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Officer honored for his service to Charles Town

October 03, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Saying he will "always be captain in this department," Charles Town Police Department Chief Barry Subelsky joined city officials Monday night to honor Mark Johnston, a former longtime local police officer who has been battling a brain tumor.

Johnston, who started work at the Charles Town Police Department in 1993 and has worked other assignments including four years with the West Virginia State Police's undercover unit, told those gathered at city hall that his health problems started last year when he thought he might have been suffering from a sinus infection.

It was shortly before Thanksgiving and Johnston said he was excited about an upcoming vacation and deer season.

The 42-year-old Johnston went to a doctor and, after having medical tests, it was discovered that he was suffering from a brain tumor.

Doctors scheduled radiation and Johnston said he started six weeks of treatments at The Johns Hopkins University.

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More tests were conducted and although it was determined that the tumor was decreasing in size, Johnston said he was told he had six months to live.

Later, Johnston said he was told he had two years to live.

"Hopefully, next time they will say five years," Johnston told Charles Town City Council members, fellow police officers and others.

At times, Johnston said he fell out of touch with his friends in the law enforcement community as he grappled with his condition.

"I kind of fell into a state of depression. I miss you guys," Johnston said.

Johnston, who rose to the rank of captain in the city police department, was presented with a plaque from Mayor Peggy Smith to honor his years of service.

Others came forward to talk about Johnston's work at the department and his trademark humor he brought to the department.

Lt. Glenn Stevens recalled some of Johnston's more memorable pranks, like the time Johnston ran a speed radar out of a portable toilet that was across from the police station along Liberty Street.

Subelsky said it is obvious Johnston is respected in the community because people are always asking how Johnston is doing.

"I probably get asked that two or three times a week. I think that really says a lot about a man and a police officer," Subelsky said.

The ceremony was held for Johnston at 6:30 p.m. before the city council's regular meeting. Johnston, who retired from the department several months ago, was accompanied at the ceremony by his wife, Carla, and other family members.

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