Officer Chris Cronin of Old Bridge, End of Watch: Dec. 2, 2020

A man about town

Thousands show the love for Old Bridge Local 127 Officer Chris Cronin, who they saw as one of their own

People depended on Old Bridge Local 127 Member Chris Cronin to crack a joke when they needed a pick-me-up. Members relied on him to spin a bad situation into a lighthearted one. Friends trusted him to listen and help in the face of adversity.

So when news of Cronin’s passing on Dec. 2, due to COVID-19-related complications, was posted on Facebook, friends, family and residents of Old Bridge flooded the post with thoughts and prayers. Some expressed how they counted on his guidance as a friend and some had worked with him directly in the department or through volunteering. Others remembered feeling safe whenever they saw his patrol car outside their buildings.

The 40,000 people who saw the post were reminded of the lengths Cronin went to in order to be a dependable friend, as well as a neighborhood police officer. They knew him from how he would strike up conversations while on patrol.

“Everybody loved him, and I know everyone says that,” praised Mike Cronin, his younger brother and an Old Bridge detective. “But it was true with him.”

Part of what made Chris Cronin special was his ability to connect with people. He attended the Monmouth County Police Academy in 2000 and instantly became the “platoon morale leader” of his class. Afterward, he continued to lead the group by planning get-togethers for members down to every last detail.

“There’s definitely a huge hole left in the group now,” Local 127 member Steve Connolly commented. “There’s no way you can fill that hole. Those little jokes we had together — you can tell people, but that person being there is irreplaceable.”

The Cronins are a household name in Old Bridge. Chris served the department for 20 years. His father, Dennis, is a retired captain and his younger brother, Mike, has been a detective since 2007. Siblings serving in the same department is not uncommon for Old Bridge. At one point, the Local had nine sets of siblings.

Chris and Mike were inseparable. They grew up together in the family-oriented town, went to the same college and had the same circle of friends.

Although they both became police officers, Chris had the idea first. He attended Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale and studied criminal justice, while Mike studied education there. Then, Mike decided that he wanted to follow Chris and give back to the community that took care of them.

“Our dad made the streets safe for us,” Mike shared. “So we wanted to do the same.”

Chris was diagnosed with leukemia at two years old and spent years in chemotherapy and radiation before going into remission at age 10. He was the only patient in his ward who survived. Even after enduring those tough few years, Chris took care and was protective of Mike in their teenage years.

“As long as we were together, there’s no chance anyone could hurt me,” Mike noted.

Chris connected with and looked out for the people around him long before becoming a police officer. His magnetic personality led to becoming homecoming king in college, president of his fraternity and well regarded by his peers. When Connolly made the phone call to fraternity brothers and friends in Miami about losing Chris, it was a tearjerker.

“People were just openly crying on the other end [of the call],” he noted. “There is never going to be anyone who even comes close, no one ever.”

In his years of service, Chris would constantly go out of his way to stay involved within the community and his coworkers. Connolly recollected Chris calling him every day about his shift, and the two would exchange stories of their day. Chris and his wife, Lorena, never had children but regarded Connolly’s as their own.

“My children were in tears for days because ‘Uncle Chris’ wasn’t going to be here anymore,” Connolly revealed.

Chris had the unique ability to remain calm in the face of danger. When best friend and Local 127 member Gregory Miller was hit by a car, Anna, his wife, called Chris immediately. Anna was frantically asking for more information when Chris calmly replied, “He [Greg] said he will call you back.” When she nudged him to call headquarters, Anna recalls Chris being unflappable as ever: “If he was hurt he wouldn’t have picked up.”

People who had the opportunity to experience Chris as their friend, family member and neighborhood cop said his greatest asset was his humor and empathy.

“He was our rock,” Mike declared. “That’s what makes this so hard.”