Police survivor has traveled a lonely road
In a solemn tribute to police officers who have died in the line of duty, families, survivors, current officers and others remembered our fallen heroes during a special ceremony Friday night in Rochester.
The tribute honored all of the fallen officers in southeastern Minnesota over the years, including four in Dodge County and one in Steele County. They are Ole Havey, village marshal of Hayfield Police; Gregory Lange, police chief of Claremont; Douglas Claassen, police chief of Hayfield; Loring Guenther, captain with Dodge County Sheriff and Neil Johnson, police chief of Blooming Prairie. All have given the ultimate sacrifice in keeping our communities safe. They are among more than 20,000 law enforcement heroes who have died in the line of duty since 1791 in the U.S. There have been 280 police deaths in Minnesota.
This year marks the 30thanniversary since Gregory Lange was gunned down just a few hundred feet from his own house in Claremont while responding to a domestic disturbance in 1988. His widow, Sue Lange, who now lives in Rochester, spoke at the ceremony Friday.
Lange recalls how their home was where people with troubles came to hang out. It was not unusual for her to come home to kids in the house, or to find Greg and a bunch of kids at the ball diamond playing baseball. “Greg had a heart that generous,” she says.
It has been a difficult journey for Lange. “My life was so much about ‘we’ and ‘us’ and not about ‘I’, and I found myself in a new and cruel world,” she said. She found that 1988 was a time when death was almost a taboo subject and certainly was not talked about in law enforcement agencies. And it definitely wasn’t brought up between a police officer and their spouse or family.
The police widow can hardly believe that 30 years has passed since the life-changing event jolted her family. She found herself facing a lonely road as people who she thought were friends chose to leave, and people she never knew became true friends.
Lange has taken refuge in becoming active with Concerns of Police Survivors or COPS, a national organization to assist survivors of officers who are killed in the line of duty. She helps to make sure no other survivor feels alone when the unthinkable happens.
“COPS helped me find me again and filled me with hope and truly saved my life,” Lange said. “The old me is forever gone, but they helped me find a different version living a new normal.”
Several years ago Lange helped build the State Law Enforcement Memorial in St. Paul. She is now focused on bringing a similar memorial to southeastern Minnesota in Rochester. It is expected to be completed later this year.
“It all is quite humbling because all I have ever wanted was that Greg never be forgotten and that if what happened to him would perhaps have a teachable moment for other officers, then I will call my endeavors a success,” Lange said. “I would hope Greg is proud of how I have lived my life without him.”
Whether it’s Sue Lange’s husband or someone else, I hope you had the opportunity to remember our police heroes during National Police Week last week. They should always be remembered for their heroic actions.
And we also need to go in hot pursuit of remembering and comforting the surviving families who are left to cope without their loved ones.