Sunday, December 8, 2013
AUGUSTA — The wardens and police officers who gathered for Monday's ceremony at the law enforcement memorial wall spoke of the dangers of the job and unity it creates, but Holli Stedman needed no reminders. She has firsthand knowledge of both.
Camilla Nutter, center, the mother of deceased Warden Service pilot Daryl Gordon, is hugged Maine Warden Service Col. Joel Wilkinson today during the Ride4Cops ceremony in Augusta she attended with her daughters, Bonnie Lawrence, right, and Holli Stedman. A 25-year veteran of the Warden Service, Gordon died when the plane he was flying crashed on March 24, 2011.
Staff photo by Andy Molloy
"The state police and warden service have been more than kind to us," said Stedman, whose brother, Warden Pilot Daryl Gordon, died in the line of duty in 2011 when his plane crashed in a remote section of northern Maine. "If we have a need, they're there."
Stedman was one of dozens of people to turn out for the ceremony in response to a Ride4Cops event at the Maine Law Enforcement Officers Memorial outside the State House on State Street.
Ride4Cops works to raise awareness of the dangers of law enforcement and money for surviving family members by planning rides in each state's capital city. Harry Herington, who founded the group in 2009, said he has ridden about 30,000 miles so far and raised $1 million during visits to 25 of the 50 state capitals. Herington said he has raised about $3,400 for Maine families thus far.
There are 83 names on the memorial wall. Gordon, who was 60 years old and in his 25th year with the Warden Service when he died, was the most recent addition.
"Every law enforcement officer has two families," said Col. Joel Wilkinson, of the Maine Warden Service, "their immediate family and their law enforcement family. No words can ever fill the void of the tremendous loss."
Lloyd Hallet, of Readfield, was one of about 20 motorcyclists to ride with Herington from the memorial to a reception at the Department of Public Safety building on Commerce Drive. Hallet, a retired bus driver, said he wanted to take part in the ride to support fallen officers and those still on the job.
"A lot of the cops don't get the respect they should get," Hallet said. "They've got a job to do, just like anyone else. I'm just trying to show a little respect."
Maine first lady Ann LePage said people forget the danger inherent in police work, but the risk extends beyond the officer.
"We must also recognize the important roles families play," LePage said.
Lt. David Tripp of the Maine State Police mentioned the 52 cadets who on Monday began training at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy in Vassalboro. During their training, the cadets will hear the stories of many of the 83 officers whose names are listed on the wall. The information will help train the future officers better for joining departments throughout the state.
"It's because of their stories that our warriors of tomorrow will be safe," Tripp said.
When the ceremony was over, Wilkinson and fellow wardens greeted Stedman and other family members who attended the ceremony, which included her sister, Bonnie Lawrence, and her mother, Camilla Nutter. All agreed that ceremonies to honor the fallen officers mean a great deal to the surviving family members.
Nutter, Gordon's mother, briefly recalled her son's life and career, and began to smile.
"He loved to hunt and fish," she said. "He lived a pretty good life."
Craig Crosby — 621-5642