All of the participants and family members pose in front of the new Santa Paula Police Memorial at Saturday’s dedication. (Photo by Dan Hardy)

SP Police Memorial: Dedication an ‘All-American day of remembrance’

May 27, 2011
Santa Paula Police Department

An “All-American day of remembrance” served dual purposes when the Santa Paula Police Memorial was dedicated on May 21 before a crowd of more than 350 people.

Nils Rueckert, chairman of the Memorial Committee, said the dedication ceremony “is solemn, but it is also one of celebration - solemn in remembering two fallen officers, but a celebration, too, in bringing together so many past and present Santa Paula Police Department personnel and their families for this grand reunion.”

The memorial, a towering obelisk flanked by flags set in courtyard located just west of the historic Depot in the Railroad Plaza, gives what Rueckert said is “long overdue recognition to two police officers who fell in the line of duty in the service of our city.”

Marshal Henry Newton Norman, known widely as “Hugh,” was lost almost a century ago, gunned down in November 1913. Officer James Barmore was killed in a motorcycle crash while responding to a call almost 60 years ago, in February 1953.

“So how did this project get started, and why now? Several years ago,” Rueckert said, “there were a couple of telephone conversations between Officer Barmore’s widow Betty and the president of the Santa Paula Historical Society, Mary Alice Henderson.”

Out of those conversations, Henderson asked Rueckert to form a committee to create a suitable memorial for both Officer Barmore and Marshal Norman. “Thus the seed was planted,” as the two officers were honored by name at “our county seat in Ventura, in our state capitol, Sacramento, and our nation’s capitol in Washington, D.C., but not here in their hometown.”

It took 16 months of planning for the monument to become a reality, and Rueckert said, “I am grateful for the effort put forth by each member of our Police Memorial Committee. First is Santa Paula Police Chief Steve MacKinnon, who provided us strong guidance and support throughout this whole process.  Next is Sgt. Ishmael Cordero, the president of the Santa Paula Police Officers Association, who was with us from the very start, attended nearly every meeting, and contributed in numerous ways, including procuring our two fine looking flagpoles.”

Retired City Engineer/Public Works Director Norm Wilkinson suggested the concept of the obelisk, and Architect Doug Nelson, of Main Street Architects, provided a detailed site plan. Committee member and contractor Chris Wilson brought the plans together, helped select the site and, with his team, constructed the monument.

“Then came our plaque person, the venerable Howard Bolton.” Rueckert said Barmore’s son Tim and his mother Betty were kept apprised of the project’s progress.

“I cannot say enough about,” SPPD Lt. Carlos Juarez, “our fundraiser extraordinaire and solely responsible for the over 200 engraved bricks” at the two monument thresholds. Rueckert said Juarez was “fully involved in every single phase of our committee’s work,” including the dedication ceremony.

“I can say unequivocally that this memorial would not be before us today without Lt. Juarez. My wife can tell you that I probably spent more time meeting and communicating with Carlos than I did with her, especially these past days and weeks.”

Retired SPPD Chief Bob Gonzales, now vice mayor, “was the very first person, well over a year ago, to step up to the plate with generous financial support,” said Rueckert, an “act of faith, before we had hardly put pencil to paper, to contribute the seed money that launched this project.” The City Council offered guidance and full support.

The loss to the Barmore and Norman families demonstrate “the danger that officers face each day” that “inspires a special loyalty to our public safety community.” The Santa Paula Police Memorial also honors all present and former SPPD personnel. Rueckert said the committee’s work “was indeed a privilege for us, and we present this monument to you today, with a salute to each of you with our gratitude.”

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