Father Andrino, left, poses for a photo with Lakewood Chief of Police Gregory H. Meyer. Courtesy photo
Father Andrino, left, poses for a photo with Lakewood Chief of Police Gregory H. Meyer. Courtesy photo
If anyone questioned how a vintage car could have anything to do with bringing people together and building community, one might find the answer on the door panels.

That pretty much sets the scene for the compelling event that took place May 20 on the campus of the Lakewood Township Police Department.

Father Guilherme Andrino, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, was asked to bless a car that will memorialize all Lakewood police officers who died both in the line of duty and while actively serving the township.

The car is a black, four-door 1941 Oldsmobile sedan in original condition and typical of what was driven in the 1940s. Painted on the driver’s side door panel are the names of six fallen police officers while seven names are painted on the front passenger door panel.

“It is an honor to do the blessing,” Father Andrino said, noting the great affection and gratitude he has for all the Lakewood Police Department does for Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish and the community at-large. He added that he remembered the police department during Law Enforcement Appreciation Week, May 11-17, and he will continue to keep them in prayer, “and they are welcome anytime to our church.”

Shrage Pinter, a local businessman and dean of a Jewish religious school, presented the idea for the memorial car to Chief of Police Gregory H. Meyer after he spoke with Det. Sgt. Jeannette Shimonovich about the passing of her son, Nicklas Shimonovich, who lost his life in an off-duty motorcycle crash. Pinter, who knows Det. Sgt. Shimonovich and her husband Lt. Robert Shimonovich, was moved by the circumstances surrounding the death of their son. Pinter is also a longtime friend of the previous Chief of Police, Robert Lawson, who also lost his son, Craig Lawson, in off-duty circumstances.

Chief Meyer said that the sudden losses of two young men who perished way too young, and had their entire life ahead of them, served as the inspiration that fueled Mr. Pinter to memorialize their existence with dignity and respect.

“The memorialization of the car symbolizes ‘unity in the community’ and it harmonizes by expressing and embracing peace, love and compassion throughout an all-faiths’ community partnership,” Pinter said, adding that the blessing by Father Andrino “demonstrates a positively enriching community that empowers [all] to connect as one.”

“A picture is worth a thousand words, but a memory is priceless,” Pinter said. “That’s why we made this memorial car with the names of all the honorable officers who served the Lakewood community with dignity.”

Chief Meyer said the memorial car will be used for police ceremonies and memorials and may also be displayed in downtown Lakewood for public viewing.

“We are touched by this special gesture by Mr. Pinter and the time and work he put in to make this happen,” Chief Meyer said. “It’s a beautiful way to keep the memories of our late officers alive. I have no doubt the families will find this extremely meaningful, and the vehicle will become a favorite in the Lakewood Police Department’s history.”