Rain hammering on the vast marquee did nothing to dim the smiles of pride that broke through the tears yesterday as the lives and service of six Maryland police and fire officers who died in the line of duty were commemorated at the annual Fallen Heroes memorial service.
Led by kilted pipers and 25 flag-bearing honor guards from area police and fire departments marching through the downpour, hundreds of uniformed police officers and firefighters gathered at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens to remember the four policemen and two firemen -- and others from years past.
One of the speakers, sports columnist John Steadman, a firefighter's son, called them "soldiers of safety."
The men honored at the 11th annual service -- whose widows received citations from state House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., along with bronze and granite models of the Fallen Heroes Memorial -- were: Leroy J. Cropper Jr., 52, a 32-year veteran of the Ocean City Volunteer Fire Company who died April 28, 1995, after having heart attack while helping to fight a hotel fire April 24, 1995.
State police Tfc. Joseph T. Lanzi, 37, of the North East Barracks, who was killed Oct. 28 when his car skidded on a wet road and hit a tree as he was going to assist a Cecil County deputy sheriff.
Sgt. Timothy C. Minor, 40, of the Charles County Sheriff's Department, who was killed Feb. 12 when a van and his motorcycle collided as he responded to a call. Sergeant Minor, a corporal at the time of his death, was promoted posthumously.
Officer John J. Novabilski, 31, of the Prince George's County Police Department, who was shot fatally April 26, 1995, while working off duty but in uniform as a security guard at a Landover restaurant and liquor store.
State Police Tfc. Edward A. Plank, 28, who was killed Oct. 17 as he wrote a speeding ticket on the lower Eastern Shore by two suspects who were alleged to be transporting drugs. Two kilograms of cocaine were found in their car.
Baltimore Firefighter Eric D. Schaefer, 25, who died when a stone wall of a former iron foundry building in the Clipper Mill Industrial Park collapsed on him during a raging fire Sept. 16.
The remembrance service, held every May, is important to let the families and police officers and firefighters know they are not forgotten, said Ginny Wolf, whose husband, state police Cpl. Theodore D. Wolf, was slain in much the same manner as Trooper Plank. Mr. Taylor said, "All our fallen heroes believed they could make a difference, and they did -- and they paid for their belief with their lives."
In his tribute, former Gov. William Donald Schaefer said he felt great sadness as he walked past metal grave markers in the Fallen Heroes section on his way to the marquee.
"I was looking at the names of men I worked with as mayor and governor," Mr. Schaefer said in praise of the service of police and firefighters in the face of danger and their heroism in saving lives.
Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said the mission of police and fire departments is to "protect us and our families."
"Those we honor today accomplished that mission," and their tragic loss "brings home to all of us the contribution they make every day," the mayor said.
John W. Armiger, founder of the cemetery, established the Fallen Heroes Memorial in 1976 and offers a free gravesite for any Maryland police or fire officer who dies in the line of duty. Twenty-three police and fire officers have been buried there since 1977.
Pub Date: 5/04/96