Nine who paid ultimate sacrifice continue to generate appreciation
By Kathleen Brady Shea, Managing Editor, The Times
For nearly an hour on Wednesday, May 7, nine members of law enforcement inspired a somber convocation of more than a hundred colleagues, lawmakers, jurists, public officials and members of the public.
The occasion was Chester County FOP Lodge 11’s annual Law Enforcement Memorial Service, a prelude to National Police Week that offers an opportunity to pay tribute to Chester County’s fallen heroes, a group who continues to inspire unending gratitude for their sacrifice.
The victims spanned a wide time frame – from 1887 when Benjamin Irey, a sheriff on his way to serve court papers was fatally struck by a train, to 1988 when Parkesburg Officer Douglas H. Pyle died in a motorcycle crash on the way back from a training program. The circumstances varied as well. Kennett Square Police Officers Richard J. Posey and William W. Davis were assassinated by a member of the notorious Johnston brothers’ gang while Avondale Trooper John J. Brown was fatally struck while responding to a traffic accident.
Commenting on those divergent circumstances were speakers with diverse roles: County Detective Butch Dutter, State Sens. John Rafferty and Andy Dinniman, Rev. Jack Crans, District Attorney Tom Hogan, State FOP President Les Neri, and Parkesburg Police Chief Brian Sheller. But their messages were unified. Echoing themes of enduring respect and appreciation, many pointed out that members of law enforcement never know when danger will surface.
For example, Hogan noted that in November a “thrice-convicted felon” opened fire on two Coatesville Police officers who were on routine patrol. “Luckily he missed or we would have two more names on that plaque,” Hogan said. Neri added that members of law enforcement “run to danger rather than from it.”
The service, which opened with a Chester County Sheriff’s Department Honor Guard, also included musical tributes, a rifle salute, and repeated reminders that the victims’ service will not be forgotten. “Tonight is a somber ceremony … but it is also a celebration of their valor and way of life,” said Rafferty. “It was not how these courageous men died that made them heroes, but how they lived.”
National Police Week runs from May 11-17 and will include the 33rd Annual National Peace Officer’s Memorial Day Services held on the west front of the U.S. Capitol on May 15. At this service, the names of officers who fell in the line of duty in the past year are honored in a roll call, followed by a wreath-laying ceremony at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.