In early 2010, I embarked on creating my book “Keeping a Blue Light On: A Citizen’s Tribute to the Seattle Police Department.” The inspiration to do it was to honor the five Seattle-area police officers who had been gunned down in late 2009, officers who were killed in the line of duty because they were police officers.
I have often wondered why I felt so passionately about and have continued to feel increasingly passionate about law enforcement. People often ask me if I am related to anyone in law enforcement and I explain that I am not.
Well, all of that changed in the most unexpected way. My sister, who lives in Erie, PA where we grew up, saw a story in the Erie Times last week about the new Chief of the Erie Police Department. In the story was a reference to officers who had been killed in the line of duty, including a Sgt. Leo Waldinger. My sister said, “do you think this was Nana’s brother?” Nana was our beloved paternal grandmother. Her maiden name was Waldinger. I called my cousin, one of my few living relatives on my father’s side, and asked her – did Nana have a brother who was a police officer? She said yes. I said, did he die in the line of duty? She said, yes. His name was Leo. I was floored.
For perspective, my father died when I was a child and my grandparents died when I was a teenager. I never heard or at least don’t recall being told that my grandmother had a brother who was a police officer killed in the line of duty at the age of 32. He was off duty but responded with another officer to a call of a hostage situation. My great uncle and the other responding officer, Patrolman Walter May, were shot while trying to rescue the hostage. The incident took place on Nov. 18, 1949 – the same date on which my father would die in 1966 at the age of 33. The officers were taken to the hospital. My great uncle, Sgt. Leo Waldinger, died on Nov. 26, 1949 – 64 years ago today – leaving behind a wife and child, his sister, my grandmother (who was 44), and my father, his nephew, who as 16.
I cannot tell you the impact that this has had on me. It explains so much. And I can’t express in words the true honor I feel to know that the brother of my beloved grandmother, my own flesh and blood, served as a police officer and died in the line of duty.
Sergeant Leo Waldinger
E.O.W. Nov. 26, 1949
Gone But Not Forgotten