FAIR LAWN, N.J. -- Rushing to help a brother in blue, Fair Lawn's first female police officer didn't know that a murderous ex-con would emerge firing from a car that crashed on a church lawn and kill her.
She wasn't calculating her pension or considering whether to boost vision coverage the night of April 17, 2003.
Officer Mary Ann Collura was simply doing what she always did -- help someone in need.
As dozens gathered Monday outside Borough Hall for a solemn memorial at the monument carved in her honor -- depicting Collura handing her trademark glow sticks to youngsters -- it was clear that time has only deepened memories of one of Fair Lawn's finest.
"It was so moving to see everyone there -- especially when you see friends and family and fellow officers together like that," PBA Local 67 President Luis Vasquez.
"Even our children have come to know her through these memorials," Vasquez said. "It helps keep her memory alive 14 years later."
Retired borough Detective David Boone -- who later became pastor at the church where his friend and colleague was slain -- recalled 14 things about Collura.
Boone had family members and friends, as well as firefighters and Mayor John Cosgrove, among others, place a purple flower at the statue for each.
Joined by his wife and children, Clifton Detective Steve Farrell, who was the colleague Collura rushed to help that fateful night, placed filler flowers.
"So many things filled Mary Ann's life," Boone said. "It just seemed right to not limit it to 14."
Patsy and Helen Collura's daughter was such a shining light throughout the community that her badge number, 136, remains a familiar sight around town and beyond.
A lifelong borough resident, the 18-year veteran attended William Paterson College. She was so dedicated to public service that she nearly joined the Army before volunteering with the borough’s police reserves.
Three years later, she was in uniform with the Fair Lawn Police Department.
“I wanted to be on the road, taking it as it comes,” Collura once said, explaining her reason for becoming an officer.
The words still haunt those who loved her, many of whom still visit Collura's grave in George Washington Memorial Park in Paramus.
Farrell was chasing a speeding car on Route 46 when the pursuit headed into Fair Lawn.
Collura was on her way when the driver — 23-year-old Passaic drug dealer Omar Marti — lost control of his car, which ended up on the lawn of Van Riper Ellis Broadway Baptist Church on River Road.
Marti tried to run, but Farrell tackled him and was trying to pepper-spray him when Collura arrived.
Marti, desperate not to go back to prison, pulled a gun and fired, hitting Collura twice.
He then shot Farrell, got behind the wheel of Collura’s cruiser and drove over her while speeding off.
She was only 43.
Investigators from the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office traced Marti to a town just outside Tampa, Fla., where he was killed in a shootout with area sheriff’s officers.
Collura was respected, admired and loved. Her commendation file contained a letter citing her professionalism from a motorist she’d ticketed. She has a street, a rifle range and a post office, among other locations, named after her.
More than anything, though, those who knew and loved her -- and, yes, those whom Collura never met -- hold an undying dedication to her memory firmly in their hearts.
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