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'IN THE LINE OF DUTY': Vigil remembers Lorain County's fallen officers

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    Wilma Coursen, left, mother of Dyke "AJ" Coursen, and Al Leiby light candles during the Lorain County Police Memorial Candlelight Vigil in Wellington on Wednesday.

    STEVE MANHEIM / CHRONICLE

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    Wellington auxiilary officer Carole Weegmann rings the memorial bell at the Lorain County Police Memorial Service in Wellington May 9.

    STEVE MANHEIM / CHRONICLE

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    Connie Burkland, left, and Marcia Crawford, daughters of Wellington officer Edmund Smith, attend the candlelight vigil at Lorain County Police Memorial Service in Wellington May 9.

    STEVE MANHEIM / CHRONICLE

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    Attendees stand during the playing of taps at the Lorain County Police Memorial Service May 9.

    STEVE MANHEIM / CHRONICLE

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Law enforcement officers from around the county came together for the annual Lorain County Police Officers candlelight vigil Wednesday evening at the Wellington Safety Forces Memorial, honoring the county’s 19 fallen officers and six former Lorain County officers killed in the line of duty elsewhere in the country.

Wellington police Lt. Jeff Shelton said the memorial is usually held at different departments around the county.

“This is the Lorain County Peace Officers Memorial; it floats around every year to a different location,” Shelton said. “… This is our bicentennial, so the county chiefs association was nice enough to let us host it, since we just had it two years ago.”

This will be the last year the program is held at a police station in the county, as future services will be at the county’s new memorial at the old courthouse in Elyria. The new memorial will honor firefighters and law enforcement officers from the county killed in the line of duty. Two historic names will be added to the county’s list this year, Constable Frank Stone, of Oberlin, killed in 1881; and Detective Jack Laicy, of the Nickle Plate Railroad, killed in 1923.

This year, Wilma Coursen, mother of Cpl. Dyke “AJ” Coursen, was escorted from South Carolina to attend Thursday and today’s services. Dyke Coursen, formerly with the LaGrange fire and police departments, was killed in 2002 while responding to a domestic disturbance while working as a deputy for the Beaufort County Sheriff in South Carolina. Wilma Coursen was escorted in a unit car by Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office Staff Sgt. Travis Hovest.

“Just imagine they couldn’t do anything better for you and you appreciate that more than you can even know,” she said. “I’ll never forget it … It’s a heart thing, there are (no words) that really work.”

Wilma Coursen was from Lorain and had lived in the county until her son’s death, when she moved to South Carolina. Alan Leiby, a retired Elyria police detective, sent an invitation to the service to the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, prompting Wilma Coursen and Hovest’s trip.

Coursen’s son, Cory, who was only about 2 years old when his father was killed, will speak at today’s memorial service.

Also honored at the vigil was Wellington police Officer Edmund Smith. Smith was killed in 1957 while responding to a domestic disturbance at Barker and Maple Streets. His daughters, Connie Smith Buckland and Marcia Crawford, were in attendance, and Smith Buckland spoke about her family’s loss.

“It was 61 years ago when our family truly learned the meaning of ‘in the line of duty,’” Smith Buckland said. “It was the end of watch for our father and the beginning of a different life for us. … Those lost in the line of duty will no longer put on the vest, the uniform, the duty belt or the beloved badge that they proudly wore. Their life was cut short, they will no longer come home to the family they love. … A hero was made May 4, 1957, and not a day passes that we do not think of him — he was doing what he loved, protecting the Village of Wellington.”

Retired auxiliary officer Lawrence Querin came to the vigil as a retired officer, but also because Smith’s death was personal to him. He and his friends were playing at Baker and Maple Streets shortly before Smith was killed there.

“We were riding our bikes, three or four of us, and we rode away to play somewhere else and 15 minutes later, he was shot, right there. It’s part of me, and it might have to do with why I was a auxiliary police officer for 20-and-a-half years.”

Querin said it was important for him to come to the vigil to honor those “doing their best for their country and their fellow man.”

“It’s kind of personal and it’s kind of my town and some of them are my people,” he said.

After the vigil, Querin laid flowers at the Wellington Police Memorial, alongside the wreath placed there during the ceremony.

A final call was read out over Lorain County dispatch.

“Final call for our fallen Lorain County officers, you served your communities with dignity and honor,” the dispatcher read. “We will take your watch from here. You may each rest in peace.”

Contact Carissa Woytach at 329-7245 or cwoytach@chroniclet.com.


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