Former police Sgt. Mark Hearndon holds the gun he lost during the Blizzard of 1978. The weapon was found three months later. He was given the gun as a souvenir. He retired April 27, and while he plans to spend more time with his family, he wants to lead mission trips to Honduras.
The roads were snow-covered and impassable for the Waterville police cars.
Not that it mattered much, given that one of the two police cars was out of commission after being hit by a snow plow.
It was the Great Blizzard of 1978 — a time when residents were without electricity, the snow practically ate up the houses, and the police officers struggled to respond to residents in the historic disaster.
And to make matters worse, Officer Mark Hearndon had lost his gun.
The revolver slipped out of his leather cowboy-style holster as he body-surfed 5-foot mounds of snow to rescue a family from a freezing house on Waterville-Monclova Road.Three months later, the police got a call.
A group of children playing in a melting snow pile found his revolver, still loaded, but rusty and with a broken grip.
Decades later, Mr. Hearndon holds the gun, which the police chief gave him as a souvenir, as he recalls experiences from his 34 years on the city's force.
He retired April 27 to spend time with his family and to lead CedarCreek Church mission trips to Honduras.
Growing up in Waterville, where he has lived since eighth grade, young Hearndon loved sports.
The 1975 graduate of Anthony Wayne High School played football and ran track. Becoming a gym teacher was his calling, he figured, so he enrolled in Bowling Green State University.
But learning what teachers were paid — less than what he made at his full-time job stocking a grocery store at night to pay his way through school — was a shock.
With the encouragement of a buddy, he took a law enforcement class at Owens Community College during the 1975-76 school year. It was the sexy course in police work — lifting fingerprints, shooting and testing bullets, the stuff in crime-scene investigations.
"I just loved it," Mr. Hearndon, 55, said. "I thought, ‘This is it.'?" He quit BGSU and started school at Owens. In 1976, he took an unpaid internship with the Waterville Police Department.
Later that year, he became a Waterville auxiliary officer, often riding with Officer Lance Martin, who would become chief from 1987-2001, on the midnight shift.
A year later, the department sponsored him to train at the Toledo police academy. When a Waterville officer left for a new job, there was room for the 21-year-old Mr. Hearndon to join the department on Oct. 12, 1977.
He recalls that as baby-faced rookie cop, he pulled over a woman for speeding.
"You can't write me a ticket," she told him. "You're not old enough."
"Unfortunately, this is a real ticket," he said back, without losing his cool.
A major moment in his career was becoming involved in an undercover operation in 2001 to find out who was stealing paper, coffee, and other office supplies from the village hall.
Through video surveillance, officials saw village solicitor George Runner stuffing packets of coffee and creamer into his brief case, but no criminal charges were pursued.
Mr. Runner resigned and Chief Martin was forced out for not informing the village administrator about the sting. Mr. Hearndon, who had been promoted to lieutenant in 1996, was demoted to sergeant.
Police knew that the sting — especially one so secret — could have repercussions, but "we caught the bad guy," said Mr. Martin, now retired and living in Providence Township.
"Mark is a stand-up guy," Mr. Martin said.
Mr. Hearndon said he loved the camaraderie among the other officers and going to the local gas station where he heard the latest gossip and got the best tips.
On the downside were the long hours, working on holidays, and fighting fatigue on the midnight shift.
In retirement, he baby-sits his 9-month-old grandson Paxton and works on his 1967 and 1976 Corvettes.
He has been on seven mission trips to Honduras and will lead two more in June and October through his church.
"He's very energetic," said his wife, Bonnie, who was the Waterville Township police chief until she resigned in 2007 because of multiple sclerosis. "Probably that's why he's so skinny. He eats a calorie then burns two off."