The Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa

2012 RAGBRAI

RAGBRAI Team Caps Salute to Fallen Iowa Police Officers

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.”

Des Moines Police Dispatcher Scott Dahlstrom speaks with Susan Dalasta, whose brother, a Des Moines police officer, died unexpectedly in 2008.

Regina Zilbermints covers public safety for the Des Moines Register. Regina can be reached at rzilbermin@dmreg.com or on Twitter via @RZilbermints.

2 Comments

Michael Knapp, Aug 20, 2012 at 7:15 am

Great article! Good to see RAGBRAI’ers double dipping on their summer’s fun by putting their miles into projects like this. Team Flamingo has been doing this since RAGBRAI X, and has raised nearly $100,000 for a child care agency in Waterloo, Iowa, helping them to build handicap accessible playgrounds, buy classroom equipment and fund child care scholarships for low-income and at-risk children.

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