Hero Plaque program honors fallen trooper

A ceremony marked the ninth county law-enforcement officer to be memorialized

By Kathleen Brady Shea, Managing Editor, The Times

The widow of a state trooper killed in the line of duty in 1985 already had compelling evidence that members of the Avondale barracks

A bronze plaque commemorates the service of Pennsylvania State Trooper John J. Brown, who worked in the Avondale barracks.

had not forgotten her husband.

This morning, a tribute to Trooper John J. Brown showed that appreciation for his service extended far beyond his workplace. More than 100 area officers joined officials, other law-enforcement representatives, supporters, and members of Brown’s family for a dedication at the historic courthouse in West Chester.

The ceremony began with the wail of sirens as a motorcycle caravan of police and sheriff’s deputies from throughout the five-county region circled the courthouse block. Then Chester County Deputy Sheriff Wayne T. Johnson delivered a powerful a capella rendition of the national anthem – a prelude to some brief speeches and the unveiling of an 18-by-15-inch bronze plaque commemorating Brown’s heroism.

“He was a wonderful man and we still miss him to this day,” said Sandra Brown, a Pennsbury Township resident who attended the program with her daughter, Cara Simon, her son-in-law, Robert Simon; and the couple’s two sons, aged 2 and 4. “I appreciate what you’re doing for him.”

Trooper John Brown lost his life on Feb. 14, 1985, from injuries he sustained about 10 days earlier when he was struck at the scene of a traffic accident, said Magisterial District Judge John R. Bailey, one of the event’s organizers. Brown was the ninth officer to be remembered in a permanent display on the courthouse lawn along Market Street as part of Chester County’s Hero Plaque program.

A multi-county motorcycle caravan preceded the Chester County Hero Plaque ceremony.

Bailey, a former Tredyffrin Township detective who also served as president of Chester County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 11, said he attended a tribute for a fallen FBI agent in 2007 and wanted to start a similar program in Chester County to honor the nine officers who had lost their lives while on duty.

Bailey said he got enthusiastic support from the Lodge, the county commissioners, and Jimmy Binns, who started the Hero Plaque program in Philadelphia in 2001. Bailey said he contacted Binns, who subsequently became the program chairman and has attended every Chester County ceremony. “That’s how our friendship started,” Bailey said.

In 2009, the first Chester County plaque was unveiled for Douglas H. Pyle, a 20-year-old Parkesburg officer who, on Sept. 15, 1988, was returning from a police training program when he was killed in a motorcycle crash. Since then, other plaques have been added, including one for Roy A. Harris, assistant chief of the Po-Mar-Lin Fire Company. He died May 25, 1982, when he was struck by a vehicle while refueling a pumper truck after a fire.

Binns, whose boxing career led to a role in Rocky V in which he played himself, said today’s plaque marked the 253rd in the region.

Ed Toner, who heads the local FOP, addresses the audience. To his left is Jimmy Binns and Magisterial District Judge John R. Bailey, both of whom helped create the program.

Bailey said he hopes Brown’s plaque will be the last one commemorating a fallen officer in Chester County. He said the program has been so well-received that it expanded to include firefighters, so more plaques will be added.

“Our mission is never to forget,” said Bailey.

Sandra Brown said she received numerous indications over the years that her husband’s memory was cherished by his former colleagues. She said troopers would periodically stop by to visit and make sure  that she was OK.

“Whenever I needed any help or assistance, they were right there,” she said, adding that Trooper Henry Callithen made a remark several years ago that has proven to be true: “Avondale never forgets.”




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