By Alexis Schulz
A body pulled out of the Passaic River was positively identified as Rider alumnus David Bird, a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reporter who went missing on Jan. 11, 2014, according to the Morris County Prosecutor and Long Hill Township Police Chief.
On March 18, two men canoeing in the Passaic River noticed a red jacket near branches along the river and notified Bernard’s Township Police. Upon arrival, police determined there were human remains, and a multi-agency recovery operation ensued. The body of Bird was later found and positively identified through dental records by the Morris County Medical Examiner’s Office and forensic odontologist.
The search for Bird started when he disappeared after leaving his home in Long Hill Township, headed for a long walk. He was 55 years old when he vanished, the father of two teenage children and husband of Nancy Bird.
In a website his wife founded in an attempt to find Bird, she shared her sorrow for her missing husband.
“I can’t describe the heartache I have felt since Jan. 11,” she said. “The anguish of not knowing what happened to him is torturous. It keeps me up at night and makes my head spin.”
Bird was a reporter for WSJ/Dow Jones for more than 20 years. He is a former reporter for the Fort Myers News-Press, The Times of Trenton, the Lawrence Ledger, AP/Dow Jones, McGraw Hill News and Knight-Ridder. Bird graduated from Rider in 1980 with a journalism degree. He grew up in Hamilton Township and attended Notre Dame High School. He had received a liver transplant from an anonymous donor in 2004 and became an advocate for organ and tissue donation.
Barry Seldes, professor emeritus of political science, said he remembers Bird even after he graduated.
“David, who had been my student, happened to be in Amsterdam for a few days sometime in the mid-1980s, when I was living there,” he said. “We spent a long summer afternoon walking around and talking of, among others, his work for the Asian edition of the WSJ. David had matured intellectually beyond his years; so too, introspectively. We lost touch after that day; I never saw him again. But I read that he had disappeared, and now, that he had died. I regret not having known him in the years subsequent to that summer day so long ago, how he married, had two children, a distinguished career at the WSJ, overcame physical disease to become robust and healthy, as attested to by numerous images on the web. A tragic ending for this superb man.”
Fredric M. Knapp, Morris County prosecutor, and Michael Mazzeo, Long Hill Township Police chief, stated that the investigation into the cause of Bird’s death and the manner in which he died is still ongoing.
His family is holding a celebration of his life on March 25 at the Church of St. Vincent de Paul, 249 Bebout Ave., Stirling, New Jersey from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Contributions in David’s memory can be made to: The Bird Family Trust, P.O. Box 234, Millington, New Jersey 07946 or NJ Sharing Network Foundation, 691 Central Ave., New Providence, New Jersey 07974.