In Memory of Wichita County fallen officers…Now where would you expect to find a phrase like that? It seems to fit on a memorial carved out a marble in front of a law enforcement agency. In this case, it is inscribed on the back of a fully restored 1968 Ford Custom that looks exactly like a patrol car used by the Wichita Falls Police Dept in the late ‘60’s. The owners of the replica patrol car found the vehicle on craiglist and completely restored it as a very unique memorial to two fallen officers in Wichita Falls.
Wichita Falls Police Department Officers Craig Fellows and his partner Eddie Rappolee were killed in their patrol car on August 22, 1968 after the wall of a building collapsed on top of their vehicle. The old building in downtown Wichita Falls caught fire that night. The officers were in their patrol car watching for looters after the fire was extinguished, when the wall collapsed.
Wichitans Julie and Jeff Coley purchased the 1968 Ford and went to work creating a memorial on wheels so to speak! What a wonderful tribute to all of the officers in Wichita County, who have given their lives in the line of duty. Several families will be impacted in such a positive way.
As I read the story of the Coley’s project today, I was reminded of an important principle regarding the process of grief. Families do not want their loved ones to be forgotten. And unfortunately it does not take long. When I served as a volunteer chaplain for the Wichita Falls Police Dept. in the early 1990’s there were still officers around who had worked with the two men killed that August night in 1968. Today many of the officers serving that same department were not born in 1968!
A tangible memorial like the restored car is priceless. It sends a strong message to the families of fallen officers everywhere that their loved one will not be forgotten. Even after the passing of 42 years, their sacrifice is still honored by the living. The car will be a great conversation piece in such a positive way.
I am grateful today for historian Julie Coley and her car restoring husband, Jeff. They are an asset to the Wichita Falls community and a true friend to law enforcement everywhere.
I have a challenge for the rest of us: What tangible reminder of a deceased person can we share with a person in grief this week? It could actually be something very simple. I cannot think of a better gift to give someone who is still reeling over the loss of someone close to them. Of perhaps that person’s loved one died many years ago? Like in 1968….I really don’t think it is too late to reach out now!