Harford mourns deputy sheriff

Beebe, a `rising star' in department, suffered a heart attack while responding to a call

December 03, 2006|By Justin Fenton | Justin Fenton,Sun Reporter

With his term coming to a close, Harford County Sheriff R. Thomas Golding called for an awards ceremony to honor his finest deputies, shaking their hands and posing for pictures - one of his last public acts as head of the county's law enforcement agency.

Yet, a week later, Golding donned white gloves and stood at the front of St. Ignatius Church in Hickory, eulogizing one of the men who had proudly accepted one of those commendations.

On Friday, Deputy 1st Class William H. Beebe Jr., 28, who suffered a heart attack while on an emergency call earlier in the week, was laid to rest at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens.

He was recalled at the funeral service as a "rising star" who was active in the community and embodied public service.

"He certainly set a fine example for his fellow deputies," Golding told hundreds of mourners. "At 1:03 a.m., the shine on the sheriff's office star was a little less brilliant."

Since joining the agency in 2004, Beebe had worked hard to distinguish himself. Colleagues said he worked meticulously to close cases - his aspiration was to become a detective.

And he always was ready to back up fellow deputies.

Near the end of his shift Monday, Beebe was on his way to assist deputies who were responding to a reported suicide attempt.

He never made it. His cruiser ran off the road, sliding between a house and a guardrail and going down an embankment into a shallow streambed.

Hours later, he was pronounced dead.

It was the first time in more than 100 years that a county deputy had been killed in the line of duty. The last on-duty death occurred in 1899.

It was a jarring way for Golding to close his 33 years in office. "This is one of the saddest days of my career, and the history of the agency," he said Tuesday.

Investigators at the scene were puzzled by Beebe's death.

Although his vehicle had rolled down the embankment, it had landed upright and showed little damage. His seat belt was still fastened.

The state medical examiner, however, later determined that he had died as a result of a heart attack, with a blockage in his aorta the culprit.

Monsignor James Barker, quoting Beebe's father, told mourners that his heart was so big it "overflowed with goodness."

Among those present at the service were members of the Cub Scout pack that Beebe led and law enforcement officers from across the region. Each saluted as they passed his casket.

Beebe was planning to marry his fiancee, Tina Kolb, in April. Together they were raising her 9-year-old son, Jesse.

Beebe coached the boy's sports teams and played a leading role in his Scouting activities, a pursuit that friend and fellow deputy Paul Marziale described as being "like a full-time job."

After Beebe's death, Jesse wrote him a letter, which the pastor read at the funeral service.

"I want you to know you were my father, a very good father to me. You were a very good police officer, Mr. 732," he wrote, a reference to Beebe's badge number.

For years, Beebe worked in the family business, Beebe Fuel Oil Inc. in Essex. But with the blessing of his father, he pursued his dream of being a law enforcement officer, joining the agency in October 2004.

Golding said he was assigned to the Southern Precinct in Edgewood, where he "excelled time and time again."

Golding called him a "rising star" and told the crowd that he had been nominated for Deputy of the Year at a local Veterans of Foreign Wars lodge.

The nomination, which came from one of his commanders, noted that Beebe "displayed the ability and common sense of an officer with 10 years' experience."

The parents in Jesse's Cub Scout pack had also seen those qualities. They asked him to head Pack 810, which comprises about 12 dens and 70 boys.

"We loved him so much, we convinced him to be Scoutmaster," recalled Ursula Dodson, who wore a Scout uniform to the funeral, as did her sons, age 9 and 11.

Outside the church, a light drizzle turned to a driving rain as Beebe's casket was placed in a hearse.

Flags flapped in the wind, and bagpipes wailed in the background, but most eyes were on Jesse, who held the hand of a deputy.

His letter to Beebe had perhaps brought the most tears during the service. He signed it, "Your No. 1 child, Jesse.

"P.S. Mom loves you, too."

justin.fenton@baltsun.com

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