The widow of Deputy Beach Marshal Ronald A. Parker spoke briefly this morning during an annual memorial ceremony held at the St Augustine Beach park that is named in his honor — Parker who was 27 years-old at the time, has been the only St Augustine Beach law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty.
Both current and former law enforcement officers, firefighters, elected officials including three judges, the District 7 state attorney, and private citizens made up the group of approximately 75 – 100 people also in attendance.
St Augustine Beach Police Chief Richard Hedges introduced Archbishop Douglas S. Woodall, Sr., currently a member of the St. Augustine Beach Police Department and former reserve deputy sheriff, who was the main speaker for the ceremony.
Woodall recalled the evening of Sunday, January 12, 1975, as one that remains the most difficult during his law enforcement career. Woodall was Chaplain for the St Johns County Sheriff’s Office on that day, and he says he will never forget how he felt when Sheriff’s dispatcher John Bauer sent him to inform Parker’s wife that Ron would not be coming home.
Many of the people who had a role in that night’s tragedy, 37 years-ago, have themselves passed; however, there was a reunion, of sorts, for many more who still live in the area.
Three sheriffs, Francis O’Laughlin, Neil Perry and current sheriff David Shoar, stood in honor of their fallen brother; although none of the three spoke during the ceremony. Retired law enforcement officers and former members of the law enforcement community who were around during that period of time included Herbie and wife Sheila Bacon Greenleaf, Eddie and son Glenn Lightsey, Mark Davis, and Historic City News Editor, Michael Gold.
Judges Alex Christine, Wendy Berger and John Alexander all extended their condolences to Parker’s widow, Brenda, who now resides in Georgia. This is the first year since the death of former Judge Richard Watson; who was an Assistant State Attorney in 1975. Brenda reminded everyone of the import role Watson played in consoling her in her grief-stricken state and convicting Thomas E. DeSherlia for her late husband’s murder.
DeSherlia is now serving a “life sentence” at Union Correctional Institution. His next parole hearing will be in April 2013.
Those attending today’s memorial were reminded that a Memorial Scholarship was established in 2008 at Flagler College in remembrance of the sacrifice Parker made for the community. Brenda introduced the recipient for the past three years.
The scholarship was created for firefighters, emergency medical, law enforcement and other public administration personnel enrolled in the public administration program at Flagler College; the college’s pre-law program or those pursuing a minor in criminology.
“It is my hope to ensure the life of the scholarship for generations to come,” Brenda said. Individuals are invited to send donations to Flagler College-Parker Scholarship, Flagler College Office of Institutional Advancement, 74 King St., St Augustine, FL 32084.