CUYAHOGA FALLS -- The Cuyahoga Falls and Silver Lake Police Memorial and Honor Guard Foundation will host its police memorial service beginning at 10 a.m. on May 17 on the Cuyahoga Falls Civic Center Campus.
The campus is located between the Natatorium and the Municipal Building, 2310 Second St., in Cuyahoga Falls.
This year, three new names are being engraved on the memorial: Louis A. Dirker II, Gerald D. Archer and Robert E. Kidd, all current or former police officers who died in 2016.
Mr. Dirker was a member of the Cuyahoga Falls Police Department from May 24, 1974, to Jan. 3, 2001, ending his career in Cuyahoga Falls as chief from 1999 to 2001. He then was chief of the Stow Police Department from Feb. 17, 2003, until his retirement on May 31, 2014. Mr. Dirker died on Feb. 6, 2016, at the age of 67 after battling lymphoma for nearly seven years.
After retiring from the Stow Police Department, Mr. Dirker went to work as a court security officer with the U.S. Marshal's Service, a job he held until illness forced him to finally retire for good.
Miriam Dirker said her husband "loved his family and he loved his job." She said he loved being chief and leading the department, but was never arrogant. "He always said the officers didn't work for him, they worked with him," she said. And he always cared for his officers, she added.
Despite his "spit-and-polish" appearance at work, she continued, Mr. Dirker was not afraid to get dirty at home and tackled all manner of improvement projects. "Lou was a very spiritual man," Mrs. Dirker said. "He went to church at Immaculate Heart of Mary with his family every Sunday. He was a good husband and a good father."
Miriam said she knew her husband's name would be added to the memorial some day, but she didn't expect it to be "so soon." She said he was going to be the speaker at the police memorial service two years ago, but because of his declining health he was only able to attend it as a spectator.
"Chief Dirker was an inspirational leader during his time with the Cuyahoga Falls Police," said Cuyahoga Falls Police Chief Jack Davis. "He was well liked by the officers and always carried himself in a manner that reflected positively on the department. It was obvious that he was also a devoted family man and a well respected member of the community. I feel fortunate that I had the opportunity to work with him and learn from him while he was here."
Davis said Mr. Kidd was hired by Cuyahoga Falls from Northampton where he was a sergeant at the time of the merger. The chief also noted Mr. Archer was a Summit County Deputy prior to working for Cuyahoga Falls. Officer Archer started the Cuyahoga Falls Explorer program which is still in existence today, he said.
"We are proud of all these men and are grateful that they will be forever remembered by our community as a part of our department's history," Davis said.
Mr. Archer was a Falls Police officer from Jan. 28 1968 until Feb. 9, 1980, when he retired. He died on Dec. 13, 2016, at the age of 75. His widow, Ellen Archer, said it was "heart-touching" when she received word her late husband's name was going to be added to the memorial.
"It's an awesome thing," Mrs. Archer said by phone from her home in New Vienna, Ohio. "My heart was touched." She said only recently she was going through some of her husband's papers and found that he had donated money toward the construction of the memorial before it was built.
"His heart was in it," Mrs. Archer said. "I am pro-military, pro-law enforcement, pro-first responder. I honored him when he was living and I continue to honor him in death." She said there are so many words she could use to describe her husband.
"Jerry had integrity, character and compassion," she said. "He was approachable. He listened to people and he heard what they said. I believe that gift helped him as a police officer." Mrs. Archer said her husband was a man of his word, an "excellent" teacher and above all "he was a Christian man who loved the Lord."
Mrs. Archer also said her husband had a "heart for young people" and that served him well as an adviser to the Police Explorers program for high school students. One of Officer Archer's students was a young Tom Pozza, who went on to become the chief of police in both Cuyahoga Falls and Munroe Falls.
Mr. Kidd began his career in law enforcement with Northampton Township Police, serving there from Feb. 1, 1972 until the township on Jan. 1, 1986, merged with Cuyahoga Falls where he continued as a Falls Police officer until his retirement in June 7, 1989. He died on Dec. 30, 2016. He was 81.
His daughter, Sheri Gaidek of Munroe Falls, said she was "proud" when she learned her father was going to be memorialized on May 17. "I'm very, very proud," she said. "I was also proud when I saw the police escort for his funeral."
Gaidek said her memories of her father are dominated by the security work he performed for Blossom Music Center in the 1970s and early 1980s. She said that while she was able to see many of the concerts as a member of the audience, her dad got to work backstage and meet many of the performers. She said her father was a little protective and saw to it she didn't meet any of the performers. "He thought they were kind of rowdy," she said.
She also remembers her father worked a lot of Walsh Jesuit High School football games and Woodridge High School basketball games, as well as Walsh bingo nights. She said after he retired he delivered Meals on Wheels and got involved in performing in plays after he and her mother moved to Florida.
"He had a good life. He kept busy," she said.
70th anniversaryof officer's deathcommemorated
In addition to honoring the three officers who died in 2016, the Foundation will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the death of Ptl. Clarence Chance, the first Cuyahoga Falls Police officer to die in the line of duty. Mr. Chance was killed on his motorcycle at Oakwood Drive and Front Street when a car pulled out onto Front Street in front of him while he was in pursuit of a speeding car on May 30, 1947.
The keynote speaker this year is Stow Municipal Court Judge Kim Hoover. Event organizer Steve Amos, a retired Cuyahoga Falls Police officer, said normally the Foundation shies away from having a political speaker. Although an elected official, Hoover was chosen because he "fits the times perfectly," Amos said.
Hoover is an appropriate choice because he knows the Dirker family through his work as a judge in Cuyahoga Falls where the area's municipal court was located and then in Stow where it was relocated. Hoover graduated from Woodridge High School and raised his family in the Northampton/Woodridge area, which was where Dirker lived and where Kidd served as a police officer.
Each year across the country, May 15 is Peace Officers Memorial Day and the week in which that date falls is National Police Week. Dedicated in 2012, the Police Memorial is located on the Cuyahoga Falls Civic Center Campus, between the Natatorium and the Municipal Building.
The city every year hangs flags along Broad Boulevard and Broad Boulevard Bridge. Flags are also flown at all of the schools. A total of 115 police flags will be flown during Police Week which is May 14-20. Three billboards touting National Police Week are located on State Road, Graham Road and South Front Street.
The Foundation encourages area citizens and businesses to display a police memorial flag. Flags can be purchased from Falls Flag and Banner, located at 1200 Portage Trail, Suite 3, which donates a portion of each sale to the Foundation.