A retired New Jersey officer died after being involved in a “serious bicycle accident” during the 20th annual Police Unity Tour, the Roxbury Township Police Department’s chief announced on Facebook in a touching obituary posted late Wednesday.
The post did not provide details about how retired Lt. Joseph Franklin was killed after the Monday incident, but recalled how happy he was to attend the event.
“He was excited about and looking forward to the Unity Tour to ride in honor of the fallen and see all of his friends who were also making the trip,” Chief Marc Palanchi wrote.
Hundreds of local officers participate in the annual event, biking about 300 miles from the 911 Memorial in New York City to Washington D.C. in honor of those killed in the line of duty.
“We shook hands, wished each other well and he told me to tell all of the guys to be safe as he rode away. A short time later he was involved in the accident,” Palanchi continued.
Franklin had various roles during his 25 years with the department, but his “greatest contribution” came in 1991 when he initiated the Explorer’s Program.
“He gave his time, energy and provided leadership and guidance to young people effortlessly,” Palanchi said. “Following the example set forth by Joe, many of those explorers went on to become police officers.”
Franklin was also “enthusiastic” about retirement, and after his 25-year career he began every day with a 25- to 35-mile bike ride, and enjoyed golfing and going to the beach.
“Joe gave to others his entire career and continued giving back to law enforcement during his retirement and ultimately gave his life during his last ride. Even today, he is still giving. Joe is giving the gift of life to others by donating his organs. One final heroic act,” Palanchi said.
The chief went on to describe Franklin as “honorable,” and express how many people would miss him.