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Published: Monday, 2/26/2007

Tearful honor guard prepares for officer's funeral

BY JC REINDL
BLADE STAFF WRITER

TEMPERANCE When Toledo police Officer Keith Carr slips on his uniform s pair of spotless white gloves this morning and marches past the casket of his friend and former patrol partner, vice Detective Keith Dressel, he will battle to restrain his emotions and tears.

Mr. Carr is one of 11 members of the Toledo Police Department s Honor Guard who are scheduled to perform funeral honors at today s church and burial ceremonies for Mr. Dressel, who was fatally shot Wednesday in a scuffle while working undercover.

The funeral will begin at 11 a.m. in Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church, 8330 Lewis Ave., and continue with a procession to St. Anthony s Cemetery on Erie Road between Douglas and Secor roads.

While the honor guard regularly performs funeral honors for deceased officers, the majority of those men and women have reached old age and long retired. Today will be the first that any current member of Toledo s honor guard has performed at the funeral of a Toledo officer killed on duty.

Mr. Carr, 42, said he is bracing to confront his feelings.

You focus on a far-away thought or something across the room, he said of his strategies for maintaining composure. You focus on something else besides the church ceremony.

In the mid-1990s, Mr. Carr and Mr. Dressel worked street patrols together in the city s south end. For a period of eight months they were together for about eight hours a day, five days a week.

You know your partner closer than your own family, Mr. Carr said.

Seamless execution of honor guard maneuvers can be challenging in any circumstance, but will be especially so at the funeral of someone you knew, he said.

You re choking back the tears, said Mr. Carr, a 10-year honor-guard veteran. You re just trying to keep it all inside until you get home. And then, you let it all out in private.

The Toledo Police Department honor guard practices for the funeral of Toledo police Detective Keith Dressel. The Toledo Police Department honor guard practices for the funeral of Toledo police Detective Keith Dressel.
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Working in pairs, the honor guard members stood vigil at parade rest beside Detective Dressel s casket for eight hours Saturday and Sunday during visitation at the Bedford Funeral Chapel, a short walk across a parking lot from the church.

Funerals for slain officers typically draw crowds of well over 1,000 people, including law enforcement officers in uniform from surrounding states. The church is planning to accommodate a funeral audience of 3,000 or more in its facilities using closed-circuit television.

Yet the building s corridors were mostly empty and quiet Friday afternoon, when the honor guard put in a final practice for today s ceremonies.

Toledo Police Sgt. Karen Martensen, another honor guard
member, practices for a day she knows will be emotional for her colleagues and the community. Toledo Police Sgt. Karen Martensen, another honor guard member, practices for a day she knows will be emotional for her colleagues and the community.
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There were moments when only the rustling of pant legs could be heard as the guard members swept past rows of pews in a series of swift, efficient marches.

They clasped hands around invisible flags, and tipped their wrists forward as they imagined passing through the threshold of a side door.

In another moment guard members marched one by one past an empty casket pedestal in the funeral home, saluting the air where Detective Dressel s body would later rest.

And yesterday afternoon inside an old firehouse in West Toledo, five men four holding bagpipes and one a drum formed a circle in a clearing between antique fire engines to practice for today s ceremonies.

Bagpiper Don Newman, left, will give a solo rendition of  Going Home  inside the church. At right is bagpiper Steve Romstadt. Bagpiper Don Newman, left, will give a solo rendition of Going Home inside the church. At right is bagpiper Steve Romstadt.
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Not too shabby, remarked Gerry Mazur, 46, a drum sergeant in the Toledo Fire Department s Pipes and Drums, as the men finished a rendition of The Minstral Boy . The late 18th-century Irish lament is often played at memorial ceremonies for officers and firefighters who have fallen while on duty.

About a dozen bagpipers and drummers from both the fire department s band and Lucas County Sheriff Department s Pipes and Drums will play together today outside the church and at the grave site.

The musicians said they expect to be joined by bagpipe and drum units from Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus.

Honor guard member and Offi cer Mike Talton pauses for a few moments during practice for the funeral. Honor guard member and Offi cer Mike Talton pauses for a few moments during practice for the funeral.
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Bagpiper Don Newman, of the sheriff s department s band, will give a solo rendition of Going Home inside the church at the conclusion of the Mass.

Going Home is a very appropriate piece for the occasion, Mr. Newman explained. Going home is really what [Detective Dressel] is doing going home.

Bagpipes are a regular presence at police and firefighter funerals.

Today, however, will be the first time that Mr. Newman performs at a ceremony for an officer killed while on duty.

There are some occasions at funerals where the person has lived a very full life, and the funeral becomes a celebration of their life, Mr. Newman said. But, he added, in this instance, it s way too soon.

Contact JC Reindl at:jreindl@theblade.com or419-724-6050.



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