Ron Errickson, Jr.’s goal is to preserve New Jersey history by cleaning up veteran’s cemeteries in his free time.
Errickson began tidying cemeteries in 2020 when he found out that there were veteran burial grounds across the Garden State that were unkept, some untouched for decades.
Pine Brook Cemetery, located in Tinton Falls, is one of the cemeteries Errickson takes care of. The cemetery was established in 1852, and many of those interred there are Black soldiers who served in the Civil War. The small cemetery is filled with barely legible headstones, some burial plots only having a piece of wood to identify where a body was buried.
“Buried in the cemetery, I know there’s perhaps twenty former U.S. Colored Troops,” Robert Grant, a local historian, said. “They served in the Civil War, and fought for the North.”
Errickson, who works two jobs, dedicates his weekends to maintaining the cemetery. He lives in Jamesburg, located about 40 minutes away. Errickson said although gas prices are high, it’s worth the drive.
“I felt it was needed, to clean it up with the spare time I have instead of sitting down in the house not doing a thing,” said Errickson.
He has spent over 34 hours volunteering his time at the cemetery, with the cleanup still in progress. Earlier this month, he spent his 32nd birthday working at the burial grounds. Some of the work Errickson performs is leaf, stick and limb removal, leaf blowing, weed whacking, chainsawing dead trees and raking.
“It was worth being there ‘cause I wouldn’t have what I have today without our veterans and servicemen and women who fought for us and who are still fighting for us,” said Erickkson.
Errickson has tried to organize volunteers, but that has been difficult, adding he’s thankful for any time donated to help him preserve the site. Errickson, when he is not working, will spend this Memorial Day weekend back at the cemetery.
The last known work done at the cemetery took place between 2008-09 as part of an Eagle Scout service project by Alex Johnson, a member of Troop 49.
Tucked away in a local forest, the cemetery is owned by the St. Thomas A.M.E. Zion Church. In 2004, it was declared a local historic site by Tinton Falls. Scattered throughout the grounds are American flags on the burial plots designated as being where a Black veteran burial in interred.
Errickson believes these cemeteries should be maintained at least once a week in an effort to preserve these burial grounds, and their connection to the past.
“We have an issue in the state, let alone this county, about history just being left in ruins with our veterans that helped us get to where we are today,” said Errickson. “Any help is better than no help.”
Our journalism needs your support. Please subscribe today to NJ.com.
Amethyst Martinez can be reached at