Tomorrow, at the Paramount Theater in Asbury Park, New Jersey, law enforcement members and Brothers Before Others members from all over the country, will be gathering to join friends and family in mourning the loss of Asbury Park Police Detective, April Bird.
Greg Holden sings an apropos song titled “Hold On Tight”. In it, he says:
“I’ll try not to complain about the things I have lost. Because, when you have something great that just means there’s a greater loss..”
And so it goes with our sister and member, April. Whether you knew April for a long time or met her just once, the impression left was the same. You remember her smile. You remember her spirit. You remember her dedication to both her family and her profession. Most of all, you remember how when she saw you, she truly SAW you.
In an age where everyone’s faces are usually buried in their phones and we all have a collective attention span of approximately 3 minutes, when April was engaged in conversation with you, for that period of time, you were her world. That is a lost art nowadays.
Upon hearing of her passing, Brothers Before Others founder/President Michael Burke had this to say:
“I lay here in bed, unable to sleep and searching for the right words to say. I think of her smile. I think about the way she always used to yell, “C’Mere Burkey” and then give me one of the most genuine bear hugs a person could give or receive. April has was a part of BBO from the beginning; from the days before we even knew what we had. She attended our first event in Jersey City and was a constant ever since. She was and will always be the embodiment of what this group stands for.”
It always seems to happen when someone passes: Inevitably you end up running into or hearing from someone that knew your friend/family member that you never knew or never would have connected. After BBO had posted our memorial photo in April’s honor, Copline founder, Stephanie Samuels, reached out to us to BBO in order to both thank us and to share her own sentiments. Every New Years Eve, Copline hosts a ‘midnight run’ along the Point Pleasant Beach (NJ) called “Run For the Call“. As taken from their website:
“We have chosen New Year’s Eve to remind us that police officers all over the country are working and not with their families. We honor them and all those that have worn the badge with respect and dignity by starting the New Year healthy, sober and safe. We remember that no matter how bad things are, there can be a new beginning.”
When she reached out to us, Stephanie said, “Thank You for honoring my friend, April. This one really hit my heart. April was one of the founders of our midnight run. I remember teaching her in the academy and she’s been a part of both my life and my entire family’s life ever since. She had the ability to make an entire room smile and, simply put, was one of the most amazing people I have ever known. I will be looking to name our annual run in her honor.”
There is no shortage of people who called April their friend. However, like everyone else, April had her ‘circle’. Among her closest friends was BBO Member, Donna Gonzalez. Unfiltered and unedited, these are her words:
April and I have been friends since roughly 2006. Every year since we met, our friendship became stronger and stronger. We first met while I was working at our county sheriff’s office. Many times, Sheriff’s Officers relied on information from municipal Police Officers in order to assist us in the apprehension of fugitive suspects and individuals wanted for non-payment of child support warrants. April was always helpful to us, naturally. However, it was her wit, playfulness and level of sarcasm that made her immediately mesmerizing. After exchanging banter back and forth, it was obvious that she and I were birds of a feather (no pun intended).
As time went on, she and I began to hang out together, beginning as a small group of strong female police officers who met up to show each other support, share war stories and have a drink to unwind. We attended as many charity events, law enforcement gatherings, PBA conventions and social outings as we could accommodate. Anything that seemed like it would be a night of togetherness and fun, we made it a point to be there. In fact, April meshed so well with me that my best friend, Renee, made the instant and identical connection with her. We became an inseparable trio. We traveled together, took road trips, shared countless dinners and drinks. If only to of us attended an event, we inevitably fielded dozens of questions from others wondering where our third ‘member’ was. Within our trio, we all had our roles. Renee is the helpful organizer. She has the most innocent outlook on life and has been deemed the emotional one of the group. Me? I’m the silly, foul-mouthed, overly tattooed jokester with a killer ‘resting bitch face’. April was the level-headed, strong minded, sarcastic ‘think tank’. Together our personalities filled every possible gap. Together, we made up the perfect person.
Even though I didn’t work with April, I had an opportunity to see her interact with her community on several occasions. She was always thorough and, most importantly to her, treated everyone with respect and dignity, regardless of their social or economic status. April genuinely cared about the people she served and was determined to help them remove the bad people from the streets. After all, THEIR community was HER community. April lived in either Asbury Park or Neptune Township all of her adult life. She could always be trusted to keep her word; a trait that served her well when it came to relaxing the bad guys into confessing and the good guys into feeling comfortable. She had an elephants memory. She could recall specific details, statements, occurrences off the top of her head, even years after the fact. She never took notes or had to use a pad in order to recall details or help her remember. I was always dazzled by that. After all, I forgot what I had for breakfast. She wouldn’t mind working around the clock if she knew that it would lead to a crime being solved or making a difference.
April was a family person. She bought a beautiful house in order to ensure that her mother and son would always have a space of their own. She, literally, made their house a home, adding a great landscaped backyard and patio space for fair-weathered shenanigans. She loved a good laugh with friends. One time, April was able to trick her mom, affectionately known to all as ‘Ms. Catherine’, into signing a written contract agreeing to not do any laundry on April’s day off or she agreed that she would be shipped off to a nursing home with a “…brick wall view”.
To be April’s friend was so much more than just sharing drinks and laughing. April was always the first to be there for you in a time of need. She would support her friends to no end and would defend them when they were unable to do so for themselves. She always spoke the truth. You never had to ask for her to give it to you straight. If you ever asked for her opinion, that was the only way you were getting it. People would always comment on how they loved her brutal honesty. April knew how to make her delivery count. After telling you what she knew you needed to hear and not what you wanted to hear, she would exhaust every effort helping you achieve your goal or make it right. Despite being brutally honest, April would likewise never miss an opportunity to give another person a compliment. She was never a hater. But, make no mistake, if you came at her in a negative way, she was unmatched in responding in a manner that cut you off at the knees and shut you down immediately. If you came at her, you’d have better been dressed for battle.
April was diabolical with her practical jokes. If you managed to get her first, she would let you get that off and would never respond immediately. She would wait for the perfect moment to get you back, even if it took months for that day to arrive. In fact, I’m STILL a little nervous about her getting me back for the time Renee and I (allegedly) toilet papered her house one ‘mischief night’. Because of our 13-year age difference, April was tired of being the butt of our old-people jokes. Sometimes I would introduce her to new people as my Mom or, if I was feeling froggy, as my Grandmother. She would usually get me back my manipulating my text messages to get her mom fired up and cursing me out. She loved doing that.
April enjoyed life. She traveled all over the world, never missing an opportunity to relax and have fun. She loved trying new restaurants and new foods; but she always seemed to come back to a well-seasoned pork chop, steak or juicy burger. She hated exercise and rap music even more. She loved good movies and cold ‘Jack and Cokes’. As often as we drank together, I never saw her get drunk. It’s almost like she liked being on her toes at all times.
April was one of my most loyal friends and she is absolutely irreplaceable. I am having a hard time trying to picture my life without her but, God willing, I promise to fulfill everything we said we were going to do upon retiring. April is loved. She is mourned. She will be forever missed immensely. I mean, who else needs a venue like the Paramount Theater to accommodate all her loved ones?? Bird. That’s who. And there will never be another one like her.
I’m sure that when they opened the gates of Heaven for her, she immediately ‘junk punched’ Saint Peter and said, “Thanks, punk”.
There’s no proper way to say ‘Goodbye’ forever. It’s unnatural. As Donna put it, it’s impossible to imagine our lives without our loved ones. So, in closing, I want to leave us all with April’s own words as posted inside of our group back in 2015. It is our continued wish for our members and our certain belief that it is a wish she now shares a responsibility in ensuring. May she forever rest in paradise and may all of her family and friends know that they did, indeed, have something great; something that not everyone is lucky enough have said they were blessed with.