A ‘real-life superhero': Thousands celebrate the life of fallen Newark firefighter Wayne Brooks Jr.

Wayne Brooks Jr. left such an impact that former colleagues from out of state made sure to attend Thursday’s services.

Lanette Espy and Ali Reid

Jul 14, 2023, 11:25 AM

Updated 337 days ago

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The funeral for Wayne Brooks Jr. drew thousands of mourners from all over the world, from California to France.
Brooks, 49, was affectionately known as “The Bear” to those close to him. He was one of the two men killed in a cargo ship fire last Wednesday. His casket was carried inside the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark for Friday’s funeral services. It followed a viewing Thursday night for Brooks and the funeral for Fire Capt. Augusto Acabou.
Brooks and Acabou were both promoted to captain during each of their respective funeral services. Brooks' family shared memories of him and a number of readings were shared from close friends and notable speakers, including Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and Fire Chief Rufus Jackson.
The Newark Police Department came down Clifton Avenue with their motorcycle brigade passing under the American flag for the procession. That was followed by a drum line as they welcomed in the city of Newark firetruck that carried the casket of Brooks. The casket was wrapped in the American flag. Mourning bunting in purple and black was on the side of the truck, and the Newark Firefighters Pipe Band played “Amazing Grace.”
Baraka talked about the kind of love firefighters have for one another, and said he sees the bravery and the commitment firefighters have while wearing the uniform every day.
“They don’t have the luxury of staying home, turning around and changing their mind,” Baraka said. “There are men and women who put on the uniform every day and put their lives on the line for us and we don’t even say thank you. We thank you for your service.”

Remembering Wayne 'Bear' Brooks Jr.

Those who knew Brooks say he was an inspiration – a man whose mission was to always serve his community as a 16-year veteran of Ladder 4. Brooks also worked for United Airlines for nearly 30 years. He was known as a great family man by his nephew and many others.
Brooks leaves behind two daughters, Taylor and Dasia. Both spoke during the funeral ceremony.
"Thank you for all of the advice. You'll be with me for the rest of my life,” said Taylor Brooks.
"I will honor your life by living a healthy and joyous life while knowing you are right here with me," said Dasia Brooks.
Wayne’s brother Jason Brooks says he was the type of person to take the lead to solve any problem instead of creating an issue.
“He never complained, he just got things done,” said Jason Brooks.
Born in Glen Ridge and raised in Irvington before relocating to Newark, Brooks graduated from St. Benedict's Preparatory School in 1992. He was an exceptional student-athlete with a love for music. He was known for his culinary skills and often prepared large meals for his colleagues that were "Top Chef" worthy.
Brooks' childhood friend Oscar spoke about growing up together on Tichenor Terrace in Irvington.
"I will forever cherish all the moments and memories we shared, and I promise to be a good role model to your daughters. I know those are some big shoes to fill,” he said.
Brooks left such an impact that former colleagues from out of state made sure to attended services to pay their respects. Anthony Locks, a firefighter from Marseille, France, was also in attendance.
“I’m coming here because for me, it's very important for my country, for the firefighter passed away. U.S. and France is friends for a very long time. So, it's very important to be here today because New York and their work is very important for my country," Locks said. “It's very important coming to be here today for support of my friend."
During the service, Brooks’ wife Michele was handed the Medal of Honor and an American Flag. He was also honored with a flyover before one last tour of the city streets he served.


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