Remembering Fair Haven Police Patrolman Robert J. Henne

It was three years ago today that Fair Haven lost Patrolman Robert Henne. The loss of the friendly, compassionate cop was a devastating one.

We, at Rumson-Fair Haven Retrospect, again offer our profound condolences to his loving family and many colleagues and friends. 

In memory of Robert, we are re-running our tribute to him that was originally published after his funeral and final call on March 31, 2015. 

RIP, Robert. You are remembered … 

By Elaine Van Develde

There was something about his face.

Always a content smile emanating from underneath his police hat, Fair Haven Police Patrolman Robert J. Henne seemed to wear his pristine, proud heart on its brim. And it seemed as if St. Michael, patron saint of police officers, was perched right next to it, guarding it. Always.

Whether or not you knew the officer well, it didn’t matter. Just one glance of his bright doe eyes and beam from under the brim of that officer’s cap that seemed to embrace him, and you knew you were home, cared for and protected.

And so was he.

“He was emblematic of everything that’s good in this town,” Fair Haven Mayor Ben Lucarelli said with crestfallen pride as he reflected on the untimely March 23 death of the 23-year-old third-generation policeman and fireman. “He represented what small-town community life should be.”

The mayor knew him. He knew him well. He knew how he always wanted to be a police officer. He knew that Robert embraced his calling and the people in his community who he served.

The mayor also knew that it gave him much joy to sign off on the promotion of Henne to a Special Class II officer in 2012. He had seen Henne rise through the ranks from police explorer. He remembered. Many others remembered, too.

They remembered every nuance of what they knew to be a modest, fun and compassionate public servant, son, brother and friend.

But you didn’t have to know him well to know the same thing that the mayor and the people closest to him knew — that Robert Henne was a strong, gentle, protective presence in the lives of every citizen with whom he came in contact.

I knew of his impact and pride of being on the job. And I knew there was something special about him.

I could see it in his smile. Many could.

It seems uncanny sometimes how people pass through our lives, in anything from a fleeting moment, to a few casual encounters and even longstanding relationships.

Yet, however long they are a presence, some seem to etch an indelible mark in our hearts.

As a journalist, this happens to us frequently. And, while the always unique fingerprint of some lives imprinted onto ours can inflict searing pain or a dull ache, it can also leave an impression of tremendous joy. But both teach us. We are grateful for both.

Some stay. Some go. But there’s always an impact in one way or another. And we are fortunate to have had a glimpse into their lives — if only for a moment. And we reflect. Sometimes aloud. Sometimes  unwittingly through our actions.

Reflection enriches us all. Having known such an incredible cross-section of people makes us see how one moment with one person, even just passing through, can make a difference. The difference it makes can be celebrated. It can change us forever — for the better.

There are people with whom we’ve grown up whose deaths we must sadly report on. We grapple with how to best honor them. There tragic accidents involving people we do not know, but to whom we can relate because we have a child, a brother, a sister or a friend whom it could have been.

There are people who have just once shared with us an unforgettable gut laugh over a silly outtake moment in an interview. There are centenarians whose amazing lives we are privileged to look back on with them and write about.

There are people who face adversity and share their experience with us. There are people  with whom we chat and come to know when visiting municipal offices or just being out and about in towns we cover. There are villains. There are heroes.

And there are young men like Patrolman Robert J. Henne whose smile I think we will always see when we round a corner, go to an event, or see a uniform, a fire truck or a patrol car in our Fair Haven.

Thank you, Robert Henne for protecting and serving us and for giving us another reason to be grateful for having known someone like you — if only for a moment.

— Slideshow by Elaine Van Develde … Photo credits: Elaine Van Develde, Fair Haven Fire Department, screenshots from Facebook, courtesy of Tom Kirman and other friends and family of Robert J. Henne.