Friendly Son of St. Patrick honor two NJSPBA members for going above and beyond
Retired Bradley Beach Local 50 member Gerald Preston and Wall Township Local 234 member Michael Malone humbly stood to receive awards presented by the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick on March 10. Members of the organization gathered for the Black Tie Gala at the Shore Club in Spring Lakes, where they unanimously nominated Preston to receive the Irishman of the Year Award and Malone to receive the Commodore Barry Honoree Award.
Preston served for two years as a president of the organization, which promotes Irish heritage and supports numerous charities year around, as well as awards college scholarships. On the job, Preston was known as a strong leader, well respected by younger officers, and served as a mentor to many.
During the pandemic, while he served as president, his leadership skills flourished during the countless challenges that the crisis brought to the organization.
“Preston used his leadership skills that he’s always had to help us and guide us through it,” explained Spring Lake Police Chief Ed Kerr, who is also a past president. “I don’t think the organization would be in the great hands that it is in now if it wasn’t for Jerry being our president at that time.”
While on a routine call in 2012, Malone met a Wall resident named Harry Rockafeller. After speaking with him, Malone learned that Rockafeller was a 95-year-old WWII veteran. Over the next few years, Malone continued to build a relationship with him and even brought other Local 50 members along to meet this war hero, who had earned several medals for his service.
“As I was saying my goodbyes, I made him a promise that I wasn’t going to allow him to be forgotten,” Malone recalled. “I had no idea at that moment what I was going to do. But I had this vision a couple months later to have a bronze statue depicting him to represent all World War II veterans.”
Malone’s friendship with Rockafeller inspired him to continue working with veterans, so when he was asked in 2019 to work with the Best Defense Foundation, he readily accepted. As a volunteer, Malone helps bring veterans back to the battlefields where they once served, for ceremonies, celebrations, camaraderie and closure. And since 2019, Malone has helped bring more than 120 WWII veterans to Europe and Pearl Harbor.
When a local Navy Seal learned of Malone’s work, he immediately decided to nominate him for the Commodore Barry Award for his work with veterans.
“It was an incredible honor,” Malone added. “I accepted this award on behalf of my officers at the Wall Township Police Department and for the Best Defense Foundation. And especially just knowing that my officers go out on a day-to-day basis and perform above and beyond what is required.”