Sports

Long Blue Line of Police Cyclists Stretches Through Somerville; Police Unity Tour Heads to Nation’s Capital to Honor Fallen Officers

61c3907720a812809716_sompixunitytour2017vitowaves.JPG
Somerville police officer Vito Spadea, on bike at left, waves to Somerville Police Chief Dennis Manning and other police officers watching the Unity Tour pass through the borough. Credits: Rod Hirsch
f9f4542e241e2ce74e25_sompixunitytour2017group.JPG
Police cyclists pedal through Somerville on their way to Washington, DC Credits: Rod Hirsch
2a768544fc3142bb7b87_sompixunitytour2017copterflag.JPG
A State Police helicopter flies overhead as police cyclists pass beneath an American flag draped on a Somerville Fire Department truck's extension ladder. Credits: Rod Hirsch
1e02f5f0aa2a1f5c7501_sompixunitytour2017helmetflags.JPG
A police officer's helmet is decorated with flags and medallions. Credits: Rod Hirsch
245d360eda94eb357472_sompixunitytour2017photo.JPG
A police cyclists takes pictures of the crowd as he pedals through Somerville. Credits: Rod Hirsch
6ee0fe57281c09585f50_sompixunitytour2017signs.JPG
Signs of support for their police offices were spotted in yesterday's crowd along Main Street in Somerville. Credits: Rod Hirsch
61c3907720a812809716_sompixunitytour2017vitowaves.JPG

                SOMERVILLE, NJ – Borough police officer Vitorio Spadea, along with hundreds of police officers from scores of police agencies throughout New Jersey rode into town Tuesday, May 9 on their way to Washington, DC where they will join with police from across the country to honor their brothers killed in the line of duty.

Spadea normally rides with fellow Somerville police officer Tim Franks who was unable to ride this year as he is recovering from a torn Achilles tendon suffered in a PBA flag football game a few months ago.

                The four-day Police Unity Tour is commemorating its 21th anniversary May 9-12, with police from around the country converging on the nation’s capital to pay tribute to the slain officers and the families left behind.

Sign Up for E-News

The fifth day, May 13th, will be filled by a candlelight vigil and ceremonies at the National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial and Museum.

“It’s all about honoring those whose families are now suffering from the loss of their loved ones,” Spadea said.

The 2,000 riders nationwide will help to heighten awareness of the dangers and hazards faced by law enforcement officers, honor those who have died in the line of duty and raise funds for the National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial and Museum.

Both Spadea and Franks have participated in the Unity Tour in past years.

Spadea credits Franks for getting him involved with the race, as well as Bridgewater police officer Arthur Akins, a resident of Somerville described by Spadea as a good friend.

                Franks said fellow mountain bike instructors at the county police academy urged him to participate for several years, but there was always an excuse.

                “I’m too busy, I don’t have time, you know,” Franks said.

                That changed when Claude Racine, one of his fellow Somerville police officers died just before the race four years ago. Racine had ridden in the Unity Tour and had planned to ride that year.

                Franks knew he had to ride to honor the memory of Racine.

“That’s all the motivation I needed,” Franks said.

                Spadea watched as Franks rode through town that year.

“I saw him coming through town and it got real emotional watching him and those guys ride through town; I said to myself ‘I’ve got to do this next year.’ ‘’

Franks added, “It’s a real rush, you appreciate the people being out there, it shows there is still a lot of support for police officers.”

In keeping with tradition, Spadea will dedicate his 300-mile trek to fallen police officers, including two from Somerville that were killed in the line of duty 100 years ago.

A memorial erected by Somerville PBA #147 alongside the doorway into police headquarters  memorializes Officer Manning T. Crow, shot after confronting three burglars in a butcher shop on South Street in 1899 and Officer Julius Sauer who was shot by a man threatening suicide in 1917. After shooting Sauer, the man killed himself.

Spadea will also dedicate his ride to two other fallen officers, each of whom he knew.

Spadea will be riding to honor his friend and fallen Watchung police officer Matthew Melchionda, killed in a North Plainfield collision in 2006 when responding to back up undercover officers at a traffic stop, as well as state Trooper Scott Gonzalez, killed in Warren County when responding to a domestic dispute in 1997. Spadea said he knew the trooper when he was growing up.

 Finally, Spadea will quietly honor Racine.

Spadea will be riding the same bicycle Racine had ridden on the Unity Tour. His widow gifted the bike to Spadea.

She told me ‘I still have Claude’s bicycle he rode to DC I think maybe someone would want it.’

“I told her ‘I would love to have the bike,’ ’’ he said.

“It’s in honor of him because he rode the bike and he worked for us,” Spadea said. “Riding his bicycle down, for me, I consider that he is riding with me; we’re riding down together.”

Students at Immaculata High School and Immaculate Conception Schools came outside to cheer on the cyclists as they ride down Mountain Avenue before heading east on Main Street. The cyclists passed beneath a huge American flag attached to a Somerville Fire Department truck’s extension ladder hung over East Main Street.

The riders headed east down Route 28 past VanderVeer School,  onto Finderne Avenue into Manville and on to Weston Canal Road to connect with Davidson Avenue in Franklin, where they will spend the night at area hotels before heading out Wednesday, May 10.

 By the end of Day Two, the cyclists will reach Philadelphia; Day 3, May 11, the destination is Baltimore.  They will arrive in Washington on May 12, Day 4 and converge at RFK Stadium before riding to the police memorial.

“Riding down Pennsylvania Avenue with the US Capitol in front of you, with 2,000 other bicyclists, police car and motorcycle escorts, everybody stopping, watching and waving, it’s incredible,” Franks said.

“I’m not a svelte guy; it takes a lot to finish those 300 miles,” Franks added. “Towards the end a lot of the guys are running out of steam but there’s hundreds of other behind them cheering them on reminding them why they’re riding.

“The guys suck it up; they might not be able to walk for a week afterwards, but it’s all in good humor and for a good reason,” he added.

The ceremony at the law enforcement memorial is a moving tribute to the families of officers killed in the line of duty, according to Spadea and Franks.

They are escorted to their seats one-by-one as the officers salute them. The name of each fallen officer is read off.

“Some guys just can’t handle it, it’s rough, real emotional,” Franks said.

The Police Unity Tour was organized by Officer Patrick P. Montuore of the Florham Park Police Department in May, 1997.

Since then, the annual event has raised over $20 million.

Last year the police cyclists raised $2.5 million.

-         In late 2005, the Police Unity Tour pledged $5 Million in support of the National Law Enforcement Museum.

-         Having completed the $5 Million commitment to the Museum in 2009 the Police Unity Tour dedicated the 2010 ride to the restoration of the walls of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. The $1.1 million restoration project included the re-engraving, coating and sealing of the 18,983 names on the memorial as well as the cleaning of the walls and other memorial improvements.

-         In 2011 the Police Unity Tour became the official sponsor of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund’s “Officer of the Month Program.” Officers of the Month are honored at a special awards luncheon each May in Washington, DC during National Police Week, and they are featured in the Memorial Fund’s annual calendar. The Police Unity Tour is also proud to sponsor the NLEOMF’s “Recently Fallen Alerts.”

Each cyclist must raise $1,850 to participate in the Unity Tour, according to Spadea, who has raised over $2,000. Some of that money pays for each cyclist’s hotel, food and other related expenses. What’s not spent is donated to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund.

Spadea worked with students at Somerville High School to design a limited-edition brass and enamel medallion.  He sold 300 medallions to raise over $3,000.

“The idea is to spread awareness,” Spadea explained. “It would be easy to ask my PBA to sponsor me for the ride, but by me asking for single contributions it helps get people to know about the ride, what it is about and have them help out.

“They’re doing their part to honor a fallen police officer,” Spadea said.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Plainfield

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_9dfe479f2225ac340f97_dinosaurs

Tue, June 19, 6:00 PM

Plainfield Public Library, Plainfield

Field Station Dinosaurs

Arts & Entertainment

Carousel_image_a06540d90fee040ea766_storymakers_june

Wed, June 20, 4:00 PM

Plainfield Public Library, Plainfield

Story Makers

Arts & Entertainment

Wed, June 20, 7:30 PM

Chatham United Methodist Church, Chatham

The Masterwork Chorus Launches 19th Summer Sing ...

Arts & Entertainment

Local at-risk youth celebrate year of achievements at Community Access Unlimited

June 18, 2018

Community Access Unlimited (CAU) last night celebrated the achievements of a number of at-risk youth who are members of the agency's Transitional Opportunities Program (TOP). Each of these youth are within New Jersey's child services system and faced a number of life challenges before coming to CAU and TOP and since then have made significant progress in plotting a brighter future with ...

Get Empowered to Help Prevent Suicide

June 9, 2018

Dear Editor:

Over the past week social media and the news have been filled with stories and articles encouraging people to seek help if they’re in emotional distress. There have been countless articles about the need to break the silence around the topic of mental health and suicide, and I am encouraged by the support people are extending to others.

Often, the death by suicide by ...

North Plainfield Mom Maggie Grabko Gets Life-Saving Liver Transplant, Warren Fundraiser Set for Sunday

June 18, 2018

NORTH PLAINFIELD, NJ — Maggie Grabko, a North Plainfield mom of two, underwent a successful liver transplant on June 13, according to an update on the family’s GoFundMe page by her husband, Shawn Grabko. The Watchung Hills Elks are hosting a fundraiser, the Maggie Grabko Dinner and Music Fundraiser, at 1 Elks Trail in Warren on June ...

SRO'S - ENSEÑANDO POR EJEMPLO

June 17, 2018

Hay un grupo de oficiales de policía que les dan un servicio a nuestra comunidad de una manera notable. Todos los días estos hombres y mujeres se levantan, van al trabajo, y aseguran que nuestros hijos aprendan en un ambiente seguro. Los llamamos Oficiales de Recursos Escolares, pero son mucho más. 

Si llegas a la oficina de los Oficiales de Recursos Escolares en la ...

Empleando Nuestra Juventud 

Querido Plainfield, 

Todos esperan el verano; los días son más calientes y largos, y la madre tierra se pone su mejor vestido mientras las frutas se maduran en el sol y las flores ondean un alegre "hola". La gente comienzan los paseos de la playa o piscina, y las juntas de barbacoa en los patios son necesarios en los fines de semanas.

Aquí en la ciudad de ...

Meet Toran Smith: Union County All Star

June 18, 2018

Plainfield resident, Toran Smith, age 16, has been selected to play on the 2018 Union County underclassmen all star team.  On June 10th, the Union County All-Stars played against the Hudson County All-Stars at Kean University.  Smith played third baseman. 

Smith, a junior at Union County Vo-Tech magnet high school, is a Junior infielder on the Plainfield Cardinals Varsity ...

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn (William Morrow, 2018)

 

A friend, whose opinion on literature I respect greatly, reported to me recently that she had just finished reading A.J. Finn's debut novel, The Woman in the Window. Of it she said, “I wish I hadn't finished it,” which I interpreted to mean, “It was so good I'm sorry that I finished it.” ...

When the Men Go Off to War by Victoria Kelly

When the Men Go Off to War by Victoria Kelly (Naval Institute Press, 2015)

Victoria Kelly's first published volume of poetry, When the Men Go Off to War, is a wonder in that poems can be written so beautifully about the subject of war. Each poem is a jewel, polished and colorful, glittering with elegant imagery, and rich in emotional wallop. The book, divided into three sections, ...

The Queen of the Big Time by Adriana Trigiani (Ballentine Books, 2005)

            The Queen of the Big Time by Adriana Trigiani, a New York Times best selling author, was recommended to me by a young woman who actually came from the town of Roseto, Pennsylvania, the place where the novel is set. “The author did such a wonderful job of describing how the town actually is,” said the young lady.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah (St. Martin's Press, 2018)

            What is the “final frontier” on the Earth's surface? Many people would say Alaska, the 49th state, which was added to the United States fifty years ago. Once one has traveled to that remote land, it is impossible to forget the magnificence of the terrain and beasts. Floating by ship in Glacier Bay, surrounded by ...

The Man in Room 306 at the Luna Stage, West Orange, NJ

            The Luna Stage, a Jersey theater gem, chose to revive its 1995 world premiere drama, The Man in Room 306, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the slaying of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Starring Jamil A.C. Mangan as Dr. King, this 90 minute production portrays Dr. King in the last hours of his life as he struggles to write a speech for the Poor ...

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins (Riverhead Books, 2017)

 

I wanted to like Into the Water by Paula Hawkins because I had enjoyed her previous novel, The Girl on the Train, which was a suspenseful thriller. However, when I finished reading the first part of the Into the Water, I realized that I had not absorbed anything that was happening in the story. I blamed myself for not paying ...