COLD SPRING – Family, friends, police officers, elected officials, and educators on Cape Island and throughout the county mourned the April 16 death of Ralph Emerson Bakley Sr.
Bakley, 85, was born on Eldredge Avenue in West Cape May and moved to York Avenue before graduating from Cape May High School in 1951, according to his obituary.
He enlisted in the Air Force during the Korean War and served in the Strategic Air Command. Bakley attained the rank of Staff Sergeant and was a member of the Air Police Ceremonial Detail.
He met his wife, Barbara Kelly, on Washington Street in Cape May; they wed in October 1954.
Bakley was a Cape May City lifeguard from 1950 to 1962, and his name resides in the Beach Patrol Hall of Fame. He later worked at the Harbison-Walker magnesite plant.
Upon leaving there, Bakley began his career in law enforcement. He served with the Cape May Police Department for 30 years. He was a K-9 officer for 15 of those years.
In that role, Bakley was president of the New Jersey K-9 Association; the first president of the U.S. Police Canine Association and president of PBA Local 59.
Upon retirement from the police department, Bakley was first appointed to the office of freeholder in 2003 and was elected to successive terms after that date, representing the people of Cape May County for nearly eight years, according to a 2010 county release.
As a freeholder, Bakley served as the director of Education, Library, and Consumer Affairs and was the liaison to a vast number of commissions over his career in county government.
He is also past president and a member of the Lower Township Elementary Board of Education for 50 years; and past president of the Cape May County School Board Association.
Bakley was a member of the Cape May Kiwanis, and a long-time member of the Cape Island Masonic Lodge.
Bakley is survived by his wife of 63½ years, Barbara; three children, Sonny (Cathy), Jeffery, and Barbara, and son-in-law, Anthony Marino; grandchildren, Alex Marino, Camille and Ethan Bakley, and one great-grandchild.
Services were held April 21 in the First Assembly of God Church on Seashore Road. Interment with military honors was in the Cold Spring Presbyterian Cemetery.
Funeral arrangements were conducted by Spilker Funeral Home, Cape May.