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Published: 5/16/2003

Officers salute colleagues slain in line of duty

ADRIAN - Moving slowly, members of the Adrian Police Department color guard raised their white-gloved hands in salute.

It was a gesture of respect for a man they never knew, an officer who died more than a century ago.

Representatives of many of Lenawee County's law enforcement agencies gathered under overcast skies yesterday to pay tribute to officers killed in the line of duty. Afterward, Adrian police officers held a private ceremony for two fallen comrades - including Officer Dennis Lyons, whose death in 1880 was discovered only last year.

“The true tragedy in this whole affair is that this death went unnoticed for 120 years,” said Lt. Tom Ray after placing a wreath in front of Officer Lyons' grave. “We now honor his memory. He will never again be forgotten.”

Every year during National Peace Officers Memorial Week, Lenawee County law enforcement officials hold a ceremony in Oakwood Cemetery.

Yesterday, eight bright red carnations were gently placed in a memorial wreath, each representing a Lenawee County police officer who died in the line of duty.

Adrian Mayor Sam Rye secured a blue flower in the wreath to honor those who continue to serve.

Barb Irelan, 58, placed a flower in the wreath to honor Roger Adams, her first husband, who died 32 years ago while on duty as a Michigan State Police trooper. Mrs. Irelan, who has remarried, said she tries to attend the ceremony every year.

“It means that all the sacrifice and heartache that we went through is remembered,” she said. “It is important to give validity to the type of work men like Roger do.”

Ester McNair attended in memory of her late brother, Clayton Village Constable Richard Teske, who was killed in 1964 in an auto chase. Ms. McNair learned yesterday that her brother's name - although engraved on the local police memorial - cannot be found on the national monument.

Lieutenant Ray told her he is working to change that.

“I think it would be wonderful to add his name to the national monument,” she said. “He was special.”

Lieutenant Ray's promise to Ms. McNair will not go unheeded.

For more than a year, he has worked to get Officer Lyons' name added to the National Police Memorial in Washington. Officer Lyons was gunned down in the streets of Adrian by a Civil War veteran involved in a bar brawl.

Earlier this week, Lieutenant Ray joined hundreds of officers to honor the 377 officers added to the monument this year, 146 of whom died in 2002. Officer Lyons was one of them.

“It was emotional,” Lieutenant Ray said. “Probably the most emotional part was putting my hand on his name.”

For many years, Adrian police officers believed that only one of their fellow officers was killed in the line of duty. Officer Bobby Williams was slain while on duty in 1975.

Lieutenant Ray said it was living through the tragedy of Officer Williams' death that made it important to him to see the names of all officers killed while on duty placed on the national monument.

Next year, he hopes to travel to Washington again to honor Constable Teske.

- ERICA BLAKE



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