It’s Not How He Died That Made Him A Hero…It’s How He Lived
by Kathleen Pulek
Newington Master Police Officer Peter Lavery wore badge 2523. His end of watch came tragically on December 30, 2004.
And though Newington residents Jennifer Webster and Kristen Johnson never knew Lavery, they brought their daughters to watch the procession of motorcycles in the 8th Annual MPO Peter J. Lavery Memorial Run on September 16th. They joined a large group of spectators who waved and applauded as 500 motorcycles headed along Main Street and onto the Berlin Turnpike.
“It’s important for Samantha to know that people put their lives on the line for us every day, so we came to show our respect. I also want to foster her senses of community and compassion,” Jennifer said. “We’re here to show respect for the people who protect us. My uncle is a police officer and my dad was a Newington volunteer fireman,” said seven-year old Samantha.
“While I didn’t know Peter Lavery, I’m friends with his niece-by-marriage, Lisa Lavery,” Kristen said. “My husband (Brian) rides every year. I brought our daughters Emma and Lauren so we could show our respect for Peter Lavery, his family and law enforcement.”
Bill Clines, his wife Ellen and daughter Stevie came from Berlin to watch the procession of more than 500 bikes as they passed by Bertucci’s on the Berlin Turnpike. “We do the run every year, but with surgery on my left hand, we couldn’t ride this year,” Bill said. “We’re here as a family to support the Peter J. Lavery Scholarship Fund. We’re looking forward to being back out there next year,” said Ellen as she waved to friends participating in the ride. “It’s a great cause, whether you can ride or watch,” Stevie added.
Lavery joined the Newington PD in 1988 after spending five years on the Berlin force. He was promoted to Master Police Officer in June of 2002, and two months later, he became a Motor Officer, a job he loved.
Lavery responded to a domestic complaint on the night of December 30, 2004. Though the landlord assured him there were no weapons in the house, Lavery was fatally shot by an ex-convict and former state correctional guard as he descended the basement stairs to conduct a search.
Members of law enforcement from across the state led 500 motorcycles on the scenic 35-mile ride that began and ended at Churchill Park and traveled through Berlin, Cromwell, Middletown, Portland, Glastonbury and Wethersfield. Hartford Officer Mike Diana and Det. Anthony Pia were two of the escorts. “These events remind the public when they see all of the motorcycles coming down the road, and wonder why, that this is for Peter Lavery, so we never forget,” said Diana. “It’s a fantastic way to remind the public of the ultimate sacrifice officers make.”
Berlin Officer Richard Doski also served as an escort. “We’re all here to support a fellow officer who was killed in the line of duty,” Doski said. “The Berlin Police Department has a tight affiliation with the Lavery family. We come out in respect and support every year.”
Newington Sgt. Jeanine Allin has been involved in the Lavery Memorial Run, which benefits the Lavery Memorial Scholarship Fund, from the onset. “All the local PDs are here, along with some from as far away as Norwich, Greenwich, Danbury, UConn and Milford. The motor guys are a tight group. They stick together and Peter was one of their own. Members of the Newington PD got this event up and running. Over time, Peter’s wife, Pam, has taken over the running of it. We raise between $10,000 – $20,000 every year, which all goes into the Peter J. Lavery Memorial Scholarship Fund.”
The scholarship is open to children of Newington Police Officers, high school students attending Newington and Berlin High Schools or other local area high schools who will enter the field of Law Enforcement/Criminal Justice, and local college students currently enrolled in Law Enforcement/Criminal Justice programs. To date, $70,000 in scholarship monies has been awarded.
Donations to the scholarship fund can be sent to:
Peter J. Lavery Memorial Scholarship Fund
P.O. Box 44
East Berlin, CT 06023-0044
“This is the kind of event Peter would have loved because it benefits kids through education, which was a passion of his,” Allin continued. “He handles the weather. We’ve never had rain. Pam’s feeling is that’s his job, and Peter pulls through every year. All of the police motorcycles you see here are volunteers. They come on their own time. The Newington volunteer fire fighters are also here on their own time.
“We couldn’t have made the 2012 event happen without Newington Parks and Rec. We’re also thankful for our many sponsors. Even though we’re not based at Maguires for this year’s ride because of the construction, their staff is here at Churchill Park to cook for us. Stew Leonard’s donated a good portion of the food. The support from community businesses is absolutely incredible. It’s been a while since Peter was killed and no one has forgotten. We continue to get overwhelming support from our sponsors and have new ones join us each year,” said Allin, a Lavery committee member who also handles the finances.
Lavery’s wife, daughter Samantha and son Ray all participated in the run. Pam took the ride as a passenger. Samantha and her husband Patrick Grady rode his bike. And Ray and his girlfriend Tina rode Peter’s Honda Goldwing. “This is the bike my dad rode on a daily basis,” Ray said. “When he passed, we had it painted. The Celtic cross symbolizes his Irish heritage, which he was very proud of. I’ve ridden this bike every year of the run.”
Samantha shared a favorite memory. “I remember my dad driving down the street blasting Irish music on his way home from work. It made me laugh then and it makes me laugh now.”
Though Peter J. Lavery is gone, a large group of people makes sure he is never forgotten. They also make sure people know that it’s not how Lavery died that made him a hero…it’s how he lived.