‘The superhero of our family’
Alex Ruperto’s small smirk that accompanied a cutting but loving sense of humor is the lasting image that will live in Omar Hernandez’s memory when he thinks about the friend he commanded in Union City Police Department’s training division.
“He just had such a quiet calm about him,” Hernandez shared. “You’d walk into a room and he’d be there, and immediately you’d feel like you were home.”
Union City lost a genuine, tranquil and earnest man in Ruperto. The tough detective spoke with respect to his colleagues and friends – never a bad word to say behind anyone’s back – but when he started cracking jokes, Hernandez said that was the true Ruperto.
“He would sit all day in that chair and not say a word, but the whole time, I think he was just planning his whole joke routine,” Hernandez chuckled. “Every now and then he would just come out with a nice quip. He would just hit you with it when you weren’t expecting it.”
His daughter, 23-year-old Juliana Ruperto, knew the same quietly goofy man. Her heart breaks because she and her brother, Alex, Jr., never had the chance to say goodbye to their 52-year-old father. He was placed on a ventilator and passed away as a result of COVID-19 on April 16. But Juliana carries on her father’s legacy in Union City as a public safety telecommunicator.
“My dad was like the superhero of our family. He always fixed all the problems and did everything,” Juliana honored. “I want to say, ‘Thank you for everything, for being my biggest supporter through school and through everything.’ I’m just going to continue the journey for him.”
Ruperto grew up in Union City and graduated from Emerson High School in 1986. He had served with the Union City Police Department since 1999, and Hernandez relayed that he rarely took a day off from his beloved job. Ruperto was an original member of the department’s Emergency Service Unit (ESU) before transferring to his most recent assignment, the city’s training division. A procession on April 17 lovingly brought the detective back to his hometown from Glen Ridge, where he was residing.
Union City Local 8 State Delegate Geoffrey Bass was trained by Ruperto when he first came on the job. Bass is forever marked by the unbelievable kindness and humbleness he witnessed during that training.
“All around, [Ruperto] was an amazing person,” Bass conveyed. “He always made training easy for someone to understand. Even if you didn’t understand it, he would always break it down for you and really show you how to be a cop.”
And that smirk Ruperto so proudly wore will forever be the symbol of his witty and quiet sense of humor. As a firearms instructor along with Hernandez, Ruperto always considered the highlight of his work days driving the guys down an unpaved road to the range in a 10-years-too-old SUV – and the enthusiasm in his eyes matched the corner of his lip that curled upward.
“He’d be quiet all day, and all of a sudden when he got to that road, he’d start driving a little quicker,” Hernandez laughed. “Everybody’s jumping all over in the car, hitting their heads on the roof of the car, and he’d be quiet the whole time, just laughing.”
And though Hernandez misses his friend who became like a mentor to him over the years, he knows that Ruperto is watching over him, driving down an unpaved road while wearing that infamous smirk.