BY DEAN MOSES
On Saturday, Sept. 19th, members of the NYPD’s 104th Precinct, elected officials, and local spectators flocked to Mount Olivet Cemetery in Maspeth for their first-ever memorial service on “Thank a Police Officer Day.”
This procession celebrated the lives of two fallen police officers, dating back over 100 years. Despite being deceased for a century, the event was held to demonstrate New York’s dedication to its fallen heroes, no matter the extent of time passed. A crowd of visitors gathered on the windy morning to learn about lives of Patrolmen Ale Swider and Robert Henry Holmes.
Attendees made the small trek to each gravesite where a color guard stood to attention, their flags casting long, swaying shadows while speakers such as Juniper Park Civic Association President Tony Nunziato and Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch, honored the legacy of the fallen officers. After which, Newtown Historical President Christina Wilkinson transported listeners through time by reading news articles from the period and told stories of the officers’ exploits.
Patrolman Holmes worked in the 32nd Precinct in Harlem in the early 20th century. Holmes, a well-known, well-respected figure, was the first black officer to be killed in the line of duty. He was in pursuit of a burglar when he died on August 6, 1917. His counterpart also perished while in service. Known affectionately as flash, Ale Swider patrolled Central Park on his red motorcycle in the early 1920s. He died while on duty in a motorcycle crash on November 2, 1923.
Once the speeches had commenced, Nunziato and Wilkinson laid a wreath at the foot of each monument to the blast of trumpet calls and the unwavering gaze of Queens elected officials, including Councilman Robert Holden, Assembly member Brian Barnwell, and State Senator Joe Addabbo. The ceremony was also joined by Vietnam Veterans of America Queens Chapter 32, the Blue Knights Motorcycle club, and Queens Borough President candidate Joann Ariola.