Gone but not forgotten

Mt. Pleasant police keep alive memories of deceased officers

Max Willey’s memorial plaque was moved from the former sheriff’s office building to the new police department. Willey died while on duty in 1982. (Photo courtesy of Mt. Pleasant Police Department)
Max Willey’s memorial plaque was moved from the former sheriff’s office building to the new police department. Willey died while on duty in 1982. (Photo courtesy of Mt. Pleasant Police Department)

MT. PLEASANT — The Mt. Pleasant Police Department is continuing to keep the memory of past officers alive.

At the beginning of July, the department installed a new bench in memory of previous Chief Terry K. Sammons and relocated a flagpole memorial for Officer Max Willey from the former sheriff’s office to the current police station.

Sammons, who died in February, served as police chief for 17 years. He worked at the department for 37 years as an officer, sergeant, lieutenant, and detective before assuming the role of chief.

Sammons’ wife, Christi, who attended the dedication with her daughters and grandchildren, said seeing the bench was both rewarding and bittersweet.

“We can go there and feel his presence. He spent so many years in the police department,” she said.

Sammons was a key player in the construction of the department’s current building, where the department has been located since 2010.

“He helped with all the plans and architects with the designing,” Christi said.

She added that she hopes Sammons will be remembered as being dedicated and loyal to the city and a friend to everybody.

“He was well-respected and loved all the guys he worked with,” she said. “He would have done anything for them.”

Police Chief Lyle Murray, who worked with Sammons, said the former chief “dedicated a lot of his life to the city of Mt. Pleasant.”

“He hired me and gave me my start in investigations,” Murray said.

Sheriff Rich McNamee, who also worked under Sammons, described the former chief as a “great guy, good police chief and good cop.”

“I enjoyed working for him. Terry was one of those guys that led by example. He always told us to ‘do your job and do it well. Show the citizens you want to earn their respect.’ Many people used him as a role model,” McNamee said.

Willey’s memorial rededication was prompted after the sheriff’s office made its move to a new facility. The former building, which had housed both the police department and sheriff’s office, was vacated late last year but the memorial remained.

McNamee decided to reach out to Willey’s family about the memorial and plans were made to relocate the plaque to the new police department.

“He served well and was an upstanding fella. Just because the building moved doesn’t mean the memorial plaque shouldn’t be honored. We wanted to preserve that history,” McNamee said.

Willey served as an officer from 1966 to 1982 and died while on duty. Bob Griffith, currently a city council member, worked as Willey’s partner for about four years and was with the officer the night of his death.

The pair were nearing the end of their shift when Willey began exhibiting symptoms of a heart attack. He later died in the early hours of the morning after Griffith took the officer to the hospital.

“Max was very conscious of the town. He knew everything. If something was out of place, he knew it. He patrolled the buildings like a hawk,” Griffith said.

The City Council member added Willey could tell a door was unlocked just by looking at it.

“He knew his stuff. He would cruise the alleys and check the businesses all the time. The other officers didn’t have to do it because Max was doing it,” he added.

Griffith said he felt moving the memorial was important because Willey “was working when he died,” and serves as a symbol the officer was there to protect the city. Additionally, Willey, who worked the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift, was not always recognized by people in town.

“I’m glad the plaque is there. When he was working, everyone else was sleeping so sometimes people in town didn’t know him,” he said.