They came out in their nursing scrubs, in their UPS uniforms, in their beach gear, and for the Georgetown police department, all of whom are on leave, noticeably in civilian gear. Hundreds of people, perhaps as many as a thousand, from all walks of life, came to gather last Friday night at the candlelight vigil held for Ptrl. Chad Spicer of the Georgetown Police Department, who was killed Sept. 2 in the line of duty.
They listened to words of comfort from the Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., Gov. Jack Markell and Spicer’s mother and friends.
For anyone who had never met Spicer, the speakers painted a picture of a happy person with a zest for life and an overwhelming love for his daughter and for his career.
“I don’t know how to thank everyone for the love, compassion, friendship. Chad was the love of our lives,” said Ruth Ann Spicer, his mother. “And if you didn’t get a chance to meet him, come around some time, I’ll show you some pictures.”
Ruth Ann Spicer said Chad was born on Aug. 23, 1980, and, the year after, the town of Georgetown won the Little League World Series in Gary, Ind. The town had a big parade and welcome-home for the team, and Spicer remembered fondly that she told the unsuspecting 1-year-old the party was all for him.
“I said, ‘Look, Chad, what the town of Georgetown did for your birthday,’” she said, to the crowd’s laughter. “And he grinned liked a little Cheshire cat.”
During her speech on Sept. 4, Spicer picked up and held Chad Spicer’s 3-year-old daughter, her granddaughter Aubrey, who had a tight on hold her neck, and the event’s ray of light shone brightly. “I love you, too, baby,” said Spicer to Aubrey, who, after practicing making sounds into the microphone, told her grandma that she loved her, “a lot.” Spicer said Aubrey would be raised how Chad would have wanted.
In addition to the vigil audience, she thanked the Georgetown police department, the State of Delaware, the governor, lieutenant governor and Biden for taking the time to come to the vigil.
“I cannot thank you enough. Keep us in your prayers,” she said. “God bless you all.”
Chad Spicer’s friend, Sam Walker, also spoke and handed a plaque to Chad’s parents, Norman and Ruth Ann Spicer, honoring their son’s bravery. He said that he and Chad were best friends and had known each other all their lives and, amidst tears, he tried to emphasize the bright side.
“His memory and his face will live on through her,” he said of Aubrey. “He was my hero, he’s everybody’s hero,” he added, succumbing to tears.
Spicer’s girlfriend, Stacy Davis, added that she was thankful for him and his life. “I am so blessed that he loved me.”
Biden, in speaking at the vigil, referenced the many Return Days held on The Circle, emphasizing the happier times for which he has been in Georgetown. “I’ve stood on this circle for many happy occasions, never a time this sad. It makes me proud to be a Delawarean. You are good people.”
He added that he did not come to the vigil as a representative of his son, Delaware’s attorney-general who is serving with the National Guard in Iraq, nor because he has a close relationship with law enforcement across the U.S, but “as a citizen of the great state of Delaware.”
To Norman and Ruth Ann Spicer, he said, “Because of us, because we ask men and woman to strap on a sidearm and put on a badge to protect us, we, the people of Georgetown, of this county, we owe you. There are no words to heal us tonight – anyone who has lost a child, a loved one, someone you were in love with – there are never appropriate words to fill that void.”
“Chad had courage a distinctive shade of blue,” said Biden. “Pray to God that no family member has to go through what Ruth Ann and Norman are going through today.”
Markell added that, because funerals and vigils were for the living, “to let us grieve. Let us grieve and let us honor his legacy by building the world for Aubrey that Chad would have wanted.”
Georgetown Mayor Eddie Lamden joked that “no disrespect to you, Lt. Gov. [Matt Denn], but I think Chad was the only one shorter than you.” Turning serious for a moment, he spoke about the sense of community that the regional police departments have shown in the wake of the tragedy.
“We can take a lesson from the police departments, to come together to support one another, to protect one another and never forget that ‘no man is an island,’” said Lamden, quoting Jacobean poet John Donne. “He was a father, a son, a brother and a friend. A small town is struggling to right itself again. Life will settle down, but it will never be the same again. There’s crime and violence in the big cities, but not here. We thought we were safe.”
Quoting more of Donne, Lambden added, “The bell has tolled for Chad Spicer. His death diminishes me.”
It’s not hard for a small town like Georgetown to feel the loss of and a connection to Chad Spicer, as many residents either knew him directly or had seen him on his patrols.
Virginia Succarotte, whose husband, Bob, coached Spicer as a Little Leaguer, was at the vigil.
“Chad spent a lot of time here with Patrick in his teenage years,” said Succarotte of her son. “We went to the vigil because he was real special to us. I was very moved, and it was a very appropriate get-together. I am glad to have gone and found it very helpful for me.”