Mourners gather for funeral of fallen Newark firefighter Wayne Brooks, Jr.

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Friday, July 14, 2023
Funeral for fallen Newark firefighter Wayne Brooks, Jr.
Wayne "Bear" Brooks Jr., 49, and Augusto "Augie" Acabou, 45, were both killed in the fire last week aboard a cargo ship at Port Newark. Eyewitness News reporter Toni Yates has the story.

PORT NEWARK, New Jersey (WABC) -- The second of two funerals was held Friday following the deadly cargo ship fire at Port Newark.

The final farewell for Wayne "Bear" Brooks Jr., 49, got underway at 10 a.m. at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark.

Firefighters brought their honor and support to Brooks' grieving wife, daughters, mother and other relatives.

His cousin Leslie Clark Headley spoke about Brooks' dedication to serving the community, answering the call July 5 at the Port Newark fire that took his life and the life of fellow Newark Firefighter, 45-year-old Augusto "Augie" Acabou.

Brooks, Jr. was a 16-year veteran and assigned to Ladder 4 in the South Ironbound neighborhood.

He was described as someone with a big personality who was always smiling. Close friends called him "Bear."

"He loved being a firefighter and was never afraid of danger," said Brooks' uncle, Roger Terry.

As was the case at Acabou's funeral on Thursday, Brooks, Jr. was posthumously promoted to captain during Friday's ceremony.

And Captain Brooks' wife was presented with the Medal of Honor.

WATCH: Funeral for Newark firefighter Capt. Wayne Brooks, Jr.

Acabou's funeral was held in the same church on Thursday.

The firefighters' deaths mark the first time in 16 years that a firefighter has died in the line of duty in Newark.

Men and women dressed in blue stood at attention under a blazing sun as the flag-draped coffin of Firefighter Acabou was lifted from the back of a Newark fire engine and the solemn procession into the basilica began with his family and friends slowly walking behind.

"I was there that evening as I watched men and women walk into a fire and come out exhausted and worn down, some with oxygen masks on, others laying on the ground trying to recover then getting back up to stand in line again to go back say Augusto Acabou was brave is an understatement," said Newark Mayor Ras Baraka.

Acabou leaves behind his parents and life partner.

Left: Wayne Brooks, Jr. and right: Augusto Acabou

WATCH: Funeral for Newark Firefighter Augusto Acabou

The Tunnel to Towers Foundation has reached out to both families to provide their support. They will pay off the mortgage for Brooks' family home and will provide financial support to Acabou's fiancee.

"These two heroes had more than a quarter century of service to their community, impacting a countless number of lives," Tunnel to Towers Chairman and CEO Frank Siller said. "This tragedy is a reminder that there are no routine calls. Firefighters risk their lives every time they answer a call. The Tunnel to Towers Foundation will honor the bravery of Agusto Acabou and Wayne Brooks by supporting the loved ones they left behind."

Obituary for Firefighter Wayne Brooks, Jr.

Wayne M. Brooks Jr. was born on June 3, 1974, in Glen Ridge, NJ. The son of Linda (Terry) and Wayne Brooks Sr., he was raised in Irvington NJ, until his family relocated to Newark, NJ. He graduated from St. Benedicts Prep in 1992. Wayne was an exceptional student and a successful athlete, where he was a member of the first minority Sabre team to make it to the Jr. Olympics, representing St. Benedicts. He had a love for music and became a young and upcoming DJ.

In his early years, he went on to pursue a career at Continental Airlines, now known as United Airlines, where he worked for over 29 years. In those years he held many positions, with his current position as a member of the Move Team.

His life goal was to serve his community. Wayne made the decision to take the Newark Firefighter and Police examinations, where he achieved top scores in both, making him a sought-after recruit for both departments. After much consideration, knowing he had family members serving in law enforcement, he decided to make the brave decision to become a Professional Firefighter, graduating first in his class! Wayne served proudly in the Newark Fire Department for 16 years.

Wayne is known for his culinary skills throughout the Newark Fire Department, where he often prepared large meals for his colleagues that were top chef-worthy. Not only did he cook at the firehouse, he also was a top chef at home, along with the many men in his family. Wayne had a crab cake recipe that was worthy of a medal of honor from the president! During his career as an exemplary firefighter, he took many young recruits under his wing, teaching them the expert ways of how to become better firefighters. Wayne, always looking for the value in others, never judged, always giving them a chance. His fellow firefighters know "The Bear" as a reliable, dependable, selfless member of the company, going above and beyond to make sure his fellow firefighters were supported, never seeking accolades or recognition.

On a Halloween night, Michele's favorite occasion, while attending his Uncle Roger's birthday celebration, Wayne planned a romantic proposal to his now wife Michele. They married and eventually settled in Union, NJ. Wayne and Michele enjoyed life with their two daughters, Taylor Brooks and Dasia Vaughn, and their two dogs, Zeus and Juno. Taylor and Dasia shared in his love for fencing, both excelling in the sport at Columbia High School. Wayne was extremely proud of his daughters' academic achievements. Dasia graduated from Ramapo College with a Bachelor of Arts degree and Taylor graduated from the University of Pittsburgh, with a degree in Nursing. Family and friends looked forward to their epic gatherings year-round where there was music, good times, good food, and lots of love. Everyone was welcomed at Michele & Wayne's home.

Wayne had a passion for the Chicago Bears, horror movies, bowling, mountain biking, fishing, blackjack and was an avid gamer. His gaming family was part of Michele and Wayne's daily household life. One of Wayne's favorite shows is The Walking Dead; Wayne's home was known as the haven if ever there was an apocalypse.

Wayne is survived by his wife Michele; daughters, Taylor and Dasia; mother Linda Terry Brooks; siblings Jason and Tiffany Brooks; nephew Kaiden; niece Skylar; mother in-law Phyllis Lee; brothers in-law Richard Lee Vaughn and Tanner Lee; great aunt Rosemary Darben; uncle Roger Terry (Roslyn); aunts Sandra Terry and Pam Williams; goddaughter Kiana Terry; first cousins who are near and dear to his heart - Scott, Rhonda, Billy, Amenia, Damien, Nadirah, and Nafessah; long-time brothers from another mother and father, Edgar and Oscar Estremera; and a host of other relatives and friends.

Wayne was predeceased by his father Wayne Brooks Sr., grandparents Dorothy Brooks and Albert and Miriam Terry, his uncles Bruce and William Terry Sr., cousins Christopher Terry and Tanya Worthy, and father in-law Richard Vaughn Sr.

Visitation for Wayne will be held on Thursday, July 13, 2023, at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart, 89 Ridge Street., Newark, NJ07104 from 4-8 p.m.

The Funeral Mass will be offered on Friday, July 14th at 10 a.m. at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart.

Cremation Private.

Funeral arrangements are being conducted by Buyus Funeral Home 426 Lafayette St., at Wilson Ave., Newark, NJ 07105.

In lieu of flowers, donations to the GoFundMe page in support of the families of FF Acabou & FF Brooks, would be graciously appreciated.

Obituary for Firefighter Augusto Acabou

Augusto "Augie" Domingos Acabou, 45, perished in the line of duty while fighting a fire on July 5, 2023. Augie was a lifelong resident of Newark, born and raised in the Ironbound section. He graduated from East Side
High School in 1996. Augie then found employment with HMH JFK Hospital in 1997, first in the linen department and later transitioning into a security officer position, which he held to date. In 2013, Augie graduated from the Class of 43 as a Newark Firefighter, settling into a position with Engine 16.

Augie found great joy entertaining all around him by singing and playing guitar, playing practical jokes, doing impressions, and basically doing anything that would garnish a laugh and a smile. He was quite athletic, playing high school football with a brief career in boxing. Augie could also be found on the softball field with his hospital's softball team and with the county league.

He was a simple man raised by a modest Portuguese family with good values. His character, however, was far more complex. Augie has been described as a selfless individual whose voice and smile instantly brought joy to all those around him. Those who knew him would often say he was the real-life Superman, even going as far as tying a cape around his neck while jumping off the balcony as a child, only to find himself flying into everyone's hearts. And that he did. Augie's humility was evident in his interactions with others. He never sought recognition or praise for his kindness and generosity. His quiet strength and genuine care for others touched the hearts of everyone who had the privilege of knowing him. He inspired you to be a better person.

The bond between Augie and his brothers, Miguel and Joao Acabou, was a source of strength and adoration. They stood by each other through thick and thin, sharing precious moments, laughter, and cherished memories. Augie valued his brothers deeply and treasured the unique connection they had. During their time together, the three brothers created a tapestry of
shared experiences, childhood adventures, and grown-up dreams. Their bond was forged not only by blood but by a genuine affection that transcended words.

Devoted and loving son of Manuel and Maria (Da Cunha) Acabou; beloved brother of Joao Acabou and his wife Marlie, and Miguel Acabou; cherished uncle of James Acabou; loving grandson of Augusto Da Cunha. He is also survived by his life partner Cynthia Gulics and her daughter Gillian, uncles, aunts, cousins, friends, and fellow firefighter brothers.

His loss leaves a void that can never be filled. His presence will be deeply missed by his family, friends, and all the lives he touched.

In lieu of flowers, donations to the GoFundMe page in support of the families of FF Acabou & FF Brooks, would be graciously appreciated.

Drivers should expect street closures during Brooks, Jr.'s funeral:

From 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. - Friday, July 14th

- Clifton Avenue between Park Avenue and 7th Avenue

- Mt. Prospect Avenue between Park Avenue and 7th Avenue

- Victoria Avenue between Garside Street and Ridge Street

- Ridge Street between Victoria Street and Park Avenue

- Extend Victoria Avenue between Garside Street to Stone Street

- Cutler Street between Park Avenue and 7th Avenue

- Stone Street between Park Avenue and 7th Avenue

- Crane Street between Summer Avenue and Cutler Street

RELATED | 2 firefighters killed, 5 injured battling cargo ship fire at Port Newark

Derick Waller has the latest on the Thursday morning fire at Port Newark, NJ, where two firefighters were killed and five injured.


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The fire after they became trapped while fighting a fire on

The fire broke out in five to seven cars on the 11th and 12th floors of a ship that was carrying about 5,000 vehicles.