Harrison County

Families comforted that officers 'will never be forgotten'

GULFPORT -- A three-volley rifle salute, taps and a dispatcher's final radio call for Gulfport's eight fallen officers set a somber tone Friday at annual memorial services.

Dorothy Gibson, mother of Rob Curry, said her son always enjoyed talking about his police work and his police family. He was killed on duty nearly eight years ago.

"He's gone but never forgotten," Gibson told those gathered for ceremonies remembering the fallen during National Police Week.

"How can he be gone when he's in our hearts today and always? So God bless you all who attended here. And God bless all men and women in blue and all the sacrifices they make."

Curry was a DUI and motorcycle officer. He was traveling to a funeral home to escort a funeral procession when a car pulled in front of him on U.S. 49 on Aug. 14, 2008. Curry was 39. He was survived by his wife, Leslee, also a Gulfport police officer, and two children.

He grew up in Upstate New York, where his parents live. In the winter, his parents live in Pass Christian. Curry earned a college degree in criminal justice, served four years in the Air Force and joined the Gulfport Police Department. He headed up efforts to improve traffic safety and protect residents from impaired drivers.

Family members of other fallen officers also attended the program at the public safety building named for Curry. The building on 15th Street houses the police department and municipal court.

Importance of remembering

Peggy Parker Blanchard was among survivors attending.

Woodrow Scarborough was her nephew. He was 22 when a car pulled in front of his police motorcycle as he headed to the scene of a crash with injuries May 5, 1970.

"His parents are dead and I'm 89 but it's important that I be here," Blanchard told the Sun Herald.

When Scarborough died, she said, a letter in his mailbox informed him he had been accepted for FBI training.

The city's other fallen officers were shot.

The annual ceremonies are normally held outside, but the threat of rain moved the program into a small press room, with overflow attendees standing in the lobby.

The most somber of moments came in ceremonial acts: A volley of gunfire and a trumpeter's playing of taps, both symbolic at police funerals and memorials. And a dispatcher gave a final radio call, naming each of the fallen officers and the end of their shifts.

The Gulfport High choir stood on the second floor gallery and sang a capella.

'We salute you'

Deputy Police Chief Chris Loposser described unpleasant and dangerous situations police officers face.

"We willingly serve and sacrifice time and life experiences," he said.

Police Chief Leonard Papania said the media and social media often present police in a negative light. He encouraged the community to give police their support.

"We must find brave, courageous individuals who must act, must put others above themselves," he said. "They are the people we seek to defend your freedom, your rights and your safety.

"To all our law enforcement officers that hang a badge on their chest each day, thank you. To our fallen officers we remember today, we salute you."

Mayor Billy Hewes proclaimed this week to be Police Week in Gulfport.

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