FAIR LAWN, N.J. — Police Capt. Robert Kneer was loading the remaining photos from his desk into his car at the Fair Lawn Police Station Friday before his ceremonial last walk, when he spotted Patricia Goodell.
The pair has remained close since 2014, when Kneer conducted the funeral for her son -- Christopher Goodell. Like Kneer, Goodell, 32, was a U.S. Marine Veteran and police officer stationed in Waldwick.
Kneer, in uniform, and Goodell, in a heavy winter coat, embraced in the parking lot.
Nothing could stop the tears from flowing.
"I just wanted to let you know that he's with me today," Kneer said to Patricia and a sea of supporters during the ceremony almost an hour later, after walking out of the department for the last time in 44 years.
"He's standing here looking down on us and going to protect us from here on out. As a former Marine he was, I love him."
Kneer joined Fair Lawn's department in 1973, and has commanded its Honor Guard ever since. He was later anointed State Honor Guard Commander -- a title he holds to this day.
He rose through the ranks, spending time in the detective bureau, and retired as the longest-serving (and most-decorated) officer in the department.
Kneer's service to the fallen is a calling he takes very seriously, Retired Detective and Pastor David Boone told Daily Voice.
"Year after year, following the murder of our sister officer, Mary Ann Collura, Bob has led our honor guard in Washington, D.C., during May Police Memorial Week remembrances," said Boone, who began training with Kneer when he joined the department in 1994.
"He simply strives to bring honor to those we remember. I can’t tell you how many times, officers have commented on the fact that they see him marching at the memorial in Washington, D.C. late at night and early in the morning."
For the final salute and dismissal of the Teaneck and Hackensack Honor Guards, fellow Marine Veteran and Newark Capt. Gary Vickers presented Kneer with a noncommissioned officer sword.
"I never thought this day would come," said Kneer to the crowd of borough officials, residents and loved ones gathered in the parking lot
"But sometimes, when you turn 65, there are things you gotta do. I'm married to the job so you'll probably see me elsewhere.
"Remember, I'm not saying goodbye, I'm here."
The Pipes and Drums Band of Bergen County began playing the Marine Corps Hymn as Kneer shook the hands of police officers at the ceremony, stopping to hug PBA President Louis Vazquez at the very end.
"Every time he wore his uniform, he wore it with pride," said Vazquez, who has worked alongside Kneer for 14 years. "You get used to being together every day. His absence will be felt."
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