Harvey Nairn and Joe Namath on the same field, teammates on the New York Jets, a dream come true for a Miami kid with athletics in his blood.
Happened, too. Nairn, a track and field star at Northwestern Senior High School, who died at 70 in Miami on Jan. 11 from lung cancer, was a 1968 NFL wide receiver draft pick for the Jets, the team Namath led as quarterback. Nairn made the Jets, under Coach Weeb Ewbank, after graduating from Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. There, he ran track on a scholarship when scouts took notice. In 2013, Nairn was inducted into the Southern University Athletic Hall of Fame.
But where “Broadway Joe” would go on to lead the Jets for another eight seasons in a 13-year professional football career, become a TV star and score commercial endorsements (who, of a certain age, can forget the 1974 pantyhose spot for Beautymist?) Nairn’s NFL career was cut short at a single season.
Nairn was called to serve in the Army and spent two years in Vietnam. He followed with a three-year stint in the reserves.
His sacrifice doesn’t surprise his family or colleagues in the Miami Police Department.
Miami has lost a true hero.
Maj. Delrish Moss on Miami Police Officer Harvey Nairn.
“He always wanted to help people, even before policing,” said his wife, Julee Nairn. “He had that as a mission to serve people in the community even though he had achieved multiple careers and endeavors. In the end, he wanted to give back to the community in which he came out of.”
Before joining the Miami Police Department in 1986, Nairn, born in Miami on April 17, 1945, worked as a sales executive. But policing became his passion, particularly as a neighborhood resource officer in Little Haiti.
“Anything that happens in my area, I take it personally,” Nairn said in a 2007 Miami Herald article, two years before retiring.
Paired with partner Lt. Cherise Gause for 15 years, Nairn worked to develop a relationship between the neighborhood’s residents and the police force. In 2003, for example, Nairn and Gause raised money to purchase 350 turkeys for needy families for Thanksgiving.
“The thing that I remember most is that he had a big heart,” Gause said. “He was friendly and very much a humanitarian. I can remember him coordinating efforts for the funeral of a teenager who was murdered and dumped in a dumpster in Little Haiti. He took it upon himself to make sure that the young man had a proper burial because he felt that no one deserved to die like that. Harvey also had an affection for the elderly. On two occasions, he coordinated the refurbishing of the homes of two elderly residents in the Little Haiti community. He lived a life of service that is immeasurable.”
Said Maj. Delrish Moss: “I rode with Harvey briefly on the midnight shift. We became fast friends. Never have I seen someone more committed to people and serving his community with such passion. I'll miss hearing him yell ‘Ten Speed’ as his greeting to me. Miami has lost a true hero.”
In addition to his wife, Nairn is survived by sons Chandler and Joseph, daughters Dorean Nairn and Victoria Nairn Wiggins, stepdaughter Lauren McCoy, 15 grandchildren, six sisters and three brothers.
A viewing will be from 1 to 5 p.m. Friday at Richardson Mortuary, 4500 NW 17th Ave., Miami. The service is at 10 a.m. Saturday at The Historic Saint Agnes Episcopal Church, 1750 NW Third Ave., Miami.