‘He was a beast’
Cumberland County Corrections Local 231 members mourn the loss of Luis Andujar, a gentle giant who leaves behind a legacy of kindness
Luis Andujar would stroll into the Cumberland County Department of Corrections every day at 7:15 a.m. with a big, goofy smile on his face.
“Good morning, my smitches!” he’d exclaim, filling the roll call room with his booming voice. He’d put his arms out for his coworkers and bring each one into a tight embrace.
“Every morning, you have to give him his hug. He was a beast — just grabbed you and wrapped you up,” relayed Carol Wood, who graduated from Camden County Police Academy with Andujar in 2010. “He called out and hugged everyone every morning, so faithfully. And now it’s just quiet.”
Andujar passed away from complications related to COVID-19 on Jan. 22. He is survived by his mother, Luz Martinez, and four children, Bonnie, Mason, Jordan and Nathan. The Tuesday before his passing, Jan. 19, was the last time Wood got to see him at work.
“We all worked, you know, in a state of shock,” she expressed about receiving the news of his death. “He had our backs, 200 percent, 1,000 percent. He had our backs no matter what.”
Andujar was born in Vineland and raised in Buena. After attending the academy and being employed by the Cumberland County Department of Corrections, he became a member of an elite team of officers called the Special Operations Group.
Fellow officers, family members and community members attended a memorial service for Andujar on Feb. 6 in Vineland. Officers from outside agencies stood outside, while Cumberland County Corrections Local 231 members lined up in the corridor inside the funeral home with Andujar’s family.
Cumberland County Corrections Local 231 State Delegate and President Victor Bermudez prepared a eulogy for the crowd, in which he shared how much the Cumberland County Department of Corrections will miss the gentle power of Andujar.
“He was that positive factor that we need every day in our lives,” Bermudez explained. “He’s that one spark, that one key, that one person that seems nothing ever bothers him because he looks at the positive. That’s now gone. So we’ve got to pick up the torch.”
Adding to his corrections prowess, Andujar was a prankster. Bermudez recalled multiple days coming out to his car askew in its parking spot after Andujar had picked up the back end and moved it.
“We called him ‘Hulk’ and ‘Kung Fu Panda,’” Bermudez laughed. “If you got mad at him, he would open his arms and try to hug you — that’s the kind of guy he was. Even with his strength and everything, he was a gentle person who loved everyone. He didn’t have to prove his strength, he didn’t have to be a bully.”
The gentle giant was a family man. He called his mother every day at noon. In the summers, he had officers from his shift come to his home with their families for barbecues and swimming.
Michael Anderson, who has eight years on the job and has been Andujar’s partner for the past two years, will never forget the way Andujar’s eyes lit up talking about playing the video game Fortnite with his son.
“He was always all about the kids, no matter what, that was his obligation,” Anderson affirmed. “He would sit on the phone with them, talking about football, teaching them how to play football — he was the coach. He was always checking up on all his kids.”
While Bermudez knows that shifts will never be the same without Andujar’s characteristic hugs and pranks, he believes the environment of positivity will live on at the facility.
“Even though he was a lot younger than me, I could learn a lot from him by his humility, and I’m still learning — that’s the piece I’m trying to keep with me,” Bermudez noted. “People say that a piece of us will leave with him, but I charge everybody to say that a piece of him should remain with us.”