Coal City hosts annual memorial to honor fallen officers firefighters
MORRIS — Five of Grundy County's finest killed in the line of duty were honored Thursday at the Grundy County Law Enforcement Managers Association's annual police memorial.
Local and state law enforcement officials gathered at Coal City High School to remember former Morris Police officers Clarence Roseland and Enoch Hopkins, Morris firefighter James Allen, Channahon firefighter Kenneth Frayne and Coal City Police officer Heather Wandt.
The event is held every year during National Police Week.
"To those who we honor here today, that made the ultimate sacrifice, the words 'Thank you,' will never be enough," Morris Police Chief Brent Dite said. "But we are so very thankful. To the families and friends of those we honor here today, we offer our eternal gratitude."
Wandt was the most recent officer to be added to the memorial. She was killed Aug. 3, 2013, in a traffic crash while on her way home from a night training class.
"We would like Heather's friends and family to know, Heather will always be in our hearts and she will never be forgotten," said an emotional Sgt. Christopher Harseim of the Coal City Police Department.
Some of those honored have been a part of the service since it began decades ago, including Officer Roseland, who was killed in 1935 after he was shot while trying to stop a bank robbery in downtown Morris, and Officer Hopkins who was killed in 1878 while trying to arrest two disorderly men.
Although the men died long ago, Dite stressed the importance of remembering those who have died serving the community.
"Their memory lives on," Dite said. "We will continue to tell their stories year after year."
Some of Officer Roseland's family attend the ceremony every year, including his grandsons Keith and Rick Roseland, and his great-granddaughter Emma Roseland, who sang "God Bless America" at this year's ceremony.
Also in the crowd was Judy Steffes, mother of Morris firefighter James Allen, who was killed while fighting a house fire in 1985.
Steffes said she never misses a ceremony.
"They do an outstanding job every year," she said. "To remember all of the people that have lost their lives is incredible. I always mark it on my calendar."
Channahon Fire Chief John Petrakis honored former firefighter Kenneth Frayne who died during a multi-agency rescue drill in 2001.
"Although we could never convey our sorrow, gratitude and admiration for these brave individuals, we can only speculate what future contributions they may have had to our department," Petrakis said.
Also in the crowd Thursday was the Grundy Area Vocational Center's criminal justice class taught by instructor Jeff Hanley. Hanley said he brought the students to this ceremony, and to the Springfield ceremony May 1, to "imprint their hearts" with the seriousness of the profession.
"I tout our program as being reality based and hands on," Hanley said. "What you see on TV and what's often reported in the media is not the way the job really is."
This year's keynote address was given by Chicago Police Department Officer Del Pearson, who was shot and nearly killed in the line of duty in 2012.
Pearson focused on the important role of family and friends in an officer's life. He encouraged all those in law enforcement to thank their family who supports them.
"This is a very serious calling," Pearson said. "We like to think it could never happen to us, but these five chairs tell a different story."