The Pipes and Drums of the Emerald Society of the Chicago Police Department perform at an annual Peace Officers Memorial Ceremony in 2013 at Cermak Woods in Lyons, the site of a proposed permanent memorial for police officers from Cook County departments who were killed in the line of duty. (Ed Sajdak photo)
Courtesy of Ginger Brashinger Daily Southtown
If persistence truly pays off, the Peace Officers Memorial Foundation of Cook County will eventually break ground for the Peace Officers Memorial.
Ed Sajdak, a superintendent of the Criminal Courts Division for the Cook County Sheriff's Department and founder and president of the foundation, said after 15 years of fundraising and planning, the foundation has reached about halfway to its $3 million goal. That amount is needed, he said, to build a memorial in honor of Cook County police officers who have died in the line of duty or have been killed while in the performance of duty.
Sajdak said an important step in the process was accomplished in 2001, when the Cook County Forest Preserve Board of Commissioners set aside a piece of land for the memorial at Cermak Woods Forest Preserve in Lyons.
But, there's still a long way to go to complete the task, Sajdak said. His not-for-profit organization needs more private donations if the memorial is to be built.
"We'd like to raise $1 million (more) as quickly as possible because at that point, we can go ahead and break ground and the (rest) we can raise as it's being built," he said.
To that end, the foundation will hold its 14th annual Fall Fundraiser from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday at 115 Bourbon St. 3359 W. 115th St., Merrionette Park.
Tickets will be sold at the door or by calling 708-424-6749. The $35 ticket will include a food buffet, beverages and live music emceed by Chicago radio personality Eddie Volkman.
Activities will include split-the-pot, cash and pick-your-choice raffles and prize giveaways. A silent auction will feature autographed sports memorabilia.
Sajdak said the idea to erect a Cook County peace officers memorial began with the 1992 death of Cook County Deputy Sheriff Al Brown following an altercation with a prisoner at the Markham County Courthouse that left Brown with a fatal head injury.
While working to have Brown's star retired, Sajdak and his fellow officers discovered that although Chicago, state and national memorials exist honoring fallen officers, there was nothing closer than Springfield that honored members of fallen officers from agencies in Cook County who were not members of the Chicago Police Department. He said his research showed that 71 departments in Cook County have lost an officer in the line of duty.
"They deserve to have some recognition," he said.
Sajdak said foundation members also believed it could be difficult for some families to travel to Springfield to visit the place where loved ones were honored for their service.
"So, when I looked at that … there really should be something here in … the community, the county (where) they served and paid the ultimate sacrifice, that should recognize their sacrifice and give us an opportunity to pause and show our respects," Sajdak said.
The foundation was started in 2001, and in 2002 Oak Park architect George Beach, of B3 Architecture, and Hans Butzer, a former resident of Flossmoor resident who designed the Oklahoma City National Memorial, worked with Sajdak to design the proposed Peace Officers Memorial.
Sajdak said each corner of a five-pointed star in the design, which can be seen at the foundation website, points to a different area of the county where law enforcement officers serve.
Sajdak said the names of every fallen Cook County police officer will be listed on the memorial, and a separate area will honor the deceased dogs of the police K-9 units.
Sajdak said currently 743 fallen Cook County officers are on the list of those who will be honored.
"We picked a beautiful piece of property … where people … can go and sit and contemplate at this memorial," Sajdak said.
More information on the memorial effort is at www.pomfcc.org.
Ginger Brashinger is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.