Smithsburg says goodbye to fallen officer

Memories, honors offered at memorial service for Nicholson

Memories, honors offered at memorial service for Nicholson

January 08, 2008|By HEATHER KEELS

SMITHSBURG - It is normal, The Rev. Julie Brigham said, for responders to a tragedy to be haunted by strobe-like images that continue through the aftermath and beyond.

It is normal, she said, for friends and family to feel they're trapped in someone else's nightmare life.

It is normal to want "closure," and to long to wake up and find it was all a dream.

But at a memorial service intended to facilitate healing for a town still coming to grips with the Dec. 19 slaying of Smithsburg Police Officer Christopher Nicholson, leaders told a packed auditorium that healing was to be found not through closure, but through memory and honor.

"What we really yearn not really to go back or to forget, but to go on," said Brigham, who serves as pastor for the Foxville-Greensburg Lutheran Parish.

And so, from the Smithsburg High School auditorium stage, local civic and religious leaders offered memories and honors, poetry and scripture, song and prayer.


Nicholson, who was fatally shot while waiting for Sheriff's Department backup on a domestic call near Smithsburg, was named an honorary Washington County Sheriff's Department deputy.

His name will appear on the department's wall of remembrance, and Sheriff's Department cruisers will bear bumper stickers with his photo and the date his tour of duty came to an end, Sheriff Douglas Mullendore said.

In Smithsburg, a resident's poem honoring "A Hero Gone, But Not Forgotten," will hang in Town Hall, and a memorial is planned for Veterans Park, Mayor Mildred "Mickey" Myers said. The monument is scheduled to be dedicated in May, she said.

"We want the memory of Chris and his heroic actions to always be remembered by all as the years go by," Myers said.

Several of those who spoke offered poems they felt expressed what Nicholson would have wished to share with his friends, family and town.

"Cry not at my passing, for it was my honor to fight for you," Nicholson's friend, Deputy Joel Footen, read from the poem "I Am a Warrior" by Jon F. Hooper.

"I never dreamed it would be me, my name for all eternity," Myers read from an anonymous poem that ends, "I ask for all here from the past, Dear God, let my name be the last."

Smithsburg Police Chief Charles R. Stanford, who spoke of the comfort of knowing police work is God's work, read a poem known as the Policeman's 23rd Psalm.

"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me, each day of my life through eternity," Stanford read. "As I long to hear Him say, 'Well done' when I lay down my life, my badge, and my gun."

Nicholson's stepfather, Paul Highbarger, spoke on behalf of the family to thank those who attended and reached out to them.

"With the support and love from you and our family and friends, we have made it through 19 dark days," Highbarger said. "Please continue to keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we take one day at a time."

The Rev. Mark Mooney, president of the Smithsburg Area Church Association, said the prayers of those gathered were also with the family of Alison Munson, who was also slain Dec. 19, and the family of Douglas Pryor, who has been charged with murder in both deaths.

"May we discover, though, here tonight, a time of hope and healing, and a time also of celebration of being a community together," Mooney said. "May God grant us grace, that in pain we might find comfort; in sorrow, hope, and even in death, the wondrous promise of resurrection."

For more photos of Monday's memorial service, go to

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