Wayne and Donna Alexander have spent 30 of their 44 years of married life working together … and they’re still talking to each other.
The unassuming Lyndhurst couple were feted Feb. 17 by colleagues and friends with a dinner at Michael’s Riverside on the occasion of their 30th anniversary of service to the Lyndhurst Police Auxiliary.
Wayne has been chief of the Auxiliary – also known as Reserves – since 1990, while Donna has been working behind the scenes as unit administrator, handling scheduling of personnel, ordering uniforms and overseeing operating expenses.
“They’re two of the most trustworthy people you could ever hope to work with,” said Lyndhurst Police Det. Vin Auteri, who has served as the LPD liaison to the auxiliary force since 2008.
Anthony Alexander, the couple’s son, is a Lyndhurst police officer.
Auxiliary Police, which, technically, is an arm of – and is funded through – the township’s Office of Emergency Management, works closely with the township police. Its members are called in to assist first responders, help with traffic and crowd control and provide backup on emergency service calls.
Typically, people are in their mid-20s when they join, according to Auteri. “These days it’s tough to get a job in law enforcement so, to get experience in a field that’s closely related, they’ll apply to the auxiliary.”
Of the 52 members currently in the LPD, seven had prior service as a township auxiliary cop.
Currently, the Lyndhurst Auxiliary lists 17 active members on its roster, Auteri said. “In the past year, we lost six members but on Feb. 27, we enrolled a class of 12 candidates (10 men and two women) – 10 from Lyndhurst, one from Kearny and one from Belleville – in an eight-week auxiliary training program at the Bergen County Police Academy.”
They must pass the training program – held two nights a week – to get certification as a police auxiliary, Auteri said.
If the recruits are successful, the auxiliary ranks will, once again, reach a good level, he said.
“From when I started [as an auxiliary], there’s just three of us left,” mused Wayne Alexander. The other two alums are the current LPD Police Chief John O’Connor and LPD Det. Capt. John Valente.
At the time, Wayne was coaching youth soccer and “someone mentioned that the Police Reserves needed a few people and I decided to check it out.” The rest, as they say, is history.
Donna, meanwhile, occupied herself with keeping the organization running smoothly. During her downtime, she’d keep busy baking cookies for the squad on holidays, sewing or patching uniforms and playing mom looking after a growing brood of four children and, ultimately, six grandchildren.
Asked if any memories of auxiliary service through the past three decades stood out, Wayne remembered one summer when folks were renting barbecue spots along Riverside Ave. “and a big brawl broke out.” The Reserves were called out to help restore order.
Did he have any hesitation about moving into the mele? “Nope, we were right in there with them,” he said.
Looking back on those years of service, Wayne said he’s been happy to have been a part of the adventure. “It’s a way that’s allowed me to give back to my community.”
Wayne never gave much thought to applying for a regular police job because he was already into his career as a mechanic with N.J. Transit. As a kid, he was a model train enthusiast and, even today, he’s got a set of Lionels in his basement.
In 2016, he bade farewell to that job after 43 years but, never one to remain idle for long, Wayne snagged another uniform – with a part-time gig as a parking enforcement officer in the township.
When he’s not working or in reserve mode, Wayne will take to the road with annual motorcycle jaunts to Lake George, N.Y., or to the lakes with his telescopic fishing pole for hauling out large mountain bass and pike.
Or he’ll be helping out his workmates and buddies work out remedies for ornery mechanical tools like snowblowers and the like.
For a still-spry 63-year-old, Wayne’s probably still got a lot left in his tool kit to share with the world.