First, he’d park his car — a Chevy Impala or whatever it was at the time — on the west side of Kearny Ave. Then, head first, he’d get out of the car, hop over the double-yellow lines then skip his way into Sunset Deli. Then when he got to the counter — we knew what he wanted — he’d place a single on the counter … he’d slap it on the counter, actually. We’d place his coffee already made on the counter. Put his change there, too — and we were done.
Hand-to-hand transfer of the coffee and/or change was a huge no-no.
It was a routine Thomas “Tim” Sharples followed every single time he came into Sunset Deli for morning coffee klatch in retirement. He’d make his way over to the corner by the meat case, and usually spend an hour or so with Bob Degenova, Tony Gouveia Sr., Ron Johnstone Sr. and occasionally a few others who once, like him, wore the uniform of the Kearny Police Department — and some who never donned the uniform. The conversation? Anything from the Mets and Yankees to the infamous Kearny “Water Deal” of the late 1990s that saw East Orange operating the town’s water supply. Whatever the conversation, he never held back.
And now, many years later, Tim Sharples, who retired as KPD chief in 1998, lost his battle with cancer last week. He was just 67.
I’d lost complete contact with Tim around 2001. But so often, he’d come up in conversation. It was always memorable. There were very few people who went head first into and out his car like Tim did every time he got into and out of it. There were very few people who were creatures of habit as he was. And there were very few who really, really were as great as he was, both as a policeman and as a human being.
One of the many moments I shared with Tim-O as we often called him happened in 1999. The New York Mets had just traded for pitcher Kenny Rogers, who later that year would go on to walk in a bases-loaded run to give the Atlanta Braves the National League Championship Series. When the trade was announced, he wanted to tell me — and I just happened not to know of it yet.
He put his index finger to his lips, went “psssssst” and said “get over here.”
“You’re not going to [fricken] believe this,” he said. “The Mets just pulled off a [fricken] blockbuster trade.”
I was excited at the notion the Mets made a significant trade. “Kenny [fricken] Rogers,” he said. “What a complete joke.”
Tim wasn’t serious about the trade being a true blockbuster [and he didn’t actually use the word “fricken”] — but for a moment, he seemed so serious that you had to believe he WAS serious. But in the driest of dry ways, he was being funny. And while many wouldn’t have realized it, Tim Sharples had a fantastic sense of humor.
No one was immune to his humor, either.
He made fun of me like the best of them. And I loved it.
He made fun of others, all the time. Politicians. Athletes. Actors. Entertainers. Singers. It didn’t matter.
But for me, personally, being one of the “victims” of his biting humor meant he cared about you. He really did. And if push came to shove, if you were among his good graces, no matter what, he’d have taken a bullet for you — even if he didn’t have his white chief’s gloves on [he really loved those gloves].
He spent a short time as chief. And though it was sad to see him go in 1998, he put on no false pretenses about it. When it was time to retire, he wasn’t waiting another second. Everyone knew it. But in a very short period of time, he demonstrated why he was a great chief.
Former Police Commissioner Barbara Cifelli-Sherry, who was a Second Ward Councilwoman at the time, spoke very highly of the man who was the first chief under her leadership as the ceremonial “commish.”
“I had the privilege of being his chairperson during my first term on the council,” Cifelli-Sherry wrote on Facebook. “He was a good guy and a dedicated police officer. Sorry to hear of his passing.”
He truly was a dedicated cop.
His 25-year KPD career kicked off in 1973 as a rookie. He ascended to chief his last year on the job. His official obituary said he went on to work with computers — and eventually, became director of security at Rockaway Mall.
It doesn’t surprise me one bit that well into retirement, he kept on working. That was just the kind of man he was. Sitting still and not doing anything wasn’t an option — especially as he was raising young daughters at the time.
Tim Sharples leaves behind his wife of many years, Felicia; three daughters, Dorian, Rachel and Erika. He is also survived by his siblings, Thomas Wright, Irene Reed, Jack Wright, Jane McAllister, Joseph Sharples, Laura Quegan and Susan Sharples-Zito. He also leaves behind three grandchildren, Brandon, Ava and Brianna.
But he also leaves behind a legacy that will be hard to be matched.
Tim Sharples was a wonderful cop, a great dad, a spectacular human being and a cherished friend. He lived in Kearny his entire life — and truth be told, with him gone, Kearny will never be the same again.
Rest in peace, Tim-O. I will miss you more than I can say. My life was better for having known you. And so, too, were the lives of countless others who also knew you .
Learn more about the writer ...
Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.