ROXBURY, NJ – Thanking all who attended a farewell ceremony today, Roxbury Police Patrolman Thomas Denicola said he decided to retire early to focus on fighting the cancer he acquired while guarding Ground Zero as a U.S. Marine on 9/11.
The 47-year-old Roxbury resident, who is married and has two children, is the first police officer in New Jersey to benefit from a new law giving disability coverage to police and firefighters suffering from illnesses related their work at the World Trade Center following the terrorist attack.
Without the new law, Denicola would have been required to serve another six years before retirement, he said today. Among other illnesses, Denicola is fighting multiple myeloma – a form of bone cancer – found to be related to Denicola’s exposure to carcinogens at Ground Zero.
Two Decades in Uniform
Denicola, whose brother Frank is a New York City cop, served in the Marines, including the Marine Reserves, from 1998 to 2005. His tenure included two tours of duty in the Middle East and “doing perimeter security” at the World Trade Center site.
Denicola joined the New York City Police Department in 2002 and left in 2007 to take the job with Roxbury Police.
A throng of well-wishers attended the popular patrolman’s retirement ceremony, including four Marines and about a dozen officers who rode motorcycles to the Roxbury Police Department headquarters in honor of Denicola’s time as a fellow “motorcop.”
“It’s been an honor to be a police officer in this community,” Denicola told the crowd. “I got sick, and right now it’s better for me to be with my family and to heal. That’s something that was taught by most of you guys; you told me to slow down a little. Anybody who knows me knows I’m a worker. I work 20 hours a day, and you can thank my parents for that.”
Turning to his family, Denicola said he hopes to instill in his children the work ethic he acquired from his parents. Then, looking at the people in attendance, he said he realizes he’s not the only person facing difficulties.
“Everybody I see here, I can look at everyone’s face and I know there’s a story behind every person’s face,” said the patrolman. “Whether it’s a family member. Whether it’s another cancer survivor. Whether it’s a fellow officer I went to school with.”
‘A Good Man of Dignity’
Asserting that Roxbury has the best police department in Morris County, Denicola expressed gratitude for the brotherhood that came with the professions he chose. “You don’t get this experience anywhere else,” he commented. “This experience only comes when you wear that uniform.”
The Rev. Mark Mancini, the former pastor at St. Therese Roman Catholic Church in Succasunna, attended Denicola’s “walk-out” ceremony.
“I’m no longer part of St. Therese’s, but when Tommy said, ‘Can you come and say a few words?’ there was no other place I wanted to be,” said the priest, now working in Totowa. “Thank God for Tommy’s service, not only to this community but to all the other communities in which he served as a police officer … And Thank God for all the good he did. He’s a true servant, a good man of dignity and may he be blessed in the future.”
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