Saying farewell to `everyday hero'

Family, community celebrate police officer's life, work

January 26, 2002|By Joe Nawrozki and Gerard Shields | Joe Nawrozki and Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

Described as an "everyday hero," Baltimore County police Detective Sgt. Mark F. Parry was buried yesterday after hundreds of people, from dignitaries to rookie officers, crowded a Bel Air church to celebrate the officer's rich life.

The mournful bugle notes of "Taps" and a 21-gun salute filled the air as Parry was laid to rest among other fallen officers at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens.

Parry, 42, was a 16-year veteran of the department assigned to the Towson precinct. He died Monday of injuries suffered when his patrol car was struck Dec. 27 by a vehicle operated by a man accused of drunken driving.

The seventh officer to die in the line of duty in the department's 128 years, Parry leaves a widow, Lynne, and three children, Kevin, 14, Daniel, 12, and Carolyn, 10.

An overflow crowd attended the Mass of Christian burial at St. Margaret Roman Catholic Church, and speakers were set up outside for those who could not get in.

In a eulogy that included police humor and touching vignettes, Parry's former college roommate and longtime friend Pat Vogel said, "Mark was a wonderful husband, a super dad. He had a glow when he spoke of his children. Kids, look around this church today and see how many people honor your dad."

Among the mourners were Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., Baltimore County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, Harford County Executive James M. Harkins, members of both county councils and representatives of other law enforcement agencies.

"I got to know Mark," said Ruppersberger, who visited Parry several times before his death at Maryland Shock Trauma Center. "He was an exceptionally good man. He was an everyday hero, not flashy but dependable, a quiet but unshakable public servant."

Capt. Kate Meeks-Hall, Towson precinct commander, speaking before the service, said Parry was on vacation Christmas week but volunteered to report as shift commander on Dec. 27, the night his police cruiser was hit on Joppa Road near Pleasant Plains Road.

"Not only did he volunteer while he was on vacation, he stepped further out of his comfort zone to work that night," said Meeks-Hall. "He was a plainclothes detective sergeant, accustomed to wearing jeans. Before he came in that night he shaved off his beard and put on his uniform."

Parry, a native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, grew up on Long Island, N.Y. A college graduate and a U.S. Army veteran, he moved to Maryland to work as a Baltimore County police officer.

Yesterday, St. Margaret's associate pastor, the Rev. C. Douglas Kenney, offered a homily that reflected on the old and new, from readings of Ecclesiastes to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

While Parry's death was devastating to his family and friends, "God's time is different from our time. `There is a time ... to every purpose under heaven,'" Kenney said.

"Mark's death also shows me that the terrorist attack on our nation was a gift in a way, a realization that allowed our real heroes to emerge ... cops, soldiers, medics," Kenney said. "You are right in front of us."

After the service, the funeral procession, including hundreds of police cars with lights flashing, snaked its way from Bel Air to the cemetery on Padonia Road in Timonium, where the region's fallen police and firefighters are buried.

Waiting at the gates were two firetrucks, their ladders stretching and touching to hold a giant American flag that fluttered in the wind.

Baltimore County officers in dress blue jackets and gray trousers lined the walkway leading to the grave site. Officers from other jurisdictions, including Baltimore City and Howard County, joined them, standing about 10 rows deep on each side. They saluted as six county officers carried the flag-draped casket.

As bagpipers played "Amazing Grace," Parry was given a 21-gun salute, followed by a bugler sounding "Taps." Shortly after, five police helicopters flew overhead.

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