Good Time To Remember Sacrifice

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On Sunday, the collective growl of 400 motorcycles heading down Main Street was a loud reminder of lives lost.

All that noise from all those engines told us loudly and clearly: Don't ever forget the sacrifices of the men and women who have died in the line of duty as law enforcement officers and firefighters.

At Thursday's Payson Town Council meeting, council will declare May 13 to 19 as "Police Week" and May 15 as "Peace Officers' Memorial Day."

The W. Steven Martin Police Memorial Law Ride made a dramatic entrance. But days later, the noise is gone and it is easy to forget.

Each participant in Sunday's ride donated a minimum of $10 to an ongoing effort to build a memorial in Payson for those who died on duty.

Once it is built, the Payson memorial will have one name -- Police Chief David Wilson.

Payson High School's Wilson Dome is named after him, but many who are new to the area may not know why.

Wilson died on duty in 1992, killed by an 83-year-old man with a history of mental illness -- schizophrenia, said Payson Police Chief Gordon Gartner.

"Chief Wilson befriended him to help him," Gartner said.

On the morning of Sept. 11, 1992, the man came to the police station carrying a paper bag. He left a note for Dave Wilson, telling him to come by his house.

"The note said that he was going into surgery and he needed someone to keep an eye on his house while he was in the hospital," Gartner said.

Shortly after lunch, Wilson went over to the man's house. The man was waiting for him with a towel wrapped around his hand. Underneath the towel was a gun.

"When Dave approached the door, he shot him twice," Gartner said. "He stumbled into the next door neighbor's back yard and probably died in the next four or five minutes.

"It took us a while to figure out what had happened."

In the meantime, the man walked into a shed and shot himself.

Wilson had been the chief of the Payson Police Department for 12 years before his death.

"I worked with him for years," Gartner said. "He was known for helping kids who were from broken homes. He was very involved in youth activities. He was a Rotarian and a member of the Masonic Lodge.

"Here you had an individual who gave his life in service to his community. To recognize that is a wonderful idea. We appreciate W. Steve Martin for what he is doing."

When it is built, the Payson memorial will have Wilson's name on it and will have room for more names. That blank space is a reminder to everyone of the dangers that law enforcement and firefighters face every day.

In the United States, a police officer dies every two or three days in the line of duty, W. Steven Martin said.

While the Town is searching for a new police chief, it is a good time for us to take a moment and remember what it means to wear that uniform and to lead others who do.

The Payson memorial will be the fifth such tribute to be built by Martin's group. It will be 12 feet tall with four sides and hold a plaque shaped like the state of Arizona. To see an example of what it will look like, head 15 miles south on Highway 87 to the Mazatzal rest area.

"That was the first one I built," Martin said.

To donate to the memorial fund or for more information, e-mail W. Steven Martin at w.stevenmartin@cox.net or visit policetoydrive.com. Adding to the donations from those who rode Sunday, the two Payson Rotary clubs pledged $1,000 for the memorial. If any other clubs would like to hear Martin speak about the memorial efforts, e-mail him at the above address and he will drive up to Payson from the Valley to speak.

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