RIDGEWOOD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A 10-year-old boy from Ridgewood who had been named an honorary police chief was given full police honors at his funeral Tuesday after losing his battle with cancer last week.
Bagpipes played and dozens of police officers from across New Jersey stood at attention as Michael Feeney’s flag-draped casket arrived at Mount Carmel Church.
“I lost a partner today,” said police Chief John Ward, fighting back tears.
Earlier this year, the Hawes Elementary School fifth-grader was named Ridgewood’s honorary police chief for 2013, but he died Friday after a four-year battle with cancer.
Feeney had Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare, aggressive and often fatal bone cancer that develops in children and young adults. He was running for office at his school and was scheduled to light the village’s Christmas tree this week.
The police department said Feeney “was extremely proud of his role as honorary police chief.”
“He really took the job seriously,” Ward told WCBS 880’s Sean Adams. “I mean he was coming up with ideas, he was researching other programs that were done across the nation. I was just really struck and so were all the members of the department for somebody who understood the concept of leadership. Here’s a 10-year-old that grasped what a true leader is and understood courage. Mike exemplified that.”
Feeney’s family and friends said the avid sports fan battled the disease with a smile on his face.
“I never saw him upset ever,” friend Colin Azzopardi, an 11th-grader from Ridgewood, told CBS 2’s Elise Finch. “He was optimistic all the time. … Just a great kid.”
“Funny, energetic,” fourth-grader Ryan Jennings said of Feeney. “It made him so special because every day he’d come in with a big smile to school, and he would lighten up the hallways.”
Feeney also instilled his values in those he knew.
“You should do anything that you can do, and you should always keep trying. Never, ever give up, is what Michael taught tons of people,” fifth-grader Meadow Paliotta said.
“Be positive. See the glass half-full. That was Michael,” added Ridgewood Mayor Paul Aronsohn. “He was very positive, and it was very infectious.”
Ward said Feeney “brought out the best in everybody” and “touched everybody in this community.”
“It’s not how these officers died, but how they lived that made them heroes,” Ward told Finch. “Mike lived a heroic life.”
It was Feeney who suggested a new youth ambassador program and a junior police academy, which will bear his name. His badge number will be retired.
“He already has helped make a change,” Ward said. “There are already programs in place, and he’s going to continue, through his spirit, doing that. I considered him my partner. He was a member of this department. He was sworn in by the mayor, he’s a member of this department, he’s taking his badge with him.”
Following the funeral, his coffin was given a motorcycle escort through Ridgewood. Feeney was also given a 21-gun salute.
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