Another name is added to Rowan County law enforcement memorial

Published 12:04 am Friday, May 20, 2022

One more name was etched in the black granite of the Rowan County law enforcement memorial on Thursday and one more family adjusts to life without an officer who made the ultimate sacrifice.

In 1962, President John F. Kennedy established May 15 as National Peace Officers Memorial Day and the week of May 15 as National Police Week. Thursday at noon, an unveiling of the local memorial was held in front of the Rowan County Courthouse, and one more name is now on the stone.

Master Deputy William “Billy” Marsh of the Rowan Sheriff’s Office died in Oct 10, 2021 of COVID. His widow, Nicole, was escorted by Special Deputy Jay Davis, a close friend of her late husband. She pulled the blue ribbon free from the black cloth covering the names of officers who have died in the line of duty. Nicole was joined at the ceremony by the couple’s young daughter and by Marsh’s parents, Ronnie and Bonnie Marsh. Ronnie Marsh is currently a part-time deputy with the department as a bailiff in the courthouse after serving for many years as a reserve deputy.

Thirteen names now grace the memorial, from 1895 to present, and Sheriff Kevin Auten said since he began with the department in 1987, he has worked with every person listed on the right side of the memorial.

“This year we are adding one name — but one name is one too many,” said Todd Taylor, an investigator with the Granite Quarry Police Department, who made introductions during the ceremony.

Salisbury Mayor Karen Alexander read a proclamation designating May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day and this week as Police Week, encouraging Rowan residents to understand and appreciate all police officers do to make sure the rest of the community can safely go about their lives.

“We are here today to offer thanks and to honor the sacrifices made by these officers,” said Rowan County Commissioner Mike Caskey, “and to thank their families for the unbearable burden of loss that they bear for our betterment.”

Kannapolis Police Chief Terry Spry read out the names on the North Carolina Roll Call of Honor, including line of duty deaths of officers in the state from May 2021 through May 2022. Major John Sifford of the Rowan Sheriff’s Department then read the Rowan County Roll of Honor listing line of duty deaths from 1909 to April 2021 and including officers from Salisbury, Rowan County, Kannapolis, Spencer, Concord, Lexington and State Police. He concluded with a list of “Law Enforcement Officers Reverently Remembered.”

Auten, who is retiring after 30 years of service, reminded officers that when they leave for work each day, they should make sure all is right in their world before they head out the door.

“If you’ve had a disagreement, if something isn’t right, make sure you get it right before you leave,” he said. “You don’t want the last thing between you and a loved one or friend to be harsh words or anger. And you never know what will happen on the job. So make sure before you go to work, all is right with those at home.”

According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, 458 federal, state, tribal and local law enforcement officers died in the line-of-duty in 2021. That is the highest total line-of-duty officer deaths since 1930 when there were 312 fatalities, and includes 301 deaths caused by COVID.

Rowan County’s law enforcement memorial is permanently on display outside the South Main Street courthouse in Salisbury, and Auten said he hopes people will find time to stop for a moment when they pass by, and will make plans to attend future memorial ceremonies.