Nearly 200 family and friends joined together July 28 for a ceremony dedicating the Town of Dewey Beach Baywalk to former Mayor TJ Redefer on what would have been his 59th birthday.
“Tonight is a very special night as we gather to celebrate and honor our beloved TJ,” said Dewey Business Partnership Executive Director Kelly Ranieri. “Welcome home, TJ. This is your home by the sea.”
Ranieri said TJ, who served as mayor from September 2017 until his death April 7, 2020, touched many lives with his wisdom, optimism and inspiring photos of Dewey Beach and surrounding towns.
Thom Harvey, president of Lighthouse Cove Development Company, which constructed the public-access baywalk along Rehoboth Bay, said when he first met TJ he knew he was dealing with a person of kindness, integrity and good old common sense.
“I’m proud of our friendship, and I wish we got to know each other longer,” Harvey said. “Absolutely no one in all of the people I’ve ever met in Dewey Beach is more deserving of this.”
Son Jack Redefer wished his father a happy birthday, and said his dad always told him to find the stars and sunshine.
“We lost a piece of our heart when God took him home,” Jack said.
Sister Beth Caruso, surrounded by three siblings, said being there was difficult. “We loved being the five of us,” she said.
Caruso said TJ’s final ride through town comforted the family in its darkest hour, and recited her family’s motto.
“When the sun goes down, and the moon comes up, Dewey Beach will shine,” she said.
Speaker of the House Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, said TJ was part of a group of friends that met for breakfast every Friday at The Starboard.
“We’re a collection of misfits and we have a good time,” Schwartzkopf smiled. “We solve the state’s and Dewey’s problems one at a time.”
The breakfast club wanted to do something for the family, Schwartzkopf said, and presented TJ’s widow Bobbie with a United States flag that had flown over the U.S. Capitol.
“Bobbie, you’re welcome to join our club,” he said.
Commissioner Paul Bauer, TJ’s campaign runningmate, read the resolution that was passed unanimously by town council approving the dedication to his close friend.
To close the ceremony, all attendees were given an orange crush to raise a toast in TJ’s honor while a bonfire was lit on the sand.
As attendees began filtering away, a small group could be heard quietly singing “Happy Birthday” to TJ.