NORRIDGEWOCK — In Cpl. Eugene Cole’s hometown, people are remembering the slain Somerset County sheriff’s deputy in the best way they can — collecting food and personal care items for local food cupboards and service organizations.

Donations will be collected through Thursday — Corporal Eugene Cole Day — the one-year anniversary of the shooting death of Cole while on duty near downtown Norridgewock.

Cpl. Eugene Cole

Cole, 61, was shot and killed during the early morning hours of April 25, 2018, while on patrol in Norridgewock, just minutes after apparently stopping to check on John D. Williams, of Madison, who, with duffel bags and a bulletproof vest, had been dropped off at a driveway around 1 a.m.

Williams, 30, was arrested in a wooded area of Fairfield, ending a nationwide manhunt that lasted four days and involved some 200 officers from multiple jurisdictions. He is charged with murder.

Cole became the first Maine police officer fatally shot in the line of duty in three decades. The case was transferred quickly to Cumberland County Court in Portland because of extensive publicity in Somerset County.

Williams has pleaded not guilty. Defense attorney Verne Paradie has asked a judge to throw out all statements Williams made to law enforcement during his arrest and interrogation, alleging that police beat Williams into confessing.

Now it’s time for people of the region not only to remember Cole, but also to spread goodwill in his name, Norridgewock Town Manager Richard LaBelle said Friday.

“I came up with the idea as a way to involve everybody, communities local and distant,” LaBelle said. “Every collection point is going to take care in redistributing the items amongst their community in which it was collected.”

The idea is to collect nonperishable food items such as cereal, rice, pasta, canned meat and fish, coffee, tea, dry soup, peanut butter and jelly and drop them off at designated points along with personal care items including deodorant, soap, shampoo, feminine hygiene products, diapers, toothpaste and toilet paper.

Drop-off points are the Canaan Town Office, Skowhegan Savings Bank offices in Madison and Norridgewock, the Norridgewock Public Library and Town Office, the School Administrative District 54 superintendent’s office and the Skowhegan Municipal Building. All SAD 54 schools will be drop-off points for staff and students only.

LaBelle said the larger picture of remembering Cole involves the dedication of a bridge in Norridgewock as the Cpl. Eugene Cole Memorial Bridge in October on what would have been Cole’s 62nd birthday.

Mary Black Andrews places a carnation in May 2017 on the wall of the Maine Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Augusta for her late husband, Maine State Police Trooper Charles Black, who was gunned down during a 1964 bank robbery in South Berwick. Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster said Cpl. Eugene Cole’s name will be inscribed in May on the memorial and on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C. Kennebec Journal file photo by Joe Phelan

Redington-Fairview General Hospital Emergency Medical Services also had a new ambulance designed with graphics that honor the fallen deputy.

Cole’s radio call number — 1312 — and a thin blue line are part of the design, along with the words End of Watch, 4/25/18.

“We’ve really seen a lot of folks rally to improve the community, to not take this day and cast it in a dark light, but rather shine a bright light on the positivity surrounding law enforcement, a positivity of community pride,” LaBelle said. “The goal is trying to bring the best out in everybody each day, not just one day or one week, but each day throughout the year.”

The town’s website has a link to a page commemorating Cpl. Eugene Cole Day.

Cole’s wife, Sheryl Cole, said the past year has been devastating for her, but uplifting, too, with the cards and letters she has received from all over the country.

“My world changed when Eugene Cole came into it,” she said in a message to the Morning Sentinel. “The magnitude of the change when he left it was nearly unbearable. This community has shown their love and support for me and my family in ways I can never repay. I am so very proud and thankful each time I see a poster, a car decal, a bracelet, a bridge, or anything with his image or name on it.

“These things never cause sadness. They fill me with pride. Pride for my husband, pride for his profession, and pride for this community. Mostly, I’m so proud and grateful for the family we have. Our kids are strong, determined individuals. They are kind and respectful to everyone. To honor Corporal Eugene Cole, follow in his footsteps. Be kind. Help your fellow man. It doesn’t matter what your job is, how big your house is, or how much you paid for your car. We are all the same race — the human race. Treat each other as such. Let this be part of his legacy.”

Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster, who took Cole’s death personally, said April 25, 2019, will be a day to reflect on how the deputy affected the lives around him.

“April 25th will be the first anniversary of Corporal Eugene Cole’s senseless murder,” Lancaster said in a statement. “It will also be a time to remember how the community, state and even people outside the state of Maine came together to share our pain and help Sheryl and the rest of the Cole family cope with their loss. The outpouring of support by the community will be something that the Sheriff’s Office will never forget and will be forever grateful.”

Lancaster said that in May, Cole’s name will be inscribed and memorialized on the Maine Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Augusta and the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., to ensure that his sacrifice will never be forgotten.

“Redington-Fairview General Hospital’s dedication of their new ambulance displaying Gene’s call number was just another example of the impact Gene had on the lives of other emergency first responders,” Lancaster said  “Gene’s ability to work collaboratively with other emergency services was an illustration of how we are to work together for the good of the people we serve here in Somerset County.”

 

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