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A former Cranbury police chief’s life and legacy lives on at Heritage Park

The legacy of John Hansen will live on after a bench was dedicated in his honor by his family at Heritage Park in Cranbury on Aug. 3.

The former Cranbury police chief was the longest serving police officer to date in town, according to officials.

“He loved Cranbury [since] the minute we drove in, when the town was looking for a police officer in 1968. He said this is where I want to move to and raise my family,” said Kay Hansen, John’s wife. “We were here for almost 39 years.”

Hansen passed away in August 2018 at the age of 75 having served as an officer in Cranbury Township for 38 years.

“He was dedicated to the town and just loved Cranbury. I am just so thrilled that we are able to donate something that will keep his legacy and memory going,” Kay said. “I am just happy that there will be a memory of him here in Heritage Park. I hope people do remember him because he was a dedicated person.”

People who knew Hansen called him ‘Jay,’ as he was not just a police chief in town, but a fellow resident and business owner in Cranbury.

“I was thinking about Jay and thinking about the bench as both being solid, secure, a place where people can come to rest, a place for where people can come if they are sad, a place where people can come and celebrate – all those things will have a place here, just as Jay was for people here in Cranbury during his service as an officer and to his family,” said Rev. Joanne Petto, chaplin for the New Jersey State Police and Plainsboro Township.

Having known the Hansen family for about 20 years, Petto said John definitely had a passion for his job as an officer.

In Cranbury, Hansen worked his way up from being a patrolman to becoming chief of police.

“If you think about what is involved with law enforcement, [it] is something that is not taken lightly. They have a desire to serve, protect and be part of the community,” Petto said. “Jay would stand up with others in good times and bad.”

She said the bench is remarkable and shows with a plaque all of his other passions as a husband, father, grandfather and chief.

Former Cranbury Police Chief Harry Kleinkauf served with Hansen for 24 out of his 34 years on the force.

“He was just a wonderful police officer. He worked many great cases. He was a very smart individual and working up to the position of chief was well deserved. People in Cranbury were quite happy with the success that he alone did and the police department,” Kleinkauf said. “When he was my second in command, when I was chief, I knew if I ever had to be away the department was in good hands. I have nothing but the best to say about Jay.”

Kleinkauf said Hansen was just articulate with everything he did.

“Some of the cases he pulled out of left field and it was phenomenal because we got convictions. People should take away from this dedication and bench Jay’s dedication to his job and family,” he said.

Hansen served all the way up until the age of 65, which is the age of mandatory retirement for police officers in New Jersey, in honor of that achievement the township proclaimed Aug. 3, 2019 as Jay Hansen Day, in addition to his bench dedication.

“I do not think we are going to see another chief that lives in the town, knows the town and raises their kids in the town like Jay did. Today is just a phenomenal day to be honoring him,” Cranbury Mayor Jay Taylor said. “His dedication to the community and being a part of it was so important. He was a boy scout leader, police chief and had his own lawn company here. He was part of this community. Jay is an example of what being a part of Cranbury is all about.”

Mayor Taylor said Heritage Park is becoming more of a memorial park with all of the honors that have been bestowed on the residents of Cranbury.

“We have now donations remembering Giuliana D’Aria, Chief Jay Hansen, former recreation director Judy Dossin and Bab Thompson, who was instrumental in preserving the old school,” Taylor said. “This park is truly a memorial to residents and what they have contributed to the town. The name is Heritage Park but it really is a heritage park.”

For the people who knew Hansen his work ethic was described as second to none and his passion for life, family and Cranbury will continue at a bench on the grounds of Heritage Park.

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