NORTH ANDOVER — A chair with a single rose in the back of the church next to the statue of St. Michael was left empty. It was where Thomas Joseph “T.J.” McEvoy sat every Sunday at the 10:30 a.m. Mass.
During his funeral Mass at St. Michael Church yesterday, family members, friends, priests and coworkers remembered the retired police officer for his deep faith, love of family, commitment and dedication to North Andover residents.
A North Andover native, McEvoy served the town as a police officer for 33 years, attaining the rank of sergeant, before retiring in May. He also served as local basketball referee.
He passed away on Thursday.
Mourners came out in droves Monday to pay their respect. About 2,000 people attended his wake, some waiting more than two hours in line to offer the family their condolences.
More than 700 people attended his funeral Mass yesterday. In addition to his fellow officers and members of the North Andover Fire Department, the funeral was attended by officers from Andover, Methuen, Lawrence and the Sheriff’s office.
“He was an easy going person, very pleasant and friendly,” said Methuen Police Detective Richard Pliz. “I’ll miss his friendship and how he always gave you advise and never steering you in the wrong direction,” Pliz said.
Family members, fellow referees and officers participated in the ceremony. Referee Bill Adams choked up as he read from Ecclesiastes. Close friend Rich Karelas sighed audibly before doing a reading from Revelations.
The Rev. John Delaney, former pastor at St. Michael, was the main celebrant at the service, along with the reverends Kevin Deeley, pastor at St. Michael, Steven Rock of Reading and Gerry Hogan of Foxboro.
In his homily, Delaney said the large number of people who attended the wake and funeral was a testament of who McEvoy was.