Honoring the support and service of law enforcement officers was the message from Florida Highway Patrol Chief Derek Barrs, the guest speaker Friday at the 45th Ron Parker Memorial Service.
Addressing the crowd at Ron Parker Memorial Park, Barrs said law enforcement officers face a tough job with numerous costs. He told the crowd supporting fallen law enforcement officers’ families was something they should never stop doing.
Barrs read an excerpt from former President Theodore Roosevelt’s 1910 speech detailing a "Man in the Arena," in which a man is honored for his courage and persistence in a trying situation.
"Ron Parker was that man in the arena," Barrs said. "He was where God need him to be."
Parker, a St. Augustine Beach Police Department deputy marshal, was shot and killed Jan. 12, 1975. Parker responded to call to help someone whose car was stuck near the pier. Instead, Parker engaged in a shootout with Thomas DeSherlia, who was wanted for a bank robbery in Iowa and two killings in Alabama.
DeSherlia later led officers on a chase near Davis Shores and was injured when he exchanged gunfire with St. Johns County Sheriff’s Deputy Sgt. Wayne Tanner. DeSherlia received a life sentence in April 1975. He died in 2013 in prison.
Ron Parker’s wife, Brenda Parker, attended the ceremony and presented the St. Augustine Beach Police Department with a print portraying an honor guard officer, the wall of the National Cemetery in Washington D.C. and a lion symbolizing a protector.
Brenda Parker also founded the Officer Ron Parker Memorial Endowed Scholarship at Flagler College that has provided aid to students since 2008.
"If (law enforcement officers) were not there to hold the line for us, what a terrible world it would be," Brenda Parker said. She then laid a wreath with Beach Police Chief Robert Hardwick.
As the years passed the anniversary of Ron Parker’s death, Hardwick said there was a need to educate new officers of Parker’s story.
"This crowd has maintained strongly. I’m going to challenge the future leadership of the county’s three law enforcement agencies that we maintain the legacy of Ron Parker," Hardwick said. "This is something important. (Newer officers) haven’t watched this ceremony for 25 years like a lot of us have."