Funeral today for police sergeant

Corbett remembered as a father figure

March 15, 2001|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County police Sgt. William "Lee" Corbett, who will be buried today, always said that Leelynn Drive in his hometown of Severna Park was named after him and his wife, Lynn.

It was one of Corbett's standing jokes. But there are a lot of police officers and local residents who say Corbett is the kind of public servant who deserves a memorial. They also say he was the type of person who wouldn't tolerate the attention.

When the 21-year police veteran bragged, it was always about the achievements of "his boys" or "his crew" - a term of endearment, depending on the gender of the officers under his command.

Corbett died Sunday at Laurel Regional Hospital after suffering a heart attack while playing golf at Fort Meade with a neighbor. He was 51.

The father of two sons, the white-haired sergeant was also a father figure to dozens of younger officers. "He loved everybody," said Police Chief P. Thomas Shanahan. "And everybody loved him."

Colleagues remember that he was regularly thanked by suspects who were being arrested by his officers and by families whose homes they were raiding.

"He wasn't there to ridicule people. He wasn't judgmental," said Cpl. Thomas H. Newman. "He tried to give people advice and help when he could, like telling them about treatment programs and ... organizations where they could get help. He could talk to anyone."

The funeral at 11 a.m. today at the United Church of Christ in Edgewater is expected to draw hundreds of mourners. County Executive Janet S. Owens and Shanahan, as well as dozens of neighborhood activists, are expected to be among them.

"He was very community-oriented," said Kevin D. Palmer, a representative of the Greater Severna Park Council at community relations meetings with Eastern District police. "He was very down-to-earth. And because he lived in Severna Park, he was doing the job for his community."

An Anne Arundel County native who grew up in the Homewood neighborhood of Annapolis, Corbett graduated from Annapolis High School, where he received the Jim Rhodes Trophy for excellence in football.

Capt. Thomas A. Suit remembers Corbett from when they played neighborhood pickup baseball and football games, never dreaming they'd end up on the police force. "In those days, we spent our time running away from police, not wanting to be them," Suit said.

They especially liked to torment conductors on the now-defunct Baltimore-Annapolis Railroad by pelting the cars with crab apples.

Corbett served in the Army during the Vietnam War, receiving the Bronze Star, and later became a county animal-control officer.

Corbett joined the county Police Department in October 1979, working as a patrolman, and as a detective in the vice, narcotics and intelligence units. Corbett was most recently supervisor of the Eastern District's tactical narcotics and tactical patrol units.

Corbett was considered an expert in gaming operations, but once he was promoted to sergeant in 1986, he turned down offers to return to the criminal investigations division. "He wanted to be on the front lines," Shanahan said. "He loved the road."

When he wasn't working, Corbett loved to fish, crab and play golf.

Police have been holding an around-the-clock vigil in front of his house.

After funeral services, Corbett will be buried at the Maryland Veterans Cemetery in Crownsville. Memorial contributions may be made to the Maryland Chapter Concerns of Police Survivors, 1201 Reisterstown Road, Pikesville 21208.

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