'Bob Was a Minstrel'
Men and women of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, friends and family members: Soon, the famed lyrics of Sgt. Robert M. Kaulfers may be available. These are the tunes you know and love from retirement parties, wedding receptions and slow days on the job. Take it from Sgt. Mark O'Neill: "Bob was a minstrel."
You'll get "The Hat," the famous ode to Officer Mike Barry, set to the tune of the theme from "The Cat in the Hat," and "Carnevale Time," the paean to Lt. Mike Carnevale. And who could forget the tribute to Sgt. Bernard M. Poggioli, a world-renowned expert on runaway children, "I'm Much Taller Than Poggioli"?
Many of the lyrics were found in Sergeant Kaulfers's locker. His wife, Cookie, thinks she may soon be strong enough to go through his papers at home to meet requests for the other songs. "I would hear him in the shower singing and laughing to himself," she remembered.
Sergeant Kaulfers, 49, also found time to study world history, keep the rookies on the right path and raise two children. His friends said he never held a grudge; perhaps the best evidence of that was his 25- year marriage to the girl who beat him in the election for sixth-grade class president.
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on December 31, 2001.
Sgt. Robert Kaulfers, 49, an officer first
Cookie Kaulfers does not remember her first day at Aldene Elementary School in Roselle Park some 39 years ago.
But the fourth-grader made quite an impression on a little boy who would grow up to be her husband.
"He remembers because I moved from Newark, and he remembers when I started school that day. I was a new person in town with a different name," said Luz "Cookie" Kaulfers of Kenilworth, yesterday. "We've been friends since we were little."
Her husband, Port Authority Police Sgt. Robert Michael Kaulfers, 49, died in the line of duty, having rushed from Hoboken to New York shortly after learning of the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center.
He dashed in to help and has not been heard from since. His body has not been recovered.
"He was wonderful. Everybody loved Bob. He had a sense of humor. He did all the parties for the retired cops, wrote parody songs . . . He was kind of the life of the party," she said.
Sgt. Kaulfers was repeatedly described as a loyal, honest family man and a devoted police officer by those who knew him. He especially took an interest in the new police officers.
"He really related to all the rookies," Cookie Kaulfers said. "He was a cop first. He was always out there doing more and more than he should have. I was always afraid that something would happen.
"You live with that kind of thing your whole life when you're the wife of a police officer," she said. "But I never imagined this."
The Kaulfers, parents of two, recently celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary.
His mother, Julia Kelly Kaulfers of Roselle Park, remembers a "good boy" who loved his family, played football and Little League baseball and decided in his late teens to study criminal justice.
The Port Authority promoted him to sergeant in January 1996. From there he was assigned to the bus terminal in New York City and the PATH train. He began his career at the authority in 1979 as a facility operations agent.
Before that, he was an investigator for the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office's Narcotics Task Force, from 1976 to 1979.
He graduated Trenton State College in 1975.
Besides his wife and mother, Sgt. Kaulfers is survived by two children, Timothy, 22, and Meredith, 18; his father, Arthur; two sisters, Susan Nerbak and Carol Visconti; two brothers, Jack and Edward, and two nieces and four nephews.
A memorial Mass will be held Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Roman Catholic Church of the Assumption in Roselle Park.
The family asks that donations be made to Robert M. Kaulfers Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 252, Kenilworth, N.J. 07033.
Profile by Debra Dowling published in THE STAR-LEDGER.