By Mary O’KEEFE
A dedication was held on Monday morning for a memorial that honored two fallen heroes and brought a bit of closure to the families who paid the ultimate price of service – the loss of a loved one.
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy David Horr and Montrose Search and Rescue Reserve Team member Deputy Chuck Rea were fathers, husbands and dedicated officers who served Crescenta Valley.
Family, friends, community members, service personnel from Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and L.A. County Fire, as well as dignitaries including L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca and L.A. Supervisor Michael Antonovich, attended the memorial dedication.
CV Sheriff’s Station Capt. David Silversparre welcomed everyone then read a list of those who had served at the station that had passed away, though not in the line of duty. Speaking in front of the Crescenta Valley stone memorial, he thanked all those who serve at the station from deputies to volunteers and support groups.
“[The memorial] is a symbol of dedication,” he said. “We won’t forget and we won’t forget their efforts.”
He added the memorial serves the memory of those fallen heroes and reminds the community of those who serve as LASD personnel and volunteers.
“And more importantly, to make it home safe,” Silversparre said.
He then spoke of each of the deputy’s sacrifice and their story of bravery.
Deputy Horr was working with his partner Charles Manuel on Dec. 7, 1957 when they responded to a disturbance call at a La Crescenta Avenue home. Two California Highway Patrol officers arrived to assist the deputies.
They knew someone was in the house but no one responded to their knocks. CHP Officer Robert Anderson began knocking on the window; Horr was standing at the side. Three gunshot blasts came through the window hitting Horr in the stomach and hand. The other deputies were not hit. Officers carried Horr to the front yard. According to reports, Horr told the officers to call an ambulance and then to take care of themselves.
Deputy Horr fought for two months and two days, undergoing four major surgeries, but in the end died of his injuries.
Horr’s son Don Sutton thanked the community for its dedication. His family had moved away from Crescenta Valley after the death of his father. He explained how he found out about the memorial effort by reading an Internet posting about his father that read, “Rest easy knowing you made the world a better place.”
Retired Sgt. Randy Sulstrom made the posting in 2007. Sutton made contact with the sergeant, Steve Pierce and Lisa Dutton who spearheaded the effort, and the project began to unfold.
“My father left for work that day and that was the last time I saw him,” Don said. “This is my 360 back to Crescenta Valley.”
“This has been a long time coming,” said Capt. Janet Henderson of Montrose Search and Rescue.
Montrose Search and Rescue members past and present were at the dedication for their fallen brother, Deputy Chuck Rea.
It was during what was called the “big flood” of 1969 that Rea lost his life while attempting to rescue people who were stranded due to the flood. According to the U.S. Forest Service, more rain fell in the San Gabriel Mountains in nine days than in New York City had in a year.
The team had been called to La Paloma Flats in Big Tujunga where residents including a sick child had to be evacuated.
When the team arrived, they saw a rapidly running river and noted that the bridge was gone.
“And oh it was raining,” said Warren Boehm, a team member in 1969.
George Novinger was a team member at the time and Rea’s friend and neighbor.
“Chuck and I drove to the rescue together,” he said.
The team divided into two sections. One would use a bow and arrow to shoot a line across the river, and the second team was to investigate a possible way across the river.
Novinger was the one who shot the arrow; Rea was on the other team. Rea’s team was using fallen tree limbs to cross the river where they could. The team had lost radio contact but at some point they found that the other team had been successful with the arrow and they were called back.
At some point Rea headed back on his own. It was difficult to hear anything with the thunderous noise of the rapid river, and it was dark, very dark.
In an apparent attempt to cross back over the river, Rea had fallen. Roger Baits, one of the strongest team members, saw Rea fall. He was on the up streamside of a log and was pushed under it. His safety lines held but the water was pounding him.
Baits crawled out on a log and grabbed him. He held him up as long as he could but the current was strong. Other team members tried to help, but again the current was too strong.
“I was devastated,” Novinger said. “The current was just too strong.” Several members of the team that were there that night were at the dedication Monday. And some of them, along with current team members, had returned to the area where Rea had lost his life to gather stones for the memorial.
Team members that knew Rea – a U.S. Navy veteran – described him as neat and precise.
“His desk was organized. Everything was in its place,” Boehm said. “That was the Navy in him.”
“He was a very good friend and neighbor,” Novinger added.
“This has been very emotional,” said Rea’s daughter Loretta. “This has been an emotional rollercoaster for our family.”
She added she liked seeing the members of her dad’s team again, that Boehm had kept the family informed of the progress of the memorial.
“It is nice to know that [my father] is not forgotten,” she said.
She and her mother said they had a lot of support from the community after Rea’s death, from dinners being brought to their home to deputies keeping an eye on Rea’s daughters as they walked to and from school.
Debbie Scalero, another of Rea’s daughter, said that her definition of a hero was her dad.
“It think it is excellent that this is 2011 and this happened in 1969, and the community still remembers,” Novinger said.
To read more about the story of Deputy Horr and Reserve Deputy Chuck Rea visit: www.crescentavalleyweekly.com/news/10/01/2010/cv-sheriff’s-memorial-fundraising-efforts-kickoff/