By: Richard E. Hammon
Chief of Police, Retired
Upper Allen Township Police
In April of 2011, I was having a conversation with Silver Spring Township Police Chaplain Greg Sheffer when he asked, “Why doesn’t Cumberland County have a memorial for the law enforcement officers that have died while on duty?” During the next few weeks, I thought about that question and could not come up with a good answer. I then began to wonder, do I want to take on a project of that size, at this stage in my career? I finally decided this could be my last big project before retirement. Having no concept of costs associated with such a project, I chose the arbitrary number of $100,000. Then I thought about how to start the project. At the May 2011 Cumberland County Chiefs meeting, I raised the question to gauge the level of interest and support I might receive from my peers. The consensus of the association was positive and I had my first two volunteers by meetings end, Lt. Michael McLaughlin, Upper Allen Township Police Department and Cumberland County Sheriff Ronny Anderson. The Association also voted to provide an initial donation of $5,000 as seed money.
In June 2011, the Cumberland County Law Enforcement Memorial Foundation (CCLEMF) was formed and a Board of Directors established. Sheriff Anderson served as Treasurer, Lt. McLaughlin as Secretary and myself as President. Carlisle Attorney Ron Turo was contacted to assist establish the Foundation as a 501 (c) (3) charitable organization, and he agreed to provide his legal services Pro Bono. Ron continued to assist with the project after providing his initial legal assistance and then became a Director on the Board. It made sense to have a well-respected business man as part of the Board. The Board of Directors expanded one more time with the addition of Retired New Cumberland Police Corporal Robert Smee on October 26, 2011.
The first hurdle we faced was where to locate the memorial. The Cumberland County Commissioners, Chairman Barbara Cross, Vice-Chairman, James Hertzler and Secretary, Gary Eichelberger, were contacted and they agreed to set aside a plot of land on the campus of the Cumberland County Public Safety Center.
On August 12, 2012, formal approval was given in a resolution granting CCLEMF the land which is approximately one-quarter acre (10,000 square feet). A formal land dedication ceremony was held to promote the project. In September County Commissioners dedicated approximately ¼ acre on land on the corner of the Public Safety Center Property to be used as the location for the Memorial. A media event was held at the site. All 3 County Commissioners attended and spoke. Approximately 35 law enforcement officers from the county attended in uniform with Department vehicles. Also attending were surviving families of Willis Cole, Paul Walters and Rich Phelps. At this dedication checks were presented to the foundation: One from the Turo Foundation and one from the Willis Cole Memorial Golf Tournament, each in the amount of $5,000. The Cumberland County Chiefs Association presented a check in the amount of $6,400. This brought total funds to over $16,000. This dedication of the land was a huge success and well covered by the media outlets.
The next hurdle was the design of the Memorial. We had several ideas; however, none of the five Directors had any experience at building a memorial. We talked of having a couple different types of contests to find a design. Keep in mind the only money we had was the $16,000 the Cumberland County Chiefs and others had given us. The Board was stymied on the important concept of design; we needed professional help. Gannett Fleming, a worldwide engineering firm with its headquarters in Cumberland County was contacted and they agreed to do our design work pro bono. Gannett Fleming provided landscape architect Brian Shifflett as project manager for the Memorial.
By the end of 2012, the CCLEMF Board had been presented with three possible designs. We took what we liked from the proposals and our architect finalized the design. His estimated build cost – $252,000! There was no hesitation, we moved forward. At this point in the project, we had been receiving a few donations and had around $20,000 in the bank. It was time to get this project financed and built. The funds we had in hand didn’t really put a dent in the estimated cost. John W, Gleim, Jr., owner of a Cumberland County-based excavation company bearing his name was contacted. John had been a good friend for decades and we knew he could help us with the building and making contacts in the construction world. In December John agreed to serve as the Honorary Fund Raising Chairman for the Foundation.
Shortly thereafter, Ron Turo had to remove himself from the Board due to other professional commitments. He did agree to continue to serve as the Foundation Solicitor. John Gleim was then asked to fill the vacant seat on the Board of Directors and he accepted.
John tapped into the construction trades to include an electrician, concrete workers, a stone mason and a landscaper. Everyone John brought to the table agreed to help us.
Drafts of promotional pamphlets were drawn up and reviewed by the Board and approved for printing.
In May 2013, just two years after the memorial was first talked about, we held a ceremonial ground breaking at the future site of the memorial. Family members of the fallen were invited. Many attended, and the media provided good coverage. We contacted Giant Food Stores, a Cumberland County-based company, asking them if they would be a Foundation sponsor. Giant agreed to make a substantial contribution and four days before our ground breaking, a representative contacted us to let us know that Giant Foods had approved a $25,000 donation. Giant presented the check at the ground breaking. The Giant Food donation validated our efforts and affirmed our Foundation as legitimate in the eyes of the community. John Gleim brought Donald Mowery, President of R.S. Mowery and Sons, General Contractors to a CCLEMF meeting. Mr. Mowery listened to our intentions and was requested to help. At our next meeting, Don came back and told us he “was in.” The first thing Don did was obtain the plan information from Gannett Fleming. He gave it to one of his estimators to give us a better idea of the materials needed and an estimate for the cost of the project. The numbers that came back took our breath away $292,000. I remember looking at Don and thinking, that’s a little more than the $100,000 I was original thinking about. Don saw that look and said only “Don’t worry, we’ll be alright”.
We kicked our fund raising efforts into high gear. Who did we know that we could ask to help us with financial support? We found service organizations to be large donors. Many of these organizations are veterans who understand a memorial and the importance of giving back to the community. By the end of September 2013, we had over $100,000 in the bank. In the meantime, John Gleim and Don Mowery were working on in-kind donations for materials and labor needed for the memorial. They estimated they had about $100,000 of in-kind donations pledged. If you haven’t figured it out yet; to do such a project, you need community support. The initial design included a life size bronze statue of a saluting Police Officer. We met with two sculptors and decided to commission with A.R.T. Design Group in Lancaster County. Not only were their costs lower, they gave us an in-state group discount that helped us significantly.
ABC 27, WHTM, the Harrisburg ABC affiliate, partnered with us and agreed to do a 10 or 15-minute documentary on the memorial and our fallen officers. We wanted this to be a professionally done video to post on the internet to allow people to access it on their smart phones while at the memorial.
There are four Chambers of Commerce in Cumberland County. All four agreed to support the Foundation and offered to do a free attachment to one of their event mailings. This document was sent to 2,600 Chamber members throughout the County. The Executive Director, a former police officer I had worked with, also made direct introduction to business executives that we had not been able to meet before. The Chambers connection was a real plus for us.
On October 21, 2013 John W. Gleim, Jr. and Donald Mowery had a construction meeting on site and the work began. By Thanksgiving all the concrete work was complete, walls were built and flag poles erected. The year ended with plans to order necessary materials for the spring and complete construction when the weather broke.
Sam Morgan, retired Lower Allen Police Officer expressed interest in the drafting of an inspirational saying to be placed on granite in the Memorial. “Within this Memorial are the stories of our brave Officers, who gave all, protecting our way of life: may they rest in peace.” Sam’s quote was quickly accepted as our theme.
April 2014 came and construction resumed. Mike Smith, our mason, started doing the stonework. Mike worked evenings and weekends to get our Memorial done and donated all his work. Don Mowery ordered the wall caps and memorial stone pedestals. These were all custom made precast concrete, made for us by a company in Buffalo, NY. Don enlisted the assistance of a business associate to install the caps and pedestals. We figured it would take them a day to do this installation, as I said we didn’t know much about building. It took three workers five days, using a crane to do the installation work.
Something was missing. We had overlooked having a dedication stone and we had not included the words we live by. Dedication, Honor, Integrity, Pride and Service. We talked with Mike Smith. “No problem,” he said, “Get the stones made and I’ll take care of it.” The granite stones were cut and installed.
In July 2014 the statue we commissioned was delivered and set. That was a great day for us. We have been asked about the name tag on the statue. Who is Hamgs? (Those letters represent the first initials of the last names of our Directors. Hammon, Anderson, McLaughlin, Gleim and Smee.)
We then ran into our final hurdle. We had built the memorial memorializing the eleven law enforcement officers who lost their lives while protecting Cumberland County. The Board was aware that a future death of a law enforcement officer was a reality. We had to allow for this and design it properly. In fact, we allowed for up to five more names to be added. We had the room, but how do you make that area look like something else, so it is not evident what the intent is. We talked about having the thin blue line on pavers and a couple other ideas. The thin blue line seemed OK, but we needed more. I met with Scott Ryder, owner of Ryder Graphics. Scott had already provided us with some help with the memorial. I explained what we had and asked him for his thoughts. He came up with sandblasting the shield and rose logo into pavers and placing them in the area we needed to “hide.” We all agreed and in late August they were installed. Finally, we had landscaping to do. Our landscaper came in and did all the plantings. We were so close to the dedication date there was no time for grass to grow and so we needed to have sod installed.
A lot of planning needed to be done for the dedication ceremony and we had only a few weeks to do so. We needed an honor guard. We decided to have Amazing Grace sang rather than played on the bag pipes. The Pennsylvania State Police agreed to provide a five-man rifle team and bugler, but we still had no honor guard. We then received a phone call from Sergeant Rick Finicle of the Pennsylvania Capitol Police Ceremonial Unit offering the services of his unit. Rick agreed not only the have members of his ceremonial unit there, but also contacted Harrisburg City and Derry Township ceremonial units and asked them to assist.
On September 5, 2014 at 1000 hours our dedication ceremony began. Honor Guards from the Capitol Police, Harrisburg City and Derry Township Police opened the ceremony. The Pennsylvania State Police rifle team and bugler were also present. We enlisted Ms. Caroline Jarrett, a music teacher from Trinity High School to sing. Anybody that heard her sing the national anthem that morning will agree, not all talent is in Hollywood. Former Cumberland County District Attorney and then Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice J. Michael Eakin was our keynote speaker. Most importantly, we had over seventy–five family members of our fallen heroes present. Ten of the eleven fallen officers had a family member present.
Three years of planning and forty minutes later it was complete. More than 3 years of planning ended in something we are all very proud of, as is the community. It is a permanent memorial to those who died while serving Cumberland County. Their stories will never be forgotten. All of the Board members have received numerous compliments about our Memorial. I believe Sergeant Finicle paid the highest by saying “You have set the standard.”
We had completed a Memorial for all of our fallen officers, or so we thought. In Early 2016 Randy Watts, a local historian and author of this book made us aware of two fallen officers the Foundation had not been unaware of.
The first was Officer John Beisser. Officer Beisser was a Railroad Officer who had been shot and killed in 1916 while questioning an individual. In October 2016, 100 years after his death Officer Beisser was added to our Memorial at a service attended by numerous Railroad Officers from as far away as Ohio, along with other law enforcement representatives of the County.
Chief Elmer Hollenbaugh, Newville Police died in 1941 while affecting an arrest of individuals in a warehouse burglary. Chief Hollenbaugh was added to the Memorial at a service in May 2017. A large number of Cumberland County law enforcement officers attended that service.
Chaplain Sheffer, we now have the Memorial you asked me about.