The horrific killing of North Arlington resident and Jersey City Police Officer Joseph Seals the afternoon of Dec. 10, 2019, was one of the darkest days for this small borough in the southern end of Bergen County. That day is one many will never forget. And yet, thanks to Mayor Daniel H. Pronti and the entire Borough Council, what came from that bleak day has led to great light, something that will live on forever — as a positive reminder of the contributions he made in 18 years he served on the job.

The playground at Fisher Field off Sixth Street was named, posthumously, the Det. Joseph Seals playground, all made official in a gathering of at least 200 residents, police officers, elected officials and, most importantly, Seals’s wife, Laura, and the couple’s children and family.

Following a prayer offered by Queen of Peace Grammar School Principal Linda Jacewich, and a salute to the Stars and Stripes, Pronti addressed the throng assembled, all whilst scores of children were already beginning to enjoy all the playground had to offer.

“This park designed to be built in a safe area with numerous safety enhancements. This playground was built for everyone,” Pronti, a retired Montclair police sergeant, said. “We did our best to include many activities for children with special needs as well as neurotypical children. This whole area is known as Fisher Field … we have areas for everyone to enjoy the outdoors. This area is now safely illuminated at night and under constant video surveillance and patrol by our local police department. Safety is a major concern and we felt it was most fitting to name our safest playground after a man who dedicated his life to public safety.”

Pronti then made note of the assembled Seals family, including the late officer’s widow, Laura.

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“Joseph Seals was a man I knew personally,” the mayor said. “He was a man who worked the job I worked, a man who patrolled the streets of the city where I grew up. He was a good cop, a good husband and a good father. We are not here today to mourn Joseph Seals, but we are here today, tomorrow and thereafter to preserve his memory.

“We want this to be a place close to the family home where Joe’s legacy will love forever, a place where Laura and her family can come to be at peace knowing a piece of Joe is always here … as the mayor, I am proud to welcome Laura Seals and officially unveil the sign ‘The Joseph Seals Memorial Playground.’”

Next, Councilwoman Donna Bocchino unveiled the sign and then Mrs. Seals took the podium and fought back tears as she bravely addressed those assembled.

“On behalf of the Seals family, we want to thank Mayor Pronti and councilmembers for honoring Joe with this memorial. This is how elected officials should stand up for their citizens,” Laura Seals said. “We also recognize the North Arlington Department of Public Works for their efforts putting this forth. Everyone knew my husband was one of the best detectives in Jersey City and probably the State of New Jersey.

“When we lost Joe, we experienced unimaginable sense of pain and grief. Our family became so vulnerable … but we somehow navigated through, thanks to the family and friends who have a special place in our lives.”

Mrs. Seals then spoke of family.

“Joe was so proud of the family he and I built. He worked hard, making sure we were safe,” she said. “Most importantly, he spent time with each one of us … you would almost never catch him without one of the kids at his side. He believed in the power of marriage. And that as long as we were happy, our children would grow up happy.

“We would love for this park to be a symbol of family and unity and for his legacy to live on through generations as a man who cared very much and who always did the right thing. We also want this park to be a safe place for all North Arlington residents to create safe memories for family and friends. I know Joe will never be forgotten for his sacrifice protecting others.”

Never forgotten, indeed.

Meanwhile, AJ Ford, of the office of U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., himself a resident of North Arlington, made a special presentation of a United States Flag the Congressman had flown over the U.S. Capitol in Seals’s honor.

That tragic day in 2019, Seals wasn’t the only local person to die.

Douglas Miguel Rodriguez, of Harrison, a father and husband, was also killed that day while he worked in a deli. Rodriguez, an immigrant to this country, worked diligently to provide for his family. To accomplish this, he took a job as a clerk at Jersey City Kosher Deli. He was loved by the people for whom he worked. And, there were reports, that day, he took a bullet so other lives might be saved.

He and his family lived in an apartment on Harrison’s south side.

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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.