GREENFIELD — An Eagle Scout project more than two years in the making came to fruition Saturday before a crowd of supporters who came together to cheer on a local teen’s efforts.
About 200 people gathered alongside Scout Gage Williamson, 16, of Greenfield, at the Hancock County Fraternal Order of Police lodge for the unveiling of a memorial honoring officers who lost their lives while on duty.
The Hancock County Fallen Officers Memorial, a stone structure erected in front of the lodge, bears the names, badges and pictures of three lawmen: Malcolm Grass, Dannie Garrison and Will Phillips.
Grass, a two-term sheriff, was 43 when he was shot and killed during a standoff at a local gas station in 1986. Garrison, a Hancock County sheriff’s deputy, suffered a heart attack while on duty and crashed his cruiser on New Year’s Day 2000. He was 51.
Phillips was killed in a hit-and-run accident in 2010 while cycling along U.S. 40 just outside Knightstown.
Family members of each of the officers whose memories are honored on the memorial gathered at the event Saturday to thank Gage for commemorating their service. He presented each of the widows - Carolyn Grass, Amy Garrison and Lesley Phillips - with a rose.
Amy Garrison was touched by the ceremony.
“It’s quite an honor,” she said. “I appreciate all his efforts.”
Honoring police officers is important to the young man who wants to be one some day.
“I’ve always enjoyed serving and helping people,” said Gage, a junior at Greenfield-Central High School.
The project wasn’t important to just Gage; members of the law enforcement community were also touched by the initiative.
Local officers were in fact the ones who came up with the idea for a memorial and pitched it as an Eagle Scout project. Gage picked up where officers left off and began overseeing the fundraising.
It was a natural fit, his mother, Melissa Bowyer, said – not to mention a good learning experience.
“Two years of hard work and pancake breakfasts and spaghetti dinners,” she said. “It’s just been a really awesome experience. I know he’s learned a lot, and he’ll carry that with him the rest of his life.”
State FOP representative Tom Ashcraft addressed the audience during the event. He reminded those gathered that Gage’s efforts are one small piece of a bigger puzzle; 45 officers have been killed in the line of duty so far this year.
The families of the fallen officers agreed the memorial is a nice tribute, though they hope the three names currently on the stone are the only ones to ever make the list of local officers who have lost their lives.
“It’s sad it’s needed but cool they’re all in one place,” Phillips said.
Added Garrison: “I really hope that this memorial never changes.”