U.P. Peace Officers Memorial Service in Marquette

As part of National Police Week commemorations across the country, officers from several departments will gather in Marquette May 20 for an Upper Peninsula Peace Officers Memorial Service.
The service – which is held annually in a different community – is open to the public and honors officers who were killed in the line of duty from the U.P. and bordering Wisconsin and Ontario, Canada, police or corrections departments.
“Each year, we take this opportunity to remember the fallen from within our ranks and pay our respects to surviving family members,” said Lt. Pete Wright, a Michigan conservation officer with the Department of Natural Resources in Marquette. “It is very important to honor and pay tribute to the service and the sacrifices made by these brave officers.”
The Upper Peninsula Peace Officers Memorial Service is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Friday, May 20, at the Superior Dome, located off Presque Isle Avenue, on the campus of Northern Michigan University.
At 9 a.m., an officers’ motorcade will travel to the dome from the Michigan State Police post inA Michigan conservation officer with an American flag at a fallen officers' memorial dedication ceremony. Negaunee Township. A bagpiper will begin the service with a processional at 10 a.m. and NMU President Fritz Erickson will welcome attendees.
Marquette County Undersheriff Mike Klein will detail the history of Project Blue Ribbon, which, along with Project Blue Light, memorializes officers and seeks to make the public aware of law enforcement.
Retired Marquette City Police Chief Mike Angeli, who is now Marquette’s city manager, and Terrence Jungel, CEO/executive director of the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association, will offer remarks before keynote speaker, U.S. District Court Judge R. Allan Edgar.
A roll of fallen officers will be called and family members will lay a wreath. Taps will be played, followed by a rifle salute and the presentation of a plaque.
In 1962, the year before President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, he proclaimed May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day, with the week containing that day designated as Police Week.
The nation’s largest Police Week commemoration is held each year in Washington, D.C., with several events scheduled, including the National Peace Officers Memorial Service, which has drawn as many as 40,000 officers.
A Michigan candlelight vigil honoring men and women who have served in law enforcement is held each May at the state capitol in Lansing. This year’s 23rd Annual Law Enforcement Officers Candlelight Memorial Service was held May 2.
A memorial plaque outside the Michigan DNR Customer Service Center in Marquette remembers six fallen conservation officers.Since 1885, 27 officers working in the U.P. for various police or corrections departments have died while on the job, including Michigan conservation officers Arvid Erickson (1926), Emil Skoglund (1926), Andrew Schmeltz (1936), Thomas Mellon (1947) and Gerald Welling (1972).
In addition, 10 U.P. natives, who died working for police departments in the Lower Peninsula, also will be honored at the Marquette memorial service, along with 32 officers from Ontario and nine from Wisconsin who worked for departments in areas bordering the U.P.
“For the families and friends of the fallen officers, the loss is always there; whether it was recent or decades ago, it has left a mark,” said Stacy Welling-Haughey, who has been a speaker at past U.P. Peace Officer Memorial Services. Her grandfather was conservation officer Gerald Welling. “That is why these events are appreciated – that others pause to remember and share in that loss.”
Across Michigan, since 1908 – when Frank S. Wilson became the first Michigan game and fire warden to be killed in the line of duty – a total of 13 Michigan conservation officers have died while doing their duty to protect the state’s world-class natural resources, the environment and the health and safety of the public.
Wilson was found dead from two gunshots to the head in the woods near Traverse City.A line of Michigan conservation officers at a fallen officers' memorial dedication ceremony.
Game, Fish and Forestry Deputy Warden Julius Salomonson died that same year when he, his brother and a deputy sheriff drowned while trying to apprehend violators operating illegal nets in Muskegon County.
As part of a May 18 Muskegon County Police Memorial Service, a 25-foot DNR boat will be dedicated to Salomonson.
The most recent Michigan conservation officer killed while working was 1st Lt. Art Green III of Farmington Hills who died in 2015 when the plane he was piloting crashed during a nighttime approach to the Harbor Springs Airport in Emmet County.
Four of the five conservation officers who died on duty in the U.P. were killed investigating game hunting or trapping violations.
Erickson and Skoglund
Sketch of Arvid Erickson, killed in September 1926.On Sept. 26, 1926, officers Arvid Erickson and Emil Skoglund attempted to arrestSketch of Emil Skoglund, killed in 1926.
an unlicensed hunter on the Sands Plains in Marquette County. Erickson was shot twice in the back of the head by the hunter, Roy Nunn. In coming to Erickson’s aid, Skoglund was shot twice in the face.
Nunn weighted the officers’ bodies down with bricks and dropped them into Lake Superior off a dock in the city of Marquette. Erickson, 30, was survived by a wife and two children. Skoglund, 36, was unmarried.
Nunn was sentenced to life in prison.
Officer Andrew Schmeltz was killed Oct. 20, 1936, near the Carp River near Negaunee in Marquette Sketch of Andrew Schmeltz, killed in 1936.County. Schmeltz had been investigating a report of illegal trapping when he encountered Raymond Kivela, 27, along a trail.
Kivela confessed to killing Schmeltz with two gunshots. He then dragged the body to the edge of a swamp and left the area. He returned with several sticks of dynamite, which he detonated on Schmeltz’s body in hopes of destroying the remains.
Kivela was sentenced to life in prison.
On Oct. 23, 1947, conservation officer Thomas Mellon, 46, was with five others in a boat, on their way to battle a wildfire along the Manistique River in Schoolcraft County.Sketch of Thomas Mellon, killed in 1947.
Mellon was operating an outboard motor on the back of the boat. About a half-mile from the launch site, the boat struck a submerged dead log, which ripped open the bottom of the boat, stopping it.
As the boat began to sink, the men began to swim to shore through a strong current in a river 12 feet deep, 160 feet wide. Mellon and fellow boater Conrad Oberg could not swim. One of the other passengers from the boat tried to reach them using debris from the river. He was unsuccessful.
The bodies of Mellon and Oberg were recovered later that night.
On Sept. 10, 1972, officer Gerald Welling was killed when he and officer William Maycunich were investigating illegal bear hunting activity near Hermansville in Menominee County.
Sketch of Gerald Welling, killed in 1972.The two officers saw a light shine from a vehicle occupied by driver Kenneth Viau, 24, of Bark River and passenger Gary Johnson, 30, of Hermansville. The officers stopped the vehicle and approached it.
As the 54-year-old Welling got closer, Viau suddenly raced forward, striking the officer, who then became entangled in a hydraulic snowplow assembly on the front of the vehicle.
Welling was dragged underneath for about 100 feet. He was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.
Maycunich fired his gun at the vehicle and he arrested Viau, who was later convicted of negligent homicide and sentenced to serve one year in prison. Charges against Johnson, who had fled on foot, eventually were dismissed.
Michigan conservation officers are fully commissioned state peace officers who provide natural resources protection, ensure recreational safety and protect citizens by providing general law enforcement duties and lifesaving operations in the communities they serve.

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