GREENWICH — Family, friends and colleagues are mourning the death of Antonio Rivera Jr., the first Hispanic police officer with the Greenwich Police Department and one of the original members of the department’s honor guard.
Rivera, who had been ill for a number of years with kidney disease, died Thursday at Danbury Hospital at the age of 53.
He was known to fellow officers as “a gentle giant” for his imposing stature and easy-going nature. Rivera served in the department for 20 years until his retirement in 2009.
A Greenwich High graduate, he was born in Greenwich on Jan. 5, 1965, a son of the late Antonio Sr. and Nereida Santiago Rivera.
Rivera worked as a patrol officer in the backcountry for a number of years and knew the area well. “I’m used to it because I did a lot of landscaping there with my Dad,” he said in a 2008 interview when he and other members of the department’s Neighborhood Resource section were honored. He also worked in the traffic division as an accident investigator.
He lived in Banksville as a child before moving to Old Greenwich. His path to law-enforcement began early, playing as a youngster on the police-sponsored baseball and softball teams.
Rivera, a Danbury resident, is survived by his wife of 30 years, Melissa; a son, Antonio Rivera III; a daughter, Jacqueline Rivera; a sister, Maria Morri; and two brothers, Angel and Alberto Rivera.
Visitation was held Tuesday at Cornell Memorial Home in Danbury.