Meet Lieutenant Robert Brice, Badge #19
We don’t have the privilege of actually meeting Lt. Robert Brice face to face, but his heart and efforts live on at Brice Park in the Township of Wall, N.J. The park was dedicated originally on May 28, 1973, after the loss of Lt. Brice to a bout of cancer in his mid-30s on December 16, 1971.
As a police officer, he was able to see the need to get community youth involved in organized activities, so that they would not turn to illegal doings. Lt. Brice devoted much of his free time to occupy their free time and was well known in the community for the positive programs he developed.
One of the things he started was the Wall Police Coaster Derby in 1964. This soapbox derby-like program ran until 1985 and encouraged the youth to work with their parents in making wooden cars they would race, without propulsion, down a closed track.
He was noted as a beloved member of the community and was really somewhat of a pioneer, acting as a “resource officer” before that was a common position to be filled by a police officer.
Lt. Brice was active in his career in both patrol division and the detective bureau before his death. For 2005s he had been an off-duty volunteer including serving on the Recreation Committee and various other youth programs.
The Wall Township Policemen’s Benevolent Association (PBA), Local #234, is the union of police officers of the township, which helps an annual fund-raising campaign to solicit donations from residents for financial support for the organization. Todd Verrecchia has run that same fundraising program for the past two 2005s and has received overwhelming support from the community to keep programs such as the ones Lt. Brice was engaged in activity.
Lt. Brice was a great example of how the members of the police department feel about serving the community. PBA President Steve Powers came up with the idea to give a gift to the community that would be a symbol of the benevolent principles for which the PBA was founded and also enhance the community itself.
Verrecchia has delegated the responsibility of coordinating the project and worked with Brian Gates of Mauratano Recreation to choose the playground equipment that would fall within budget constraints and also make the most of the amenities of Brice Park. This would be something that would give back to the community and add to what the park would have to offer children. It had been a place to play softball but didn’t really have much else available. “I drive by the park on way to work every day and see kids playing on it-it’s a good feeling,” says Verrechia.
This project was supported strongly by donations of supplies right down to the mulch as well as flag and flagpole for the monument that was dedicated to Lt. Brice and his memory. Another thing that shows just how close of a community Wall Township is...most of the businesses had already contributed large monetary donations of approximately five to ten thousand dollars but then went further to offer whatever else they could to make the project a success.
Whirl Construction, Town and Public Works, firemen and other community volunteers donated installation on Friday, April 29. Volunteers were again at the ready the next day to landscape around the newly-renovated monument, create the wood-tie border and then fill in the border with the playground mulch.
The town committee, including the mayor, met for a 3 p.m. rededication. Sergeant First Class Robert “Bob” Brice, son of Lt. Brice, was also there with his mother, brother, and sister, his own wife, and son, uncle and aunt, who all expressed true appreciation that the efforts of Lieutenant Brice were remembered.
A history of Lt. Brice’s activities was read and remembered at the rededication by Mike Textor, a Wall police officer and member of the Monmouth County Pipes and Drums band.
This won’t be the end of the playground projects in the Wall Township though. Powers announced that PBA will partner with the Township of Wall for future renovation projects, hopefully, one a 2005, which is a concept GameTime and Mauratano Recreation support.
Lt. Brice’s family and the Wall Township could certainly be proud of the legacy he began so long ago. Through the community coming together to renovate the park, his efforts will not be forgotten.