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Officer's family searching the past for the good times

February 06, 2008|By BOB MAGINNIS

Just inside the door of Paul and Karen Highbarger's Halfway home is a large wood and glass display case. When I saw it on Friday, it was empty except for one small ceramic piece, but his mother and stepfather plan to fill it with memories of Christopher Shane Nicholson.

Nicholson, a 25-year-old Smithsburg police officer, was shot and later died on Dec. 19, after responding to a sheriff's department request for help in apprehending a suspect in a domestic slaying that took place earlier that day.

The Highbargers are still in shock, but said that they're not bitter. In fact, during their son's Christmas Eve funeral, a statement from them asked for prayers, not only for the families of the suspect, but for the relatives of the slaying suspect.

What they most desire is not vengeance, the Highbargers said, but to create a memorial with memories gathered from those who knew what a good man Christopher was and to preserve those so he won't be forgotten by future generations.

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They are asking for those who knew their son and who have letters, stories or photos to consider sharing them.

If you can do so, please send whatever you can to: Paul Highbarger, 17507 Lexington Ave., Hagerstown, MD 21740.

The Highbargers said there are a number of other projects under way to honor Officer Nicholson. They include:

· A memorial at Veterans Park in the Town of Smithsburg.

Police Chief Charles Stanford said the planning is just in the preliminary stages, but the tentative design is for a granite pillar 5 1/2 feet high and about 1 1/2 feet wide.

The chief said that on that pillar there will be a bronze plaque with an inscription and some photographs of Officer Nicholson.

"They'll be etched into the plaque, so they will last forever," Stanford said.

If you would like to donate to this effort, you may send a check to the Officer Christopher Nicholson Memorial, c/o Smithburg City Hall, P.O. Box 237, Smithsburg MD 21783.

According to Town Clerk Betsy Martin, the memorial will be placed in Veterans Park in the town, but whether it will have sidewalks or benches nearby hasn't been determined, she said.

· On Sunday, Feb. 10, from 5 to 9 p.m., there will be a "hairathon" at the Hair Cuttery at Hagers-town Commons on Dual Highway near Martin's Food Market.

Melanie Shoemaker, a stylist at the shop, said that she and her co-workers will give haircuts to the public and will ask for a $5 donation for each one.

There will also be a bake sale, with items contributed by the stylists and by the Highbarger family. All proceeds will go to the scholarship fund set up in Officer Nicholson's name.

· The scholarship fund, which will go to Williamsport High School students who are pursuing careers in law enforcement, is being handled by the Community Foundation of Washington County. Donations can be sent to that agency, with the notation they are for Officer Nicholson's scholarship fund, to 33 W. Franklin St., Hagerstown, MD 21740.

Christopher never wanted to do anything but police work, his mother said, adding that every time she goes to Smithsburg, someone comes up with her with a tale of how her son helped someone or did them a kindness.

He had his mother's smile, which still lights up when she talks about the son who always called to check on his grandmother, who loved his Doberman puppy and who planned to propose to his girlfriend on Christmas Eve.

Instead, they buried him that night. If you can share something that will bring another smile to his parents' faces, now is the time when they need it.

Bob Maginnis is
editorial page editor of
The Herald-Mail newspapers.

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