Goldsboro police Maj. Dwayne E. Dean had to pause as he welcomed members of the Carolina Brotherhood, his voice choked with emotion as they prepared to pay tribute to his late friend and co-worker, Maj. Jay R. Memmelaar Jr.
“On behalf of the police department, we thank you for all that you do and what you represent, Dean said.
“Thanks brother,” said Jim Squittieri, a co-founder of the nonprofit organization, as he hugged Dean.
Investigator E.M. Goins played the bagpipes as the caravan of about 30 bicyclists, with another 20 support staff in vehicles of the Carolina Brotherhood, arrived at the Law Enforcement Memorial at Wayne Community College about 4 p.m. Monday on the first day of a six-day, 600-mile journey to pay tribute to first responders who died in the line of duty in 2017.
Memmelaar, who was a support services major with the Goldsboro Police Department, is one those being honored.
The Carolina Brotherhood is a cycling group comprised entirely of firefighters, police officers and emergency personnel from throughout North and South Carolina.
Its mission is to provide emotional and financial support for the families of those who lost their lives in the line of duty from the Carolinas, said Squittieri, who rides Engine 18 with the Charlotte Fire Department.
The nonprofit organization works to build awareness and appreciation of the sacrifice these extraordinary individuals have made and seeks to honor their memory, he said.
Dean, who is with the Goldsboro Police Department Operations Bureau, and Memmelaar went through basic law enforcement training together. Both were hired the same day and were sworn in at the same time with the Goldsboro Police Department.
Memmelaar, who was 49 at the time of his death, had been with the department for 25 years.
He died of a heart attack on Feb. 16, 2017.
“He had just finished working out here at the police department and had gone back to his office to work on a sergeant’s promotional exam when he fell ill in his office and was rushed to Wayne Memorial Hospital,” Dean said. “They (Brotherhood) reached out to us, and said they were going to be riding in honor of Maj. Memmelaar. We were very happy for them to be riding in honor of Maj. Memmelaar to keep his honor and his legacy alive.
“He was very wise for his age. I don’t think he really met a stranger. He coached youth soccer on his days off. He loved to do woodworking and had a woodworking shop there at his home. He was very respected within the department. If younger officers had questions, they would seek him out and ask his advice and trust what advice that was given by him.”
Memmelaar’s widow, Irene, attended the ceremony. Their son Christopher serves with the U.S. Navy in Washington state and daughter Maria is on a mission trip to Japan.
His parents, Jay Sr. and Sharon Memmelaar, live in Goldsboro. His brother, Nathan, is a lieutenant with the Smithfield Police Department.
The Carolina Brotherhood cycling charity event was established in 2012 with its mission to raise funds for the families of fallen first responders and to honor their memories, Squittieri said.
“This is why we are doing what we are doing,” Squittieri said pointing out Irene Memmelaar. “We have guys on the ride who have suffered line-of-duty deaths in their own departments. Police officers who have lost their partners.”
Some from the departments and families that the group has ridden for in the past are now riding themselves, he said.
“So we have kind of like this healing process that happens on the ride,” Squittieri said. “We meet the families, show support, show that we still care and show that their loved one is not forgotten. So, yes, meeting her was what it was all about. There is just a beautiful bond that happens that you cannot get anywhere else.”
The meeting put faces to the mission, which is all about the families, he said.
Along with raising awareness about the group’s mission, the ride also is a fundraiser. T-shirts are sold through its website, https://carolinabrotherhood.com.
“We do yearly hands-on training so not only are we trying to help the families heal, we also are trying to prevent things,” he said. “The money goes to the families, but also money goes to to all of North and South Carolina — any fire, police, correctional officer, EMS that is in trouble.
“Medical bills, vehicle accidents — anything that they need, we are there for.”
Most of the riders aren’t cyclists, Squittieri said.
The ride consists of long days, in hot weather and even uphill to demonstrate the level of commitment they all have, he said.
“It is supposed to be a sacrifice,” he said. “We get to go home to see our families. The ones who we are riding for don’t. So it is supposed to be a homage and hard to do. If everybody was doing it, it wouldn’t mean as much.”
The route varies from year to year as members cycle in honor of fallen first responders.
This year’s ride is taking place over six days covering some 600 miles.
Monday was the first day with the riders making the 94-mile trek from Windsor to Goldsboro. Tuesday’s ride is 93 miles from Goldsboro to Wilmington. The riders will leave Wilmington on Wednesday for the 106-mile journey to Marion, South Carolina.
From Marion, they will travel 101 miles to Lancaster, South Carolina, on Thursday. On Friday, they will ride 117 miles to Greenville, South Carolina.
The ride will end Saturday with a 96-mile ride from Greenville, South Carolina, to Burnsville, North Carolina, which is northeast of Asheville and near Mount Mitchell.
“We would like to give a shoutout to the Goldsboro Family YMCA for allowing them to stay there overnight and use their shower facilities,” Dean said. “The police department is undergoing some construction and our gym is off-limits right now. We’d also like to thank Pizza Inn on U.S. 70 West for donating a spaghetti and salad meal for tonight’s (Monday) dinner.
“Also, Panera Bread for donating assorted bagels and coffee for breakfast (Tuesday) morning and also Great Harvest Bread Co. for donating assorted sweets for breakfast.”
For more information about the Carolina Brotherhood, visit https://carolinabrotherhood.com.