Few ten-year-olds have made an impact like Michael Feeney, the honorary chief of the Ridgewood Police Department.
The Hawes fifth grader, who last week succumbed to a four-year battle with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare and aggressive bone cancer, was an inspirational force in the village and its police department, where his work reached beyond the honorary title bestowed upon him.
“Mike touched everyone he met in a positive way. You couldn’t help but feel his optimism when you met him,” Police Chief John Ward said Monday. “In my discussions with him you could really see that he wanted to make a difference.”
Full police honors were being assembled for Feeney's funeral service, scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday at Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Area departments offered honor guards and vehicles for a motorcade, and Ridgewood police will be wearing mourning bands on their badges to mark the loss of one of their own.
The show of support for Feeney and his family, the chief said, comes from the genuine admiration he fostered in his work with the department. After he was honored as chief for a day in June, Ward said, Feeney continued to be a part of the department’s work, taking initiative and helping to inspire more positive police involvement with the town's youth.
His legacy can be seen in a newly formed youth ambassador program, and a planned junior police academy that will be named in Feeney’s honor. Ward detailed a partnership with the ten-year-old in which Feeney did research on his own and worked fervently and seriously to make an impact.
“Working with Mike has helped us move faster toward community policing than we could have without him. He inspired a lot of my officers, he touched everyone,” Ward said.
“When you get the respect of men and women who know what it is to face danger and have courage – that says something,” the chief added.
Ward expected that despite Feeney's young age, his legacy will be long lasting .
“He squeezed 100 years into the 10 years that he lived,” his father, Jack Feeney, told The Record.
Schools Superintendent Dan Fishbein said district staff prepared over the weekend to support coping students and staff at Feeney’s Ridgewood elementary school.
“It’s been four years and he’s been an inspiration to a lot of people,” Fishbein said. “Here’s a kid who went through dozens of treatments, yet wanted to go to school and participated in activities – baseball, soccer – and lived as full a life as he could.”
Mourned by a community, Feeney leaves behind parents Jack and Jill, and sister Cassie.
“I thank Jill, Jack and Cassie for sharing Mike with us. That’s precious time that they gave to the community,” Ward said. “I only hope I make as much of a difference as he did.”