Saturday, December 27, 2014

Funeral of a Hero

Officer Charles Kondek Memorial

Before the shooting early last Sunday morning, I had never heard of “Officer K”, as they referred to Officer Charles Kondek, who died in the line of duty.  Very quickly they put up a memorial in front of the police station in Tarpon Springs.  

Officer Charles Kondek Memorial

Yesterday Marcia and I went by to pay our respects, and we too, along with hundreds of others, left some flowers.  We also bought a memorial shirt and two wrist bands, sold by the Sun Coast Police Benevolent Association with the proceeds going to the family.  We gave the shirt to Marcia’s brother Mike, who once served on the force, and a wrist band to his daughter Alysia, who is a member of the Pinellas Sheriff’s department where she works at the County Jail….Marcia is wearing the other wrist band.

Officer Charles Kondek Memorial

As you can see, this is quite an outpouring from the community and from fellow officers.  While there we ran into a friend of Marcia and Mikes, Harry, who was very somber.  He use to volunteer on the force years ago, and currently works for one of the Pinellas County DMV offices.  It was nice to see him again, wish the circumstances were different.

Officer Charles Kondek Casket Loaded into Hearse

We watched the two hour funeral on TV this morning, which concluded with police officers loading the casket into the hearse.  It was a very emotional service, which included his young 15 year old daughter giving an amazing eulogy of her father, where she said, "My dad was a phenomenal father, husband and, of course, police officer….My dad died as a hero, but he was my hero before any of yours." How she said what she said without a break in her voice is beyond me….Marcia and I had tears in our eyes, and neither of us could speak.  We also heard stories from fellow police officers, and from his Pastor and the Pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church, a church nearby which is big enough to handle a crowd like this.  

Officer Charles Kondek funeral procession route

The funeral procession route is shown on this map above. “A” is where the funeral was held, “B” is Tarpon Springs, and “C” is the cemetery.  With the procession passing within a block of our condo, we went down and parked along Highway 19, and wow…..it blew us away.

Officer Charles Kondek funeral procession along highway 19, Tarpon Springs Holiday area

Our timing could not have been better.  Here the hearse had just turned from Alt. 19 onto highway 19 headed north to Hudson.  About a dozen motorcycles and police cars had already passed, and police had been stationed along the route from the time the funeral had ended.  By now the funeral had been over for about 75 minutes….so it took a good hour just to reach our location.

Officer Charles Kondek funeral procession along highway 19, Tarpon Springs Holiday area

If you look beyond the hearse, you see cars headed southbound which have been stopped…and people are getting out of their cars.  No complaints, no honking horns, people who are caught in the moment and have accepted that to show respect to the officers and the family is more important than the destination they are headed to.  And boy were they going to be late!

Officer Charles Kondek funeral procession along highway 19, Tarpon Springs Holiday area

It is hard to pick out the shots to share.  This shot is facing to the north, around 100 police cars and emergency vehicles have passed by, and then this precession of motorcycles….with active officers leading the way, and retired officers on their own bikes close behind…around a hundred motorcycles I figure.

Officer Charles Kondek funeral procession along highway 19, Tarpon Springs Holiday area    Officer Charles Kondek funeral procession along highway 19, Tarpon Springs Holiday area

By now the motorcycles are way down the road, and they were followed by another precession of police cars, about another hundred or so just since the motorcycles went past.

Officer Charles Kondek funeral procession along highway 19, Tarpon Springs Holiday area

And although there some stragglers still, this was just about the end of it.  I think the stragglers were made up of officers who had blocked off streets along Alt. 19 in Tarpon Springs.  But here is a pretty good look at the crowd along highway 19 in Holiday showing their respects on both sides of the highway.  What looked like just a few when we arrived, turned out to be a nice little crowd…and I am sure it was like this all the way through Holiday, through New Port Richey, through Port Richey and into Hudson. I can only imagine what it was like in Tarpon Springs.

Officer Charles Kondek funeral procession along highway 19, Tarpon Springs Holiday area

While I was taking pictures out along the street, Marcia was using the other camera and getting pictures of the different Police Cars as they go by.  Above is a Tarpon Springs car.  Everyone on the Tarpon Springs Police force were able to attend the funeral because the County took over all the police calls for the day.

Officer Charles Kondek funeral procession along highway 19, Tarpon Springs Holiday area    Officer Charles Kondek funeral procession along highway 19, Tarpon Springs Holiday area
Officer Charles Kondek funeral procession along highway 19, Tarpon Springs Holiday area    Officer Charles Kondek funeral procession along highway 19, Tarpon Springs Holiday area
Officer Charles Kondek funeral procession along highway 19, Tarpon Springs Holiday area    Officer Charles Kondek funeral procession along highway 19, Tarpon Springs Holiday area
Officer Charles Kondek funeral procession along highway 19, Tarpon Springs Holiday area    Officer Charles Kondek funeral procession along highway 19, Tarpon Springs Holiday area
Officer Charles Kondek funeral procession along highway 19, Tarpon Springs Holiday area    Officer Charles Kondek funeral procession along highway 19, Tarpon Springs Holiday area
Officer Charles Kondek funeral procession along highway 19, Tarpon Springs Holiday area    Officer Charles Kondek funeral procession along highway 19, Tarpon Springs Holiday area
Officer Charles Kondek funeral procession along highway 19, Tarpon Springs Holiday area    Officer Charles Kondek funeral procession along highway 19, Tarpon Springs Holiday area
Officer Charles Kondek funeral procession along highway 19, Tarpon Springs Holiday area    Officer Charles Kondek funeral procession along highway 19, Tarpon Springs Holiday area
Officer Charles Kondek funeral procession along highway 19, Tarpon Springs Holiday area    Officer Charles Kondek funeral procession along highway 19, Tarpon Springs Holiday area

And we did not even get them all!  I have been to a number of funerals, even conducted a few in my day way back.  When I was 17 my Geometry Teacher died just months after he saw two of his girls, both friends of mine, graduate from High School…I was asked to be a Pall Bearer, and I was honored to do so.  That was a very large funeral.  I have seen a few military funerals, and they are something else.  But I have seen nothing like this except on television, and as you see all these police cars, and fire trucks, and ambulances, and un-marked cars going down the street with their lights flashing, some with sirens blaring, let me tell you, it puts a lump in your throat, it brings tears to your eyes, and it makes you proud to be an American…and it gets you angry over the senseless death of a wonderful father, husband, and policeman…and with everything going on in this land where THUGS are trying to rule the land and blame is being placed on these fine men and women, it is enough to make one sick.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Update

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This is about the extent of our Christmas decorations…this and the seven "led" candles in our two front windows which automatically come on for six hours each day around 6:00 pm.

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On Monday we traveled to Gainesville to meet an old friend of Marcia’s who lives in Chicago, but was in Florida visiting her daughter.  Above is Gerry and Marcia who had not seen each other for at least 20 years, although they had kept in touch over the years. These four picture were taken by Gerry’s daughter Ruth, who sat next to me as we sat across from Gerry and Marcia while at the Cracker Barrel that we met at.  (By the way, Marcia has the pink shirt on, and Gerry has the white shirt on.)  You can see by their faces how happy they were to see each other again….I commented to Ruth that it was as if they had never missed a beat of their friendship over the years.  We sat in Cracker Barrel for 2 1/2 hours, but it seemed to less than an hour.  We are hoping that Gerry will move down to Florida to live near her daughter Ruth who, with her husband, are moving into a condo near Jacksonville.  They currently own a home in Georgia along with the condo in Florida....but they want to move down to Florida.
  

Christmas Eve we went to Brooksville to have Greek Christmas Eve with Marcia’s brothers, sister-in-laws and their kids and grandkids.  I think there was around 30 people there, most of whom I had met before…..all except for a young baby whom we both met for the first time, and Marcia’s sister’s daughter and grand-daughter whom I had not met before.  It was a chance to finally met her sister, but she was sick with that crud that I had a few weeks ago, so perhaps next time.  We also went to a special Christmas service at Church before coming back home.

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Today we went over to her brother Mike’s house to have Christmas with Mike and Sandy, there grown children along with their growing grand-children.  We had a nice time, but it sure got a bit loud when one of the six dogs started barking…because it did not take long before all of the dogs were barking.  It was also nice to spend some time with Bubba.  Don’t know about all of you, but I know someone who is just beat!  All this Christmas stuff was just a bit too much for her.


Of course, we celebrate this time of year the birth of our Lord and Savior.  Merry Christmas to you all.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Officer Down – Hits Close to Home

Konkek2

On Sundays we typically drop Skruffy off at Marcia’s brother’s house, and then take her brother Mike to church with us.  When he gets into the car today he tells us the sad news that a Tarpon Springs Police Officer was shot and killed early Sunday morning.  Mike was a police officer in Tarpon for 15 years or so back when he was younger.  Although he did not know Officer Kondek, it still hits close to home.  One reason he decided to change careers was due to circumstances just like last night…..solo officer pulling an all-night shift.  That is a dangerous situation, yet one many smaller towns face each and every night.

Konkek4   Konkek3

A memorial was set up in front of the police station.  Flowers were being dropped off at this police car, which is wrapped with a black band.  One of the local TV stations had a live feed of the memorial for awhile, where I grabbed the shot on the left.  On the right is a memorial for the fallen officers….four of them, soon to be five.  In 1993 an officer lost his life in a car wreck.  In 1926, 1921 and 1893 the police force lost an officer due to gunfire.  The police website provides details of each death, and the most interesting one is the 1893 shooting of the town Marshall, which involved a feud much like the Hatfields and McCoys. 

Konkek

About a month ago I had asked Mike, and another ex-policeman at church named Bob, if there was a website which kept track of all the fallen officers.  “Yes there was,” I was told, and when I got home I found it.  “The Officer Down Memorial Page” is offered by ODMP, Inc, a non-profit organization dedicated to honoring America's fallen law enforcement heroes.  This year there have been, as of today, 113 officers killed in the line of duty, 46 by direct gunfire, 12 through assaults, 38 through accidents, 15 by heart attacks, and 2 “others” which probably also could be considered accidents too.  It also lists another 20 K-9 in the line of duty deaths too.  Death by gunfire is up nearly 60% this year over last year.  Not good, not good at all.  Sometimes it hits us more when it is close to home….

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…it hit me back in late October with the deaths of Deputy Danny Oliver and Sheriff’s Investigator Michael Davis in Northern California…not very many miles from where we spent the summer, and not many mile away from where I use to live many years ago.   Today, again, it hits close to home.  Wish we never had to face this type of stuff again….but that is just a fantasy world, unfortunately.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Paul Harvey's - The Man and the Birds

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Growing up in the ‘60’s in our household meant that we had ample opportunity to hear Paul Harvey on the radio while mom and/or dad drove us to where ever we needed to go.  Trips to the doctor’s office, trips to the grocery store, trips to church on a Wednesday night…radio station, probably KFBK, blaring away in the car, and that meant ample opportunity to hear one of Paul Harvey’s daily News and Comment segments (weekday mornings and mid-days, and at noon on Saturdays), as well as his famous The Rest of the Story segments.  If “I” had to listen to Paul Harvey, I would hope it was going to be his “Rest of the Story”  because I would try and figure out “who” it was about, or “what” it was about, or “why” he felt it was so important….which he always shared at the end because, after all, “Now you know…..the Rest of the Story” was his famous last line of each and every of these stories. 
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As I started driving myself around, owning my own cars (yes, my second car was a VW), I would occasionally tune in KFBK just to listen to Paul Harvey’s “The Rest of the Story.”  By the mid-70’s, “The Rest of the Story” had become its own full segment feature, so knowing when one would play meant they were easy to catch if you were near a radio at the time. 

So what a pleasure it was  the other day when Marcia asked, “Do you mind if I play this Paul Harvey segment off YouTube?”   “Sure, I have not heard Paul Harvey for a few years now….”

It is five minutes long, but it seems like its over in just two…hope you enjoy it too.



If you want to hear the complete 10+ minutes of that 1965 Christmas message, click here.
Here are a few others you might enjoy / remember too ….

So God Made a Farmer, Narrated by Paul Harvey

If I Were the Devil, by Paul Harvey

"Good Day!"

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Goodbye Clifford

clifford

Tonight on the news I heard that Norman Bridwell, the author of the “Clifford the Red Dog” books, had passed away Friday at the age of 86.  It immediately brought back memories of my Library career, and of my Children’s Librarian “Miss Ann”, who passed away at the young age of 57 just nine years ago, on December 11, 2005.  I wrote about Miss Ann and about the Library System I was the Director of previously, and you can read that account here.

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The picture above is the outside of the recently remodeled White Hall Library back in 2006.  When originally built back in the ‘80s, it was a library and also garaged the bookmobile.  We built two more Libraries while I was there, and no longer needed the bookmobile.  So we gutted this library and ended up with a remodeled Library with nearly twice as much usable space for patrons than we previously had.  

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The top two pictures are of the adult area, and the bottom two are from the children’s area.  Due to the influence of “Miss Ann”, I tried to be sure the kids areas were always colorful and fun looking.  “Children are our future,” she would say.

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Miss Ann died in December, 2005.  The White Hall Library re-opened in May, 2006.  But Miss Ann was there……

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…..during the spring/summer of 2005, not knowing if she would still be around or not when the White Hall Library remodel took place, she had a book salesman get this “Very Large” Clifford the Red Dog as her “gift” to the White Hall Library.   You don’t know how many little boys and girls I saw give Clifford the biggest hug over the years….hugs which use to be reserved for Miss Ann when children their age came to hear her tell one of her stories.   Good bye Clifford creator … give Miss Ann a big hug from Dave.

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