Before I became a Sparta Township Police Officer, I was serving in the United States Coast Guard. In 1987, I was stationed at the Coast Guard’s Ninth District Headquarters located in Cleveland Ohio. My assignment was that of a Public Affairs Specialist. I was part of a staff of five whose responsibilities were to provide public affairs support to Coast Guard units and ships in the Ninth District, which encompasses the entire United States portion of the Great Lakes region.
It was in Cleveland early that year that I had a chance meeting with the great Paul Harvey. Mr. Harvey was a giant in the radio broadcast and media world while working for the ABC Radio Network. He was best known for his, “The Rest of the Story” segments.
According to Citizenlink.org, his listening audience was estimated at 24 million people per week, was carried on 1,200 radio stations, 400 Armed Forces Network stations and more than 300 newspapers. Mr. Harvey was a broadcast superstar but despite his fame, I found him to be very humble and a gentleman. When I met him, he shook my hand, thanked me for my service and immediately asked me about my home town and my family. At the end of our conversation, he asked me to send him any stories that I thought his audience would find interesting.
Several months later I submitted a story, that Mr. Harvey titled, “Al Woodall’s Lake.” The story was in short about a local Cleveland man named, Alphonso Woodall. Woodall was a local legend, a professional daredevil who owned the moniker of “The Human Kite.” On October 20, 1959, Woodall rescued a duck hunter after his boat capsized in rough seas on Lake Erie. What made this rescue so impressive was that Woodall had two broken legs from a previous stunt accident. Despite both legs being encased in casts he swam out and rescued the hunter. He was later recognized for his efforts with The Carnegie Medal for Heroism.
The 64-year-old Woodall tragically drowned in 1987 while swimming in Lake Erie. Woodall’s cremated remains along with his family were transported by a Coast Guard Patrol Boat from Cleveland Harbor Station and his ashes were scattered into Lake Erie while a Coast Guard Honor Guard rendered a 21-gun salute.
When I faxed the story to Mr. Harvey it was several pages long and was just that. A lot of words on a lot of paper. I remembered it was as exciting to read as a classified ad. I was depressed. For some reason, Mr. Harvey liked it and called me the morning it was to broadcast. This was the same day that Woodall’s Lake Erie ceremony was to take place.
Mr. Harvey asked me some quick questions about the ceremony and weather conditions before he went on the air. He was very rushed. But before he hung up, he asked me about my mother. He lectured me that all mothers want to know what their sons are doing. He told me to tell my mother to tune into his mid-day broadcast to listen to the story. I hesitated for a minute. My mom does not really listen to the radio and if I remembered correctly, I didn’t think there was a radio in my parent’s house. I didn’t want to insult him by telling him that, so I told him that her radio was broken.
The story aired a short time later on “The Rest of the Story” segment. Mr. Harvey did not change much. But when he started into the segment, “Al Woodall’s Lake” was no longer a jumbled collection of words on fax paper. On the 21st floor of the Federal Building in Cleveland, I sat alone in my office listening to his words. I felt like I was actually there. Mr. Harvey’s tone ranged from folksy to the dramatic. I could envision, Woodall’s rescue of the floundering hunter and I could almost hear the report the Honor Guard’s rifles as they fired in salute as Woodall’s ashes were sifted into the churning waters of Lake Erie.
When Mr. Harvey finished his rendition of the story with his trademark, “And Now You Know the Rest of the Story”, I just sat there and shook my head and thought, Wow. Paul Harvey is good. No…Paul Harvey is great.
Two weeks later, Mr. Harvey sent me a cassette of the broadcast, with a note. “Don’t lose this. It’s not for you. It’s for your mother. Make sure you get her radio fixed.” I spoke to Mr. Harvey several more times over the years. Paul Harvey was 90-years-of –age when he passed away on February 28, 2009. Mr. Harvey was the son of a Tulsa Oklahoma Police Officer. Paul Harvey was only three when his father was shot and killed.
Mr. Harvey always had a great affection and admiration for those men and women that serve in this noble and often, thankless profession of Law Enforcement. Over the years I have read and listened to many of Mr. Harvey’s archived broadcasts and writings. To say that these thoughts of Mr. Harvey have served as inspiration would be an understatement.
Working as a police officer in this day and age, men and women of Law Enforcement are bombarded daily if not hourly by those who claim to think they know the whole story on how officers perform their respective duties. Some people speak out negatively and untruthfully in media outlets and in public about their misguided perceptions on what a Police Officer is and what they do.
Last week, I was reading a series of blogs on a local internet forum authored by some very mis-informed and disgruntled individuals, concerning this town’s police department. It would be easy to lash out at them and try to explain what the facts are but then what would be the point? Due to the nature of our duties, as much as we would like, we cannot respond back. Our sole mission is Public Safety and officers must remain focused on safeguarding our respective cases so they can be fairly presented and effectively prosecuted in court.
To those who don’t understand what a Police Officer is, This is what Paul Harvey says;
WHAT ARE POLICEMEN MADE OF? By Paul Harvey
Don’t credit me with the mongrel prose: It has many parents-at least 420,000 of them: Policemen.
A policeman is a composite of what all men are, mingling of a saint and sinner, dust and deity.
Gulled statistics wave the fan over the stinkers; underscore instances of dishonesty and brutality because they are “new”. What they really mean is that they are exceptional, unusual, and not commonplace.
Buried under the frost is the fact: less than one-half of one percent of policemen misfit the uniform. That’s a better average than you would find among clergy!
What is a policeman made of? He, of all men, is once the most needed and the most unwanted. He’s a strangely nameless creature while it is “sir” to his face and “pig” or worse to his back.
He must be such a diplomat that he can settle differences between individuals so that each will think he won.
But…If the policeman is neat, he is conceited; If he’s careless, he’s a bum. If he’s pleasant, he’s flirting; If not, he’s a grouch.
He must make an instant decision which would require months for a lawyer to make.
But…if he hurries, he’s careless; If he’s deliberate, he’s lazy. He must be the first to an accident and be infallible with his diagnosis. He must start breathing, stop bleeding, tie splints and above all, be sure the victim goes home without a limp, or expect to get sued.
The police officer must know every type of gun, draw on the run, and hit where it doesn’t hurt. He must be able to whip two men twice his size and half his age without damaging his uniform and without being “brutal”. If you hit him…he’s a coward. If he hits you…he’s a bully.
A policeman must know everything-and not tell. He must know where the sin is and not partake.
A policeman must from a single strand of hair, be able to describe the crime, the weapon and tell you who the criminal is and where he is hiding.
But…if he catches the criminal, he’s lucky; if he doesn’t, he is a dunce. If he gets promoted, he has political pull; If he doesn’t, he is a dullard. The policeman must chase a bum lead to a dead-end, stake out ten nights to tag one witness who saw it happen-but refused to remember.
The policeman must be a minister, a social worker, a diplomat, a tough guy and a gentleman.
And of course, he’d have to be a genius…for he will have to feed a family on a policeman’s salary.
Like Paul Harvey always said, “Now You Know The Rest Of The Story.”
-Sgt. John-Paul Beebe
Sparta Township Police Department