-- Christopher B. Cosgrove III of Cedar Knolls spent much of his
life in uniform.
He wore the colors of the Whippany Park High School Wildcats
while playing football and lacrosse. He wore military fatigues when
playing paintball as a teenager. He had hoped to someday wear the
uniform of his hometown Hanover Township Police Department. He was
wearing a Marine Corps uniform when he was killed Oct. 1 by suicide
car bomber in Iraq.
It was fitting then that hundreds in uniforms of all types,
representing local, county and state law enforcement agencies, area
fire departments and first aid squads attended a funeral Mass on
Wednesday morning celebrating Cosgrove's life.
The most striking among them were the "dress blues" of the dozens
of Marines were at St. Vincent's Church. Several stood at attention
for nearly an hour, waiting for the funeral procession to arrive
from the Bradley Braviak Funeral Home in Whippany.
Inside the church, Cosgrove's fiancée, Jessica Gurdemir, read from
her last letter to Cosgrove: "You are my hero, for now and forever."
The Mass was to be a celebration, though it had a certain
melancholy air. Midmorning on Wednesday was gray. A chill held the
air outside the church on Green Village Road. Slight winds brought
droplets of cold rain. The church bell rang consistently and between
each toll were only the chirps of birds.
The quiet was broken by the thunder of motorcycles. Leather clad
men and women parked, dismounted and walked with large American
flags and lined up behind the rows of Marines. The riders were there
to counter an announced demonstration by a Kansas-based group that
has been protesting military funerals. The demonstrators never
When the funeral procession arrived, six Marines carried
Cosgrove's casket draped in the American flag into the church.
Cosgrove's family followed behind. Gathered inside were about 200
relatives, friends and others who knew Cosgrove or had heard about
Cosgrove, 23, had enlisted the year before he graduated from
Monmouth University. He finished boot camp in 2004, then met his
fiancée, Jessica Gurdemir from Staten Island, at a restaurant in
Madison. She was a studying for a degree in education at Fairleigh
Dickinson University. She had hoped he'd be coming home this month.
The couple had planned to be married at St. Vincent in August.
Cosgrove came from a family of men who served in the military or
in law enforcement. His stepfather, Art Bowie, served in the Air
Force. His father, Christopher Cosgrove Jr. of New Providence is a
former law enforcement officer. So was his late grandfather,
Christopher B. Cosgrove Sr., and an uncle from his mother's side,
Tom Turrisi, is a Boonton police officer.
Charles A. Turrisi, Cosgrove's late maternal grandfather, was a
pilot during World War II and was shot down over Eastern Europe and
held a prisoner of war.
The night before, about 100 Marines and others paid respects to
Cosgrove and his family at the Birchwood Manor. During the evening
visitation, a line had formed outside the sprawling catering hall.
At the altar of St. Vincent's, seven robed pastors from different
churches took part in the Roman Catholic service.
Monsignor Chris DiLella of St. Vincent's led the service with the
Rev. Ron Sordillo, who is also assigned to the parish. Also
participating were Parochial Vicar Justin Capato and Deacon James
Konchalski from Notre Dame of Mount Carmel Church in Cedar Knolls,
and priests from Mountainside and Staten Island.
In addition to his fiancée, Cosgrove's stepmother, Eileen, his
mother, Charlene Bowie of Cedar Knolls, and two Marine comrades
spoke during the service.
"We have to continue to carry on the work that Chris did,"
Charlene Bowie said, referring to the various charity organizations
Cosgrove worked with, including Toys for Tots and Marines Helping
Marines, both places the family asked donations be made to instead
She asked everyone to continue to support: "The Marines, everyone
in the military, the police, the firefighters, the EMTs -- they are
Each of the two Marines who spoke were clearly holding back tears
and both called him "our brother."
Cosgrove's friends, standing against a wall, wiped their eyes.
Some clenched their eyelids and looked to the ceiling. A row of
women wiped their tears with tissues when Cosgrove's stepmother,
Eileen Cosgrove of New Providence, mentioned his fiancée.
"I envisioned you walking through the airport," said Eileen
Cosgrove, who also talked about many of the things she was looking
forward to seeing; her stepson watching her children, his brothers,
Kevin and Brian playing in their sporting events. And of course, the
"Those dreams ended last Monday when two Marines came to our door
and told us what happened."
If anyone was looking for fortitude at the church, they may have
found it in Gurdemir. She was steadfast during her eulogy, never
breaking her words. She almost cried when she read the last letter
she wrote to Cosgrove but she retained her composure.
"You are my hero, for now and forever," she read.