Ernesto “Ernie” Hernandez loved being a cop. But perhaps it was never more evident than it was on the day he was laid to rest just how much he was loved back, when scores of police officers, from near and far, took part in his funeral throughout West Hudson.
They came from everywhere to pay respects to the man who fought long and hard to cancer. Four years ago, he took out colon cancer. But then in December, he found out he had Stage 4 pancreatic/liver cancer, a nauseating way to spend Christmas.
He succumbed to the disease Feb. 10, 2022, aged 51, after trying his darndest to beat it, yet again.
At his funeral, many cops rode motorcycles — and though it’s hardly rare to see police officers on bikes at funerals, especially for fallen officers, it was especially poignant for Hernandez, as he was known to achieve great peace when he rode his own motorcycle.
Ernie was born on Long Island and was extremely proud to be a sergeant in the Harrison Police Department, his friends say. He was one of the first Latinos in the department’s history to rise to a rank above police officer.
That ascension was something Harrison Councilman Larry Bennett noted about Hernandez, among many other wonderful attributes.
“He was great police officer and a dedicated father and husband,” Bennett said. “I never heard a complaint or a bad word about him as went beyond the call to help people as a police officer and as a person. He will be missed by many.”
Hernandez’s wife, Jennifer Kane Hernandez, met Ernie more than 25 years ago and somehow gathered the strength to deliver a stirring eulogy and tribute to her husband at his funeral Mass last week, Feb. 15, at Holy Cross Church in Harrison.
“Oct. 18, 1996, the month day and year we met. My husband, we drove each other nuts, yet you always let me get my way,” she said with hundreds of eyes gazed upon her from the pews. “People were always wondering, ‘are they fighting?’ We would say, ‘we are just loud talkers.’ And now the silence is deafening.
“You could make me laugh no matter what. You loved with everything you had. I miss talking to you, I miss your text messages. We literally talked 20 times a day! I miss sending you funny memes that you never understood.
“You were an amazing daddy to Gracie. She adored you and I know your love for her will protect her forever. I hope you felt the love over the past few days — this is all for you and you deserve every single minute. I hope we did you proud.
“I didn’t realize the full scope of Ernie until this week, the countless messages about him. He always said he wanted to make a difference being a police officer and I think he did. Ernie, we love you more. And you would say, ‘I love you more more.’”
After the funeral, Jennifer further reflected on her Ernie.
“My husband was an incredible man and not one person could say differently,” she said. “He lit up a room with his smile and almost took your breath away with his hugs. I miss my best friend, my protector, the love of my life. Graciella and I are forever blessed to have been a part of his short life and he will never be forgotten.”
Among the hundreds of tributes that flowed on social media for Ernie was one from former Harrison Councilman Anselmo Millan.
“Words can’t express how sad I am to hear of your loss,” Millan wrote. “Saying goodbye this soon feels wrong. Sending my condolences to his family, friends and colleagues at the Harrison Police Department during this difficult time. Thank you, Officer Ernie Hernandez, for your dedicated service to the Town of Harrison and Harrison Community.”
Ernie began his 23-year law-enforcement career as a patrolman for the Newark Police Department, but he ultimately transferred to the Harrison PD, where he spent the majority of his career. He wore badge No. 930. As is customary, he received an End of Watch radio call (the call may be heard on www.theobserver.com.) If you’ve never heard an EOW call before, it is extremely powerful.
Twice, the dispatcher said, “Headquarters to 930,” his badge number. Receiving no response, the dispatcher said: “All units, be advised, Sgt. Ernesto Hernandez has answered his last call for service. End of Watch, Feb. 10, 2022.”
Thereafter, the dispatcher noted Hernandez’s career achievements, including service to the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office as a task force officer in the Narcotics Unit. “Rest easy, Ernie, we have the rest from here,” the announcement concluded.
Ernie was the son of Hilda, 91, and the late Enrique Hernandez. He was the beloved husband of Jennifer (nee Kane) Hernandez, and loving father of Graciella Hernandez, 7. He was also the brother of Eddie Hernandez and his wife Michele, Carmen Parker and her husband Jon, Enrique Hernandez and his wife Alicia, and the late Efrain Hernandez. He is also survived by his sister-in-law Joanne, and by many nieces and nephews and by his police officer brethren at the Harrison PD.
Hernandez is the second Harrison police officer to die while still on active duty in an eight-month span. Officer Elizabeth Delacruz, 30, died June 22, 2021.
Hernandez was laid to rest at Holy Cross Cemetery in North Arlington.
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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.