Back home, the residents of Woodhaven wanted to honor Engles and the dozens of others from the area who died in action.

They planted 70 trees along Forest Park Drive and decorated them every year around Memorial Day. The annual Memorial Day parade once ended where the trees stand.

The tradition soon faded away, due in part to the American Legion Post 118 moving its headquarters from the park when the city widened Woodhaven Boulevard, and the history of the trees was forgotten — until about two years ago, when the Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society rediscovered the significance of them.

Almost 100 years after the end of World War I, another memorial was dedicated to those who made the ultimate sacrifice when Forest Park Drive was co-named “Forest Park Memorial Drive” during a ceremony at the park last Saturday.

“Our people will learn this tradition and remember and honor the sacrifice of the 70 young men from Woodhaven who went there and never came home,” said Ed Wendell, executive director of the historical society and the one who pushed for the co-naming since late last year.

A street sign with the name was unveiled outside the Oak Ridge building.

Wendell had hoped to have the co-naming officially approved by the 100th anniversary of World War I’s armistice, but was able to do so well before with the support of several elected officials — including Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Glendale), who introduced the legislation to have the conaming authorized — and community organizations, such as American Legion Post 118.

“By co-naming this street Forest Park Memorial Drive, we believe this will be a lasting reminder for all those passing through the park of the sacrifices made to protect our country’s freedom,” Crowley said at the ceremony.

The trees and street sign are not the only memorials to war heroes in the park — Victory Field, Strack Pond and Sgt. Joseph E. Schaefer Oval are just some examples.

“Today’s co-naming continues the tradition in this park of remembering our heroes,” the councilwoman said.

For state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach), the sign will serve as a reminder of his duty as a lawmaker.

“It’s a reminder of the work we still have to do for the 900,000 veterans in our state,” he said, “in terms of healthcare, homelessness and the suicide rate. That’s what this co-naming is going to mean for me.”

In keeping with the tradition, Wendell and students from St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Academy decorated one of the trees with patriotic ribbons and American flags.

Welcome to the discussion.