Nearly 43 years after her brother’s death, Ruth Stocker still remembers the life he chose to lead.
Richard Barth, who was a police officer, died on March 18, 1974, trying to fight crime at the scene of a burglary and protect his community.
Barth, who is the only Downers Grove law enforcement official to die in the line of duty, was honored at a May 18 memorial ceremony at First Presbyterian Church.
“Each year, we gather to pay to tribute to Officer Bart for the sacrifice he made on March 18, 1974,” said Lt. Robert McMahon, of Downers Grove Police Department. “This is also an opportunity for us to honor all police officer who have made the ultimate sacrifice.”
Since Barth’s death, more than 7,500 police officers have been killed in the line of duty.
While police and community relations are often in the spotlight, the work of law enforcement officials and the authority they are afforded remain a concern in today’s world.
“Here in our community Downers Grove, Officer Richard Barth’s tragic and untimely demise serves as a constant reminder of the risks facing every man and woman who carries a badge, even in our quiet suburb, Downers Grove,” Mayor Martin Tully said. “This annual memorial ceremony and celebration of Richard’s life also serves as a recurring reminder of the dedication and the commitment of our law enforcement professionals to our community each and every day. As we thank Officer Barth for his service and his sacrifice, we also thank all of those in uniform, here, today for their service and their commitment [to] our safety.”
There are a number of reminders in the Village of Downers Grove that pays tribute to the fallen officer, one being Barth Pond—which was named in his honor in 1976. Additionally, a monument and tree were dedicated to him in his memory at Patriot’s Park.
Every year, members of Barth’s family will carry out the tradition by partaking in the ceremony. The program included the recital of a poem by Barth’s niece, Julie Worch, and some remarks by his sister, Ruth Stocker.
“This event gives my family renewed comfort because we are surrounded by residents of this community, our friends, and members of the Downers Grove and nearby police and fire departments,” Stocker said. “It has now been more than four decades since we lost Richard. Because life goes on, this family has seen many celebrations of life.”
Stocker wants her brother to be remembered not only for how he died, but also how he lived.
“Richard served and protected his community honestly, without question, without hesitation, and without regard for his own safety,” she said.
Barth gave thanks to all those for taking time to partake in the annual ceremony.
“Even more than four decades after he was slain in the line of duty, Richard Barth is remembered and respected by both his colleagues and his community, and I pledge to the members of his family that he always will be,” Tully said.
The ceremony was held to coincide with the National Police Week.