Mon, Aug 20, 2012 | by TJ JuskiewiczShare
By Regina Zilbermints, The Des Moines Register
Mark Ludwick, an agent with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, decided to ride RAGBRAI in honor of a police officer from his hometown killed in the line of duty.
When that officer’s son drove from Tipton to Cedar Rapids to meet with Ludwick, the two discovered they also had been elementary school classmates.
“It meant a lot to me that someone I knew chose to ride for my dad,” said Dan Hewitt.
Dan’s father, Donald Hewitt, was an officer with the Prairie City Police Department when he was killed during a high-speed chase in 1977.
Ludwick was one of 16 people who rode RAGBRAI with the Iowa Concerns of Police Survivors (COPS) team. Each carried a flag for an officer killed in the line of duty in Iowa. The tributes ranged from Benton County Sheriff Leland Fry, who died in 1938, to Iowa State Patrol Trooper Mark Toney, who was killed in a single-car accident less than a year ago.
On Sunday, team members gathered at the Iowa State Fairgrounds to present the flags they carried to the family members of four officers who were honored.
“It was just the greatest thing for them to represent my brother,” said Susan Dalasta, whose brother, Roger Hildreth, an 18-year veteran of the Des Moines Police Department, died unexpectedly in 2008 of a heart attack at the police station. “I can’t thank these young men enough.”
Scott Dahlstrom, a dispatcher with Des Moines police who rode with the RAGBRAI team, had worked for years with Hildreth.
“They asked me who I wanted to ride for,” he said. “Roger was the logical choice.”
During the ceremony, Dahlstrom handed the flag bearing Hildreth’s image to Dalasta.
“It was an honor to ride for him,” Dahlstrom said to Dalasta. “He was a good guy. We had a lot of fun together.”
Every member of the RAGBRAI team said they tool the opportunity to talk about the officers they were honoring with others on the ride.
Melisa Wissink, the president of the COPS organization, held a flag honoring her husband, Sean Wissink, who died in a car accident in 2007 while on his way to the airport to travel to a training.
“Know that your officer is never forgotten,” she said. “No matter how long it’s been.”