CLIFFSIDE PARK, N.J. — Ron Petruzzello watched proudly Tuesday night as spotlights bathed an American flag raised by Cliffside Park firefighters near the spot where his son, Officer Stephen Petruzzello, was struck and killed while on patrol a year ago.
“They are blue and white,” said Petruzzello, who had to cut through red tape to get FAA approval. "I like to think Stephen can see them."
He and family members were joined by borough officials, police officers and firefighters, among others, at a candlelight vigil following a Mass at Our Lady of Grace Church in Fairview.
During the earlier service, the Rev. Peter T. Sticco compared 22-year-old Stephen Petruzzello's life to a quilt -- full of the gifts of courage, gentleness, and love.
“We’re losing someone, but he is someone that has won the heart of God and Jesus, celebrating the new life,” Sticco said. "Take one gift, place it on the quilt and carry it in your heart and touch other lives, like Stephen did."
Also speaking were Petruzzello's mother, Linda, and Thaier “Theo” Abdallah, who was struck with her son by an SUV the night of Dec. 29, 2014 while both were Class 1 special officers.
Borough resident Anie Kalayian was headed east toward Palisade Avenue when her vehicle hit the officers, knocking Petruzzello an estimated 25 feet, law enforcement sources told CLIFFVIEW PILOT at the time.
Petruzzello died at the hospital a day and a half later. Borough officials that same day made the bright, hard-working and dedicated public servant a full-time officer. They gave his family Badge #133.
Kalayian, a trauma expert and author who was with her 93-year-old mother, told police she didn’t see the officers. She received several summonses, took a plea, was fined $378 and got four points on her license.
That only compounded what already was a difficult 2015 for the Petruzzellos.
"I work all the time , so I have that distraction," the elder Petruzzello told Daily Voice. "But the grief is heavy on my wife. I'm hoping once we pass this day and get into the new year, there will be a turnaround."
Earlier Tuesday, a "more personal" Mass was celebrated at Epiphany Church in Cliffside Park, where Stephen Petrizzello's funeral was held last year ( SEE: One-Year Anniversary Mass Honors Fallen Cliffside Park Police Officer ).
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