In remembrance: the memorials of Forest Hills
by Michael Perlman
May 22, 2018 | 2366 views | 0 0 comments | 133 133 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Every day, it is essential for Americans to hold in their hearts the memory of those who have committed their lives to defend our country. But with Memorial Day around the corner, it reinforces reasons to honor our local heroes who have exhibited American spirit at its finest.

In the center of MacDonald Park on Queens Boulevard between Yellowstone Boulevard and 70th Road stands the bronze statue of Captain Gerald MacDonald, the WWI captain who was born in 1882 and died during the war. The MacDonald family lived in a stately Georgian Colonial mansion at 110-19 72nd Drive.

MacDonald dug trenches and erected bridges, and was the youngest captain to pass away a few hours after his initial trip to the front line. A dedication ceremony for the renaming of the park was held on May 27, 1933.

“The ceremonies included a parade through Forest Hills by American Legion posts, Boy and Girl Scouts, and civic groups,” read an article in the New York Times from that time. “Colonel F.W. Stopford of the U.S. Army, who was the principal speaker at the ceremonies, praised Mr. MacDonald’s war service as an officer of engineers at the Battle of the Meuse-Argonne.”

The Gerald MacDonald Statue was dedicated on May 27, 1934, by Mayor Fiorello La Guardia after American Legion Post 630 allocated $1,500 at the request of WWI veteran Henry MacDonald, Gerald’s brother.

The statue was sculpted by Henry MacDonald’s brother-in-law, Frederic de Henwood, and designed by architect William Henry Deacy. The Captain Gerald MacDonald Post No. 613 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars was chartered in 1939 at its headquarters at 119-07 Sutphin Boulevard.

On Flagpole Green, originally known as Village Green in the Forest Hills Gardens, is an ornate Neo-Classical pink granite and green and gold bronze monument known as the WWI Soldiers & Sailors Memorial, which honors 102 residents.

It was dedicated in 1920 and designed by renowned sculptor Adolph Alexander Weinman, who lived nearby at 236 Greenway South and operated a studio at 234 Greenway South. The memorial reads, “Erected by the citizens of Forest Hills in recognition of the patriotic spirit and loyal devotion of the men of this community who served in the Military Forces of The United States in The Great War.”

Remsen Cemetery, a city landmark since 1981, is bounded by Trotting Course Lane and Alderton Street, and is the sole remnant of the community’s Colonial roots. Natives of northern Germany, the Remsen family immigrated in the 17th century, when the area was known as Whitepot. The site’s tombstones range from 1790 to 1819.

Jeromus Remsen, Sr. fought in the French and Indian War. As a colonel of the Kings and Queens County Militia in the Battle of Long Island, he commanded the 7th New York Regiment in the American Revolutionary War. Also buried at the site are Major Abraham Remsen, Captain Luke Remsen, Lieutenant Aurt Remsen and their families.

A survey in 1925 revealed brownstone grave inscriptions of Jeromus, Anna, Jerome (two), Cornelius, Ann Elizabeth, Bridget, and Major Abraham Remsen. The Veterans Administration erected non-brownstone graves that memorialize Colonel Remsen, Major Abraham Remsen, and brothers Aurt and Garrett Remsen, who were also Revolutionary War officers.

Today, the disappearance of some brownstone tombstones remains a mystery. Remsen Cemetery also has WWI memorial, which consists of two doughboy statues that flank a flagpole.

An annual tradition is the Forest Hills Memorial Day Parade. On Sunday at 11 a.m., a ceremony will be held in front of American Legion Continental Post 1424. At noon, a parade will proceed along Metropolitan Avenue from Ascan Avenue, culminating with speeches and a wreath-laying ceremony at Remsen Cemetery.
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