AN OFFICER WRITES: For the average person, the news of Police Officer Joseph Wargo’s death at the hands of an intoxicated driver is a tragic event that quickly fades. For those of us who knew “Jo Jo” and had the honor of working with him, it will last much longer – quite possibly a lifetime. You see, Joe was one of the good ones.
Joseph Wargo was a police officer in Mount Arlington. He was a star athlete in football and wrestling at St. Phillipsburg High School. He was married and enjoyed weight lifting.
But there was so much more to him than that.
Joe had a personality quite like his large frame: It could fill a room. He was a gentle giant who never threatened anyone. In fact, he had this amazing ability to make anyone laugh at any moment. He followed his alma mater’s achievements in weight lifting and football with a passion.
And he loved his job.
Small talk and chit-chat was delaying the start of an F.O.P. meeting one night when Joe, our president, raised his gavel and brought it down hard on the table.
“Come on, boys,” he said in a booming voice. “Let’s get this meeting started.”
By pure coincidence, our food delivery arrived at that same moment.
Without missing a beat, Joe swung his gavel down again. Wham!
“Meeting adjourned!” he shouted.
There are others much closer to him who could tell stories of Joe’s bravery, good humor and kind spirit.
Personally, though, I would hate to see his memory fade. Because in his tragic passing, he actually left us with a powerful reminder of what being a police officer truly means.
Putting their emotions aside, Roxbury police officers worked as hard as they could to help their brother. Netcong and Roxbury officers cleared trees and shrubs by hand to make a path to get Joe out. Dispatchers took the calls, made the calls. Firefighters and EMS workers did all they could.
In those moments, public servants of all stripes were pulling the same rope. That includes New Jersey State Police and officers from Netcong, Mansfield, Phillipsburg, and Lebanon, who escorted the Mount Arlington police bus to the funeral home in Phillipsburg.
We stood by Joe’s side today as countless people paid their respects. I saw flowers from as far as Toronto and Texas, with notes that said, simply, “For our brother.” And I was amazed by the strength and composure of the Mount Arlington officers.
That had to be Joe’s spirit working within them, I told myself.
By his passing, Joe reminded this veteran cop that we are truly a family, a huge family made up of many proud members. At a time when it seems the public and politicians have all turned their backs on us, it’s good to know that we will NEVER turn our backs on one other.
I know today’s funeral will be tough on a lot of people. But I also know that I and my brothers and sisters will stand tall wi th Mount Arlington and be there for whoever needs us.
Sometimes that’s all you can do.
Rest in peace and Godspeed, my friend. It’s the end of watch. We’ll take it from here.
Patrolman Joseph Wargo was killed early Sunday on Route 80. A drunk driver was speeding when he lost control of his vehicle, which crossed the median, slammed into Wargo’s cruiser head-on and pushed it into a wooded area. The married, 10-year veteran was flown to a nearby hospital where he succumbed to his injuries a short time later. The driver is charged with aggravated manslaughter, vehicular homicide, among other offenses. A Mass of Christian Burial was set for 11 a.m. today at St. Mary Catholic Church, 830 Fifth Ave., Alpha. Burial is in the parish cemetery in Alpha.
(CLIFFVIEW PILOT PHOTOS courtesy Ptl. Thomas Borgia/ No re-use without hyperlink)
ALSO SEE: A flag that once flew over the rubble at Ground Zero, and in Iraq, Afgh a nistan and outer space, arrived at Newark Airport this morning for Friday’s funeral of Mount Arlin gton Police Officer Joseph Wargo. A sealed case containing the flag was then given an official police escort to Fair Lawn police headquarters. CLICK HERE ….
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