Veteran museum collection grows; seeks new space

The unofficial military museum located at the Dormi & Sons Funeral Home is breaching capacity and ready to move. - Photo by Justine Manzano

As the Bronx’ unique veteran’s historical hot spot continues to grow, the search remains for a new site for the borough’s unofficial military museum.

Breaching it’s capacity as an unexpected fixture in the John Dormi & Sons Funeral Home, 1121 Morris Park Avenue, museum curator and founder Joseph Garofalo said he’s continuing his nearly decade long search to find a suitable space for the growing collection. 

“We’re limited for space where we are,” the Morris Park resident said. “If we had a proper place we could accept more of these artifacts.”

The collection of more than 100 varied relics gives visitors insight into military history, going back as far as World War I.

“We have all these little artifacts, which are really interesting,” Garofalo said, referencing the variety of items such as military knives, a mess kit and a World War II helmet.

Unique to the collection are Garofalo’s own contributions from when he served in the war with the Fourth Marine Division in the Central Pacific.

“I’d had them in my house for such a long time, so I though it was time to share them with the public,” he said about, among others, his coveted World War II canteen, Japanese currency and a Japanese dog tag.

Though he wasn’t the original owner, Garofalo said he’s still very attached to a Japanese hand grenade he purchased at a gun show approximately 35 years ago.

“That to me; that’s my souvenir,” he said, explaining his near death experience from a grenade during his own military service that helped prompt his desire to create a museum. 

Always wanting to further educate the community, Garofalo said he plans on eventually including the piece in the museum’s growing collection.

Funded by area veterans, the exhibit’s newest addition is a proud mounted display of uniforms from the United States Army, Navy, Marine Corp and Air Force, from World War I through the Vietnam War.

“It’s interesting for our community,” Garofalo said.  “They like looking at the different uniforms through the years.”

Oddly enough, he explained that a number of the museum’s guests are families visiting the funeral home during a memorial service.

Nonetheless, he figures, education is education, believing that the more the community learns about their obscure location at a corner of the funeral home, the faster the museum will grow.

“If we do expand, whatever we have here would stay,” Garofalo explained about maintaining a home base at the facility that’s so generously hosted the makeshift museum for the past three years.

While Garofalo continues to hold out hope for an official Bronx Veterans Museum, at 87, he said he hopes a younger, able audience will step up for this worthy cause.

For more information or to donate, call the funeral home at (718) 863-2000.

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