The Ocean View Police Department honored a fallen officer, Auxiliary Patrolman Wallace Melson, who died in the line of duty in 1971, with the ceremonial opening of the new police department named in his honor.
Local and statewide politicians and law enforcement officers paid their respects, with dedication of the Wallace A. Melson Public Safety Center in Ocean View on Wednesday, Sept. 19. The town council, including Mayor Gary Meredith, was on hand, as well as Police Chief Ken McLaughlin and other Ocean View officers.
Attendants were addressed by State Rep. Gerald Hocker (R-38th) and State Sen. George H. Bunting, Jr. (D-20th), as well as State Attorney General Joseph “Beau” Biden III and Lt. Gov. Jon C. Carney Jr.
Ocean View Councilman and Police Building Committee Chairman William Wichmann was honored, both by the state and police department, for his four-year commitment to the building. He, in turn, paid recognition to contracting company Willow Construction and Michelle DiFebo Freeman, chairwoman of the Carl M. Freeman Foundation, successor of late husband Joshua M. Freeman in that role.
The Carl M. Freeman Foundation donated the land on Central Avenue on which the new facility was erected.
“Getting something done is an accomplishment,” said a sunglass-bearing Hocker. “Getting something done at this magnitude is an achievement.” He commended the town and the police department for their time and effort put into seeing the building completed. Quoting golfer Arnold Palmer, Hocker left the crowd with one thought: “The most rewarding things you do in life are often the ones that look like they cannot be done.”
Bunting stressed the importance of police protection within the community. “There’s nothing routine about what they do,” he said.
Biden implied an importance of the relationship between government and law enforcement. “I pledge to do everything I can,” he said, “to make sure that we’re doing our part to protect the people of Delaware, Ocean View and every one of our counties, statewide to do our job efficiently.”
Maj. Gen. Francis Vavala of the National Guard described the ceremony as a day of “cooperation and coordination.” Referencing all arms of the military, he tied the ambitions in with the Ocean View police department. “We all have the same goals,” Vavala said. “Take care of our citizens, of our community, and of our state.”
The ceremony’s mediator, Robert Herrington, provided perhaps one of the most notable and touching aspects of the entire event. An enthusiast of historical emergency vehicles, Herrington has been working on automobiles since he was 15. To honor Melson, he purchased and restored a 1968 Plymouth Satellite, the original year, make and model that Melson was operating up to his death.
“Wallace Melson was a close friend of my father,” said Herrington, who had actually attended a class with Melson’s daughter. “His son John, who we all called ‘Jack,’ was a year behind us. When you know everybody like that, it leaves an impression on you when we lose him.”
Herrington spent hours on end, interviewing and researching the facts on Melson’s short 48 years. As he researched, his admiration of Melson’s car intensified.
“The car was an extraordinarily special car,” he said. Only 4,000 Plymouth Satellites were made in 1968, so finding all the right parts was slightly more than a struggle.
“It was very amazing that Ocean View had the car because it was almost a one-of-a-kind; a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Herrington. “Parts started coming in all over when people heard what I was doing. A lot of people are really fascinated with emergency vehicle restoration.”
The authentic uniform that Melson wore is also on display inside the building bearing his name.
“It’s a great way to pay tribute to a fallen hero,” said Herrington, “And it’s something people want to see.”