UPPER PITTSGROVE TWP. – On a hot July day, people gathered around a small set of stones and bricks constructed in front of a cornfield in the middle of Upper Pittsgrove Township. The stones and bricks were built to make a roadside monument with the name John R. Elliott.
The monument to former Navy ensign John Elliott was officially dedicated Friday afternoon, one day before the 17th anniversary of his death. The monument was upgraded by members of Bricklayers Local 5 and Ironworkers Local 399. Adding to the monument, the state house and senate unanimously passed a law designating a stretch of Route 40 as John R. Elliott HERO Campaign Way.
Prior to the dedication, the Salem County Sheriff’s Office Honor Guard presented the colors while corrections officer Donna Cuff sang the national anthem. One by one, people came up to the podium to talk about Elliott, the impact of the monument and the HERO Foundation created to prevent drunk driving deaths.
“Hopefully it makes some people pause and reflect a little bit that a young man lost his life here at the hands of a drunk driver and a reminder that drunk driving shouldn’t happen,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney. “This was a man who did everything right with his life and lost his life on the way to see his mother on her birthday. When people go by, it should make people think twice before they drink and drive.”
Salem County Undersheriff and Warden John Cuzzupe emceed the event. Cuzzupe was one of the people that investigated the accident.
“It is an honor that they would include us in this event,” Cuzzupe said. “I know it is bittersweet for them. They hurt every day. The bottom line is we still need to be here and never forget that they did lose their son. I saw the newspaper article and I asked them if they would like to have some support with the honor guard and the singing of the national anthem. It all came together very nicely.”
The people who were impacted the most by this monument were the Elliott family.
“It’s absolutely beautiful,” said John’s father William Elliott. “We couldn’t be prouder of this memorial and we couldn’t be sadder because we lost our son as the price of this. This is a symbol for all the people that were effected by victims of DUI and not just our son. He represents and symbolizes the reason our nation should be ending drunk driving.”