In Focus: Artist Honors Officers & K-9s Lost In The Line Of Duty
Mary Corwin is an artist who at times is working on several projects, and she calls one in particular her labor of love and passion: Corwin creates ornaments to honor police officers and K-9s who were lost in the line of duty across the United States.
“I didn’t want the officers hanging donuts on the tree or something, so we came up with the idea to make ornaments honoring them,” said Corwin. “We’ve been doing it ever year since then.”
It started 20 years ago, and Corwin is notified when an officer or K-9 dies. She gets information like their name and department from a memorial page. Corwin takes each loss personal.
“So far this year, we’ve lost 100 officers and I think 17 K-9s,” said Corwin. “They say that’s slightly down from last year by a couple percentages, but every one lost is one too many.”
Mary does about 150 ornaments each year. That’s almost 3,000 total since she first began.
“There’s not a year that goes by that I don’t break down at some point, but they’re my family,” said Corwin. “The boys here at the Grand Rapids Police Department, they know I’m their mom.”
Corwin has used different shapes in the past. This year’s ornament has a blue line that is a symbol of law enforcement’s commitment to protect others.
“They’re painted. I do the lettering,” said Corwin. “One of our sergeant’s family helps me tie the ribbons on.”
Bill Litchke spent about 25 years with the Grand Rapids Police Department. His contribution to the project is cutting out the ornaments. He says the cards and letters from the families giving thanks are valuable.
“It’s an awful shame that we have to lose these officers, but it’s nice to know that there’s people that appreciated the job they did and that we care about the families of those officers.”
Every year the ornament is sent to the officer or K-9’s department along with a letter from the Grand Rapids Police Chief and a request that the ornament be passed along to the family.
“We have a saying in law enforcement. The saying is, ‘we shall never forget,’ and this is just our way of remembering those that made the ultimate sacrifice.”
Some of the losses hit close to home. Corwin has made seven ornaments for officers from the Grand Rapids Police Department. During the holidays a tree with all of the ornaments is on display.