Memorial stone to recognize deceased Amherst police officers
AMHERST — Every year, as Memorial Day approaches, members of the Amherst Police Department visit the grave sites of former officers buried locally to salute their service to the community.
They place a flag at each grave, held in place by a bronze medallion, along with a box of flowers.
As a project of the Amherst Police Relief Association to honor these individuals in a more public way, a large granite memorial will soon be installed near the front entrance of the police station at 111 Main St. It will salute those who were members of the department for 15 or more years. There are 14 deceased officers who fit into that category.
“This will be something for the public to appreciate the efforts of the men and women who have done the job before us,” said John Chudzik, the officer and association member spearheading the effort.
But there is also a practical consideration, as the number of departed officers will inevitably grow over time. “It will be increasingly cumbersome to visit all the graves,” Chudzik said.
The memorial stone, being made by the Athol Granite Works office in Amherst, will list all the names in chronological order of their deaths. At the top of the stone is “Amherst Police Relief Association Departed Members” and a replica police badge with the letters “APRA” in place of the badge number.
The total cost for the project is $4,245 for purchasing the stone, its design, the carving and installation, Chudzik said. This is being paid for through interest from the association’s account, which is exclusively for funerals, death benefits and remembrances.
Chudzik said that account was established to help families with burial expenses. The account was built up in the 1960s and 1970s when the association held an annual policemen’s grand ball and sent out fundraising greeting card solicitations using watercolor paintings by Amherst artist Stephen Hamilton.
In the last week, the Department of Public Works dug a hole and poured the concrete base on which the 10-ton memorial stone will be placed.
The work has coincided with giving a more prominent place for a tribute to former Police Chief Francis Hart. A plaque honoring Hart, donated by the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at the University of Massachusetts, previously had been on the department’s grounds closer to Main Street entrance to the parking lot. The DPW moved the plaque and its pedestal to an area near where the memorial stone will sit.
Chudzik said he expects the stone to be in place in late October or early November, after the platform has cured, and a ceremony will be scheduled. Families of the departed will be invited, along with retired officers. Police Chief Scott Livingstone and town officials are expected to speak.