Alexia Conklin-Cole never met her Uncle Jason, but she certainly knows a lot about him, specifically that he loved Snoopy and practical jokes, one of which that’s famous in the family and resulted in someone being pushed into mud.
Alexia, nine, of Monroe, never got to meet her uncle because Jason Conklin died 15 years ago. The Tuxedo Police Officer was 22 years old.
On Sunday, Alexia was at the Rockland County Courthouse in New City to remember her uncle, along with her mother, Stephanie Conklin-Cole, and Jason’s sister, and her parents, Sandy and Jake Conklin. They were one of many families honoring a lost loved one at the courthouse on Sunday at the annual Law Enforcement Memorial Service. For Jason Conklin’s family, this was the 14th year they’ve taken part in the memorial service.
“Clarkstown has been so wonderful to us and all of the families through the years,” said Sandy Conklin. “They put on this lovely memorial service every year, and they do it for us.”
The service takes place on the courthouse lawn centered around the memorial bearing the names of all the officers to die while on duty in Rockland, or Rockland residents who died while serving elsewhere. Towards the end of the service, family members and loved ones of the officers walk up to the monument and place blue and white flowers at the base of it.
“It brings him right back,” Sandy Conklin said of placing the flowers on the memorial. “He was just so happy-go-lucky and he loved being a police officer.”
The Conklin family also all wore t-shirts with Jason’s name on the back and on the front of the shirt, they had “957,” Jason Conklin’s badge number.
While it’s always sad to return for the ceremony, Stephanie Conklin-Cole said it’s important to keep her brother’s memory alive.
“We’re very fortunate to get to talk about him all the time. We talk about him every day to remember the kind of person he was, and to let my kids know who their uncle was,” she said.
The memorial featured speakers from different organizations around the county, including Sheriff Lou Falco. The main speaker for the event was New York State Police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico, a Rockland resident. He spoke about why it’s important to remember those who died while in the line of duty.
“They were parents, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, and they had families and friends and neighbors, just like you and me,” D’Amico said. “They also had an extra something in their character, something that made them willingly put others ahead of themselves. “
It’s something extra in those people’s character that makes them heroes in D’Amico’s eyes.
“All too often I hear the word ‘hero’ thrown around to describe celebrities, sports figures and other pop culture people. For the life of me, I don’t know how having fame and fortune qualifies one to be called a hero,” he said. “When I was younger I was taught that heroes were people who were admired, people you looked up to, courageous people. Heroes were the kind of people who willingly went towards dangerous situations if they even had a thought they could help someone or protect someone else. To me, that also sounds like the definition of a police officer. In my opinion, it’s that spirit, that courage, that selflessness that makes a true hero.”