Neighbors: Remembering a beloved patrolman
Here we are at the start of 2014 and I have no activities or events to tell you about today — I’m guessing everyone is recovering from what I hope were very happy holidays.
My holidays were great, as usual, though grandsons Justin, Owen and Travis were all sick with different illnesses at different times, so I’m hoping I’ve built up enough antibodies to fend off all of those bugs.
Dad continues to recover, but doctors are talking about doing one more procedure next week, which they believe “should fix” his problem.
Anyway, I recently received a message from Montague Police Department that got me thinking.
The department released its new department patch on New Year’s Eve in memory of Patrolman Theodore “Teddy” Martin, who died in the line of duty 45 years ago on New Year’s Eve in 1968. He was struck by a drunken driver while investigating a minor one-car crash near the Turners Falls Airport.
I heard that fellow patrolman Michael Saharceski Jr., who later went on to become the department’s chief, was with him during the investigation and drove Martin to Farren Memorial Hospital in Montague City, where he was pronounced dead.
I was only 10 at the time, but can remember hearing about a police officer’s death and noticing how sad so many living in the county, especially Turners Falls, were during that awful time. I never knew what happened until now, but I knew it was bad.
Martin left a wife and daughter. So sad!
My dad, who grew up in “The Patch” just a few doors down from Martin’s wife, knew him well and said he was “one of the nicest guys” he’d ever met.
“I heard the news early on New Year’s Day that he had been hit and died and I was in total shock — everyone was,” my dad told me. “I couldn’t believe it. He was so well-liked by everyone in town. It was such a tragedy.”
Martin, who was 44 at the time of his death, had been with the department eight years. He is, to this day, the only Montague police officer killed in the line of duty.
I read that he was a standout athlete at Turners Falls High School, my alma mater, and was a World War II veteran who served in the Navy.
Dad said he used to love his long chats with Martin and missed them very much after he was gone.
Montague Police Chief Charles E. “Chip” Dodge III said it took several months to agree on the design of the new patch. He said Martin will never be forgotten, especially because officers will wear that patch every day and carry his memory with them as they patrol the community to keep it safe.
You will find the number “5” inside of the silver star at the bottom of the patch, which is the number of the badge Martin wore. That number was eventually retired.
Which brings me to my thoughts.
Most of us tend to take first responders for granted. We know they are there, should we ever need them, and somehow that makes us all feel safer as we go about our daily lives.
When there’s a medical emergency, like there was with my dad not so long ago, we call an ambulance and within minutes EMTs and paramedics rush to our rescue.
When there’s a fire, we call our local fire department, and firefighters are there within minutes to fight the flames that threaten to destroy all of our hard work and memories or even our lives. Those men and women put themselves in harm’s way every time there’s a fire, and I personally have never heard any of them complain.
And then there are police — probably the most loved and hated of all.
We know they are there if any of us ever finds ourself the victim of a crime, and I know we are all grateful for that, but we also cringe as we drive down the road being followed by a cruiser that eventually flashes its lights to tell us to pull over.
What we don’t always understand is that those men and women put themselves in danger every time they make one of those vehicle stops or every time they answer a call that someone makes about a domestic disturbance. Actually, every time they get in their cruisers or walk the streets on patrol.
It doesn’t have to be the obvious, like someone taking a shot at them, but maybe a drunken driver who happens to be passing an officer who’s just doing his job by doing a routine investigation of a one-car crash and loses control and hits that officer.
Try to remember that the next time you go off on a rant about some cop who pulled you over or gave you some grief about something you shouldn’t have been doing in the first place.
In most cases, they are just doing their job.
So, next time you have the opportunity, take a few moments to thank these courageous men and women.
Let us also each take a moment this year to remember Teddy Martin and thank him posthumously for his service. I know my frequent drives by the Turners Falls Airport to visit my daughter, son-in-law and the twins will never be the same.
If you have a story about one of our county’s first responders, please share it with me so that I can share it with other readers.
To contact Anita Fritz, a staff reporter at The Recorder, send an email to: email@example.com or call 413-772-0261, ext. 280. You can also reach Anita on Facebook at Anita’s Neighbors. Information to be included in Neighbors may also be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org up to noon two days before you want it to run.