She used to call them "my boys." That's an odd term for grown men who carry weapons at their sides and drive patrol cars and arrest criminals.
My Aunt Louise was a reporter for the Wheeling newspapers, working out of the Moundsville office known as The Journal. She knew just about everyone in Marshall County and loved the city of Moundsville where she, my mother and their brother were born and raised.
When her career path turned to writing the news, her readers quickly learned she was a natural at it - especially when it came to covering the crime beat. She worked the beat decades ago when the state penitentiary was still in operation in Moundsville. The "pen" held some of the worst criminals in the state's history and provided plenty of news for the paper. Her "boys" were the state cops who escorted prisoners, manned the prison gates in turbulent times and patrolled her hometown in those familiar green uniforms. My aunt and her husband, J.T. Fox, were not blessed with children but their love for their community and the people who lived and worked there filled their lives.
Aunt Louise, who stood barely 5 feet tall, was a larger-than-life figure around the local police stations, jails and prison. She not only covered the crime at hand, but she always asked about the men (women weren't cops in those days) in uniform, caring for them as if they were part of her family.
And I believe they were her family. I was in awe that she knew them all by first names, talked with them about their kids and let them know they were appreciated. In her spare time, before arthritis took over her hands, she would spend hours crocheting afghans, hats, mittens and scarves. If someone was expecting a baby, they would most likely receive a pair of special booties made by Louise.
She took it hard when an officer was killed during the prison riots in Moundsville years back. She would share stories of those officers and their bravery. She knew them as much more than just cops wearing badges.
This week, West Virginia again mourns the death of a State Police officer, Cpl. Marshall Lee Bailey, at Wallback, W.Va., who was shot by a man with a death wish. Others were injured. The circumstances of this tragedy aren't at issue - nothing can change the outcome. It is a reminder, however, of what our law enforcement agencies face day in and day out.
We often hear about the people who run away from a dangerous situation, but we don't give enough credit to those running in the door with guns drawn.
It's a good time to let our troopers, deputies and officers in every department know just how much we appreciate what they do for us. It's what Aunt Louise would have done.
Heather Ziegler can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.