Two years ago, Terry Lee and Bill Nixon sat on a park bench. They had recently completed a veterans memorial in the Lopatcong Municipal Park, but they wanted something more. Something positive. They wanted to find a way to bring not only veterans but the entire community together.
They wanted, in military parlance, a rally point. And so the community will soon be able to rally around Terry. Lee fell ill not long after that meeting in the park, and in January succumbed to brain cancer at age 68. But even in death, the man referred to as "Mr. Warren County" still has found a way to honor his fellow veterans.
A pavilion called the veterans rally point will be dedicated 1 p.m. May 29 to all servicemen and women missing or killed in action, as well as to Lee's memory, said Nixon, who chairs the nonprofit Phillipsburg Area Veterans group and frequently collaborated with Lee on projects.
After 26 years as Warren County's clerk, Lee, a Harmony Township resident, was active in military affairs, planning and frequently appearing at local memorials and services. Almost every week for 12 years, Lee — a Coast Guard veteran from the Vietnam era — drove to the Coast Guard Training Center in Cape May to represent Coast Guard veterans at an estimated 400 graduations. But he still tried to avoid personal attention or praise.
"Honestly, he'll have to get over it," Nixon said Tuesday of the dedication. "I know he wasn't one for splashing his name around, but in this particular case he was very much a part of it, part of the planning, so I think it's fitting."
The May 29 dedication will include a Memorial Day bell ceremony and a Blackhawk military helicopter landing. Then, in the community spirit of the rally point, there will be live music for residents to enjoy.
"I hope this veterans rally point brings our community together," Nixon said. "That's the kind of things Terry and I talked about."
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