Deputy remembered during memorial
May 4, 2005
As rain threatened to fall, 7-year-old Heather Wiberg sat daintily in a purple-flowered dress. Nestled between her three sisters, mother, grandparents and aunt, she sang along to the song “God Bless the USA.”
During the Nevada Law Enforcement Memorial ceremony Wednesday to honor her daddy, Deputy John Wiberg II, the curious girl leaned out of the crowd and watched as bagpipes played “Amazing Grace” and the honor guard retired its colors.
In a flash, she saw Deputy Rick Pillon and after an approving nod from her mother, the tiny brunette took three bounding leaps and raced into his arms. The bear of an officer picked up the daughter of his fallen comrade and snuggled her. Heather smiled, her arms stretched tight around Pillon’s neck.
Wiberg, 38, a Washoe County Sheriff’s deputy, died a year ago May 11 in a car accident as he rushed to a robbery in Reno. His name was the 100th etched into a granite memorial on the Capitol Grounds honoring those who paid the “ultimate price.”
“He holds a special place in the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office family and will forever be remembered,” said Sheriff Dennis Balaam.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, reminded the hundreds of Nevada law enforcement officers and audience the job of law enforcement is an admirable one.
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“This is a solemn occasion to pay tribute to the brave men and women of Nevada who have given their lives to protect our community,” he said. “By and large, we don’t know how blessed we are to have our laws in our country enforced by men and women who are honest and humane.”
For the sixth year, a baton, carrying the names of all 100 officers killed in the line of duty since the 1800s, made its way across the state from Las Vegas. The run ended with Sheriff Kenny Furlong’s coming into the Capitol Complex. Wiberg’s widow, Dena, received the baton and laid it at the base of a bronze statue depicting an officer cradling his mortally wounded partner in his arms.
Later, Dena Wiberg and her sister-in-law Carol Jean Schmidt tearfully clutched hands as they pulled a black ribbon from the granite wall to reveal Wiberg’s name.
“When we were little. we used to play wars and cops and robbers,” Wiberg’s older sister Carol Jean said after the service. “I was the bad guy and he was the good guy, so it was no surprise when he became a police officer.”
Wiberg’s mother, Carol Ann Martin, still visibly ached from the loss of her son. Despite thick, black sunglasses, that pain was evident on her drawn face.
“This was so wonderful,” she said of the ceremony in a moment not tinged by tears. “I felt so proud.”
Wiberg is also survived by his father, John Sr.; daughters Leysa, 13, Rebecca, 9, and Victoria, 5; and stepfather, Marty.
n Contact reporter F.T. Norton at email@example.com or 881-1213.
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