Berrien Co. officers honored at Peace Officers Memorial Day Service

Published: May. 15, 2023 at 5:44 PM EDT
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ST. JOSEPH, Mich. (WNDU) - Dozen gathered at Lake Bluff Park in St. Joseph, Mich. on Monday for the annual Peace Officers Memorial Day service.

20 officers with ties to Berrien County departments or the community were honored, including Sergeant Robert Stevens, with the Benton Township Police Department, who was killed in the line of duty in 1970. His daughter, Dodie, was only 11 when the tragedy occurred.

“It does affect you daily,” remarked Stevens. “It really is all about all the times that he missed: when I graduated from college, he wasn’t there, my sister’s wedding. You know, we miss him on every event, every Christmas, you know, every event. We miss him everyday.”

Sorrow still grips Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey, who lost two close friends in 2016 when an inmate fatally shot two bailiffs and retired officers, Joseph Zangaro and Ronald Kienzle. A sheriff’s deputy was also injured

“I worked with them my whole career,” said Bailey, “and it’s still hard to accept that they’re gone, you know, but they’re still loved. They’re not forgotten.”

The sense of “never forget” was the goal for the service that was hosted by the F.O.P. Blossomland Lodge.

“I think for the family members, they understand that we still honor their family members, that we have not forgotten the sacrifices that they’ve made for their communities, for their families,” noted Deniece Fisher, F.O.P. President.

The undying honor for the fallen was felt by their loved ones, including Dodie Stevens.

“I am just so grateful to Deniece [Fisher] and everyone that puts on this ceremony. It’s so meaningful to be able to come some place every year and to show your respect, you know, and to honor the service and the sacrifice that each of the officers gave,” Stevens said.

The service honored three fallen officers with Berrien County connections who had served the Phoenix (Ariz.) Police Department; Salt Lake City Police Department; and the FBI Detroit Office.