Ralph Gorton doesn't remember his father, unfortunately, but he does remember the Norwalk police officers who tried to fill the void left by his sudden loss 49 years ago. "They always took the time to talk to me about my father," said Gorton, who was 7½ when his dad died. "They told me what kind of a person he was, they shared with me, they told the good stuff, they told the bad stuff, because it was important, I always asked about the bad stuff. They always shared with me a story about him, and that's how I got to know who my father was."
Officer Sherrald Gorton died June 20, 1962, when a construction vehicle backed into him while he was working a traffic assignment. He was one of four Norwalk Police officers remembered in the annual police memorial, held Friday in front of the Norwalk police headquarters.
Traffic was blocked in the area while the Norwalk Police Department honor guard took down the American flag and carefully folded it, while candles were lit for each of the four men and Fred Miodowski played "Taps" on his bugle. Tribute was paid to Sgt. Nicholas Fera, who died in 1971 after being shot; Sgt. Frank Sutton, who was fatally injured in 1930 by a speeding motor vehicle; Officer Marco Caria, who died after a car accident in 1982; and Gorton, whose 1962 death led to laws requiring audible warning devices for trucks in reverse.
"It has been said that if we live on in the memories of others, we never die," said Chief Harry Rilling.
It was unusual to have a family member of one of the honored men attend. Gorton said he and his wife, son and daughter were on vacation from their California home for a wedding in Washington, D.C. The Norwalk Police Department invited him, and he was happy to attend, saying, "My dad died 49 years ago, and we've never really had any closure."
After Gorton's father died, his family moved to Redding. He hadn't been to Norwalk in many years but said he still felt part of the community. He was an athletic child, and he remembered that after that fateful day there were always police officers at the games he played. "Early on I didn't recognize what was happening, but they were sitting with my mother," he said. "So I never had a chance to involve myself with them. Eventually they took the time to reach out to me when they felt the time was appropriate." He was hoping that word would get back to the officers, including Pete Petty and Tommy Hart, although he didn't know whether they were still around. "Please say to them that I recognize what they did," he said.
"It epitomizes what I have always talked about, being a member of the Norwalk Police family," Rilling said. "I can't tell you how touched I was ... that's what being a Norwalk police officer is all about."
Do you remember the fallen officers? Comment below!
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.