SPRINGFIELD — Most years, those involved in county law enforcement and their families get together to recognize noteworthy achievements among them.
In doing so this year, they remembered a fallen colleague.
Suzanne Waughtel Hopper, the sheriff’s deputy killed in the line of duty Jan. 1, was the primary subject of a recognition banquet Thursday evening — not lessening but casting a pall over the other awards given for meritorious conduct.
“That was one event, but it’s every single day,” Sheriff Gene Kelly told the deputies, officers, dispatchers and their families. “Crazy things happen, and we cry about it. And then we laugh about it. And we get together and talk about it.”
A secret ballot box available in the bowels of the sheriff’s office typically decides three awards: deputy, commanding officer and dispatcher of the year. Hopper was chosen by her colleagues, in addition to the officer and dispatcher on duty when she was killed, Lt. Dustin White and dispatcher Andrea Ervin.
Hopper’s parents, Charles and Bonnie Bauer, were there Thursday to accept the award. They also accepted a “memory box” provided by the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police.
When Hopper was recognized, a standing ovation erupted, and soon descended into silence with most of the people’s hands folded in respect.
“When you get to be my age, you get a little cynical about the way people can be,” Charles Bauer said after the event. “But the way we have been encouraged and the support we’ve gotten from the Springfield community ... this has brought everyone together in a way it otherwise wouldn’t have been. You don’t want these kinds of things to happen, but when things turn out this way, you’re glad. It’s been amazing.”
Other awards varied: from a duo of deputies who pulled an elderly woman from a burning building, to a deputy who arrested 15 people for drunken driving in one month, to an investigator cracking a murder-for-hire plot.
“You made a difference in this world, so thank you,” Lt. John Reedy said to the crowd.
Contact this reporter at (937) 328-0353.
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