TRIBUTE: Three benches donated by the widow of a longtime Fair Lawn police captain in memory of her husband were unveiled at this afternoon’s annual remembrance ceremony for slain Officer Mary Ann Collura.
“They’re beautiful,” Detective David Boone said of the benches, which were brought to the Fair Lawn Municipal Building and unveiled during the solemn ceremony.
The blue and gold metal benches with plastic casting were donated by Marie Gajarsky, whose husband, Robert, served the department for 36 years before retiring as captain in 1996. Robert Frank Gajarsky, a 77-year-old Korean War U.S. Army veteran, died 18 months ago.
The benches bear Collura’s #136 badge number, among other symbols of tribute.
The memorial itself has had its stonework reset by Mark Guerrieri of T&M Builders.
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Time has only strengthened memories of Collura, who was shot and killed on the grounds of the Van Riper Ellis Broadway Baptist Church on River Road after coming to the aid of a fellow officer trying to arrest a murderous ex-con the night of Holy Thursday, April 17, 2003.
The 18-year veteran was Fair Lawn’s first female police officer and a shining light throughout the community.
Respected, admired and loved, Collura had a commendation file that 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.
Collura 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 who still visit her grave in George Washington Memorial Park.
A Clifton colleague was chasing a speeding ex-con on Route 46 when the pursuit headed into Fair Lawn.
Collura was on her way when the driver — a 23-year-old drug dealer from Passaic named Omar Marti — lost control of his car, which ended up on the lawn of the church.
Marti tried to run, but the Clifton officer 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 the other officer, 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.
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