National Peace Officers Memorial Ceremony Held at Police DepartmentPosted on May 14, 2014
In observance of National Peace Officers Memorial Week, members of the Bremen police
department gathered for a ceremony to remember two local policemen who perished during their time of service. The remembrance, held on Tuesday, May 13, also featured participation from several community leaders, as well as friends and family members of the fallen officers.
While the atmosphere of the event was bittersweet, it was also a time to share stories from the lives of Chad Beeson and Tony Swartzlander, memories that occasionally summoned a smile or two from those who were present. Chad Beeson passed away on October 24, 2003, while returning home from a football playoff game with fellow friends and BHS volunteers. Tony Swartzlander died on February 22, 1981while attempting to establish a roadblock to apprehend a vehicle carrying robbery suspects. The car struck and killed Swartzlander before crashing into a tree.
The ceremony began with prayer and music, as well as words of tribute from police chief Matt Hassel. Kathy Overmyer, who leads the vocal music department for Bremen Public Schools, performed the national anthem as well as a stirring rendition of "Amazing Grace." Pastor Jim Morris, of Horizon Ministries, led the audience in prayer for both the start and conclusion of the service. Town Council president Jim Leeper was on hand to present a proclamation declaring that May 13, 2014 be established as Peace Officers Memorial Day for the town of Bremen.
Brad Thornton, associate pastor for Bremen Missionary Church, spoke to the crowd about the respect and dedication demonstrated by police officers, including his own father. "It was an awesome brotherhood of individuals with a common purpose," he said. He also recalled the painful days following the deaths of two close comrades to his father, just a few years apart. Thornton reminded the audience to take any opportunity to be grateful to the police forces for all the sacrifices they have made, and joked that even in times when officers might pull drivers over for unsafe driving practices, even then, they should be thanked.
Chad Beeson's daughter, Belle, approached the podium next, regaling the guests with glimpses of her father that were both poignant and comical. She noted that when her father returned to Bremen in 1996, he was exceptionally proud of his new career as a police officer, and equally so when he married and started his family, which also included son Beau and wife Molly. An exceptional athlete, Belle said that he was never one to shy away from playing with his little girl. "My dad was my king and I was his princess," she said. She went on to add that her dad had a fondness for eating tuna fish sandwiches at the station, stockpiling canned ravioli, and watching his favorite television show, "Seinfeld."
She mused that she wishes her father were here to witness the milestones and moments of their lives, but said, "I know he is watching with a smile, in the best seat from above. Thank you for honoring him, remembering him, and keeping his spirit alive."
Steve Pittman, Bremen's assistant police chief, spoke on behalf of Tony Swartzlander's family. Pittman was only 13 years old at the time of his uncle's death, but it was evident that his legacy had left a profound impact on his nephew. "We don't thank our officers enough for all they do," he said. "They are the backbone of this department."
Pittman expressed appreciation to former police chief Jim Brown, who was present for the service, for being the one to hire Swartzlander to the Bremen police force. Brown was joined by friends and fellow officers during Swartzlander's tenure, Larry Dumph and Ron Wedel. Pittman provided a musical coda to his presentation by playing a forlorn song called the "Police Officer's Prayer," which left him visibly moved. "This is a hard day," he said tearfully before thanking everyone for attending in support of the Beeson and Swartzlander families.
The ceremony ended with refreshments provided by the Bremen Chamber of Commerce, while visitors milled about and greeted one another. Not far from where the event took place, a memorial rock etched with the names of the two fallen officers could be seen. As Morris said during his closing remarks of prayer, it would be wonderful "to never have to add another name" to that stone.