Former bodybuilder Omar Monroig was struck by a car at the intersection of 51st and Tonnelle Avenue on March 23, 2012 and died on April 1, just days after his 42nd birthday. He was honored with a candlelight memorial on Saturday, March 30 from 6 to 8 p.m. in the parking lot of Havana Dulce, which was mere feet where Omar was struck.
Family and friends were invited to share memories of Omar and help mark the yearly anniversary of his untimely death. The crowd of guests was adorned with “Team Omar” shirts, and 42 balloons were released in his honor. The North Bergen police were also present for site safety.
Prayer and testimonials
Those who spoke were Monroig’s widow Marybell, son Nicholas, brother Jorge, sister Mayda, mother-in-law Maria Silverio, father Nicholas, and friend Daniel Barros. His parents from Puerto Rico were present to celebrate their son’s life.
Omar’s family and friends said he excelled in all facets of his life.
“Although a short life, it’s a life you can be proud of, a fantastic father, husband and a champion in everything you put your heart into,” said Barros.
“I will treasure him always until we reunite again.” – Marybell Monroig
“I know now that we did not lose Omar; instead we have all gained an angel,” said Mayda Monroig.
“He was my first son and the first to go,” said Nicholas Monroig. “I thank God because I had him for 42 years.”
“Our children bury us, not the other way around,” said Omar’s mother Margarita Monroig after the memorial.
Reverend Tom Berninger from Abundant Life Worship Center of Lincoln Park led a prayer.
“We pray that you bring comfort and peace to the hearts of everyone who suffered the loss of this dear loved one,” he said.
Berninger said instead of saying “Goodbye,” to say, “See you later, see you soon.”
Forty-two balloons were released for every year that Omar lived and everyone had the opportunity to write a message on them. When released, they all said, “See you later, Omar.”
His legacy lives on
Omar lives on through his son Nicholas.
“Omar’s legacy is evident in his son, Nicholas, who also has a good heart, loves whole-heartedly, and is true to those around him,” said Marybell. “I have faith that Nicholas will continue to carry his father’s positive influence, that all the things that his dad has taught him will reflect in all that he does.”
Nicholas read a poem called “I Promise” by Bailey Fitch.
“I promise to be content, in every sense of the word. To be thankful for the air in my lungs, and the nineteen years I was blessed to have with you. I promise to try and have as big a heart as you did. I promise to be a friend and a mentor as you were. The most important promise I can make, despite all my failures and all my losses. A promise that carries the equivalence of all the rest combined is this... I promise to make you proud.”
Still at large
The candlelight memorial flier stated, “We strongly need your support to continue to raise awareness for this injustice.” The driver who allegedly struck Omar is still at large.
“He loved us with all his might, and to honor that love, I vow to fight every day to find the answers we seek because it’s that closure that will eventually help us move on,” said Mayda.
Monroig’s family and friends are still trying to obtain any leads that would result in the capture of the driver who ended Omar’s life. In October Marybell and his family announced the increase of the reward from $10,000 to $20,000.
“How can a person do something like this and go on with his life?” asked Margarita.
Berninger mentioned the injustice. “God may you bring us closure and comfort and peace in the knowledge that this situation will be ultimately taken care of in the day of judgement,” he said.
A sketch was also distributed from a witness account and Tonnelle Avenue video footage. The vehicle involved is a dark-colored 2001 to 2004 Toyota Camry with New York plates.
Anyone with information is encouraged to call the North Bergen Police Department at (201) 392-2100.
Vanessa Cruz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org