UPPER PITTSGROVE TWP. — Volunteer union workers spent Friday making upgrades to the roadside memorial placed at the spot where a U.S. Navy Ensign tragically lost his life because of a drunken driver.
“It’s a wonderful feeling to come out here with organized labor and our apprentices,” said Richard Tolson who is director of the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local 5. “The skills that they are learning and the noble effort that they are doing for their community and their family is just a great thing to be part of.”
The volunteers gathered at the memorial to John Elliott at 895 U.S. Route 40, between Poles Tavern Circle and Slabtown Road.
It was at that site while headed to home from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., that the 22-year-old Elliott was killed in a head-on crash with a drunken driver on July 22, 2000.
Elliott’s tragic death resulted in state legislation, John’s Law, and the formation of the HERO Campaign begun to prevent others from dying on roads because of careless drinking.
On Friday, the first phase of the enhancements to the memorial, the laying of bricks, was completed. Next, Ironworkers Local 399 will be placing a railing around the memorial. According to Bricklayers Local 5, the material was donated by the local business EP Henry.
Bob Alesandro, the New Jersey State Apprentice Coordinator, was one of the men who helped work on the project.
“It’s a great opportunity for these young men to come get some real practical experience, especially to anybody who is going to be in the service as this young man was going to be,” said Alesandro. “It’s a pleasure to honor him, come here and do this project.”
William Elliott, John’s father, began the HERO Campaign for Designated Drivers in honor of his son.
HERO stands for Human Education Resource Officer, a title John Elliott obtained while in the Naval Academy.
The campaign encourages people to become designated drivers and to toughen penalties for people who drive while under the influence. Through their efforts, they were able to pass John’s Law. The legislation allowed police to impound a vehicle for up to 12 hours if the person arrested under the influence may be a threat after released.
Had that law been in effect back in 2000, John Elliott may have still been alive.
On that July night, Michael Pangle had been arrested for driving under the influence. A friend picked him up at a police station and then, instead of taking him home, took Pangle back to his vehicle.
Still drunk, news accounts said at the time, Pangle got back on the road and hit Elliott’s vehicle head-on. Both Pangle and Elliott died in the crash.
William Elliott said this week his family appreciates the work of the union members.
“We are very grateful to the bricklayers and also to the Iron Workers who will be putting a railing around the site,” he said. “We think it’s going to be a notable site in New Jersey that will make a very important point to all who pass by.”
“It is a tribute to a young man who would have done great things, had he lived, but now is doing great things through the HERO campaign as part of his everlasting legacy. It is part of his immortality. His spirit will live on through the HERO campaign and his memorial well beyond our lives. That is our hope and that is our goal.”
A monument dedication is planned for later this year.
By Chris Franklin | May 15, 2017 | Source