Sheriff’s deputies Ron Larson and Mike Lepin joined Bethanne Kronick Blann in celebrating the legacy of her late husband. photo by Katy Yoder
Sheriff’s deputies Ron Larson and Mike Lepin joined Bethanne Kronick Blann in celebrating the legacy of her late husband. photo by Katy Yoder
In January, when students at Black Butte School in Camp Sherman were invited to write a letter to Deputy Dave Blann, some of them remembered his laugh and playful nature. Others were too new to Camp Sherman and never got to meet him before he passed away last year.

For 24 years, “Deputy Dave,” as he was widely known, lived in the Camp Sherman community and was a friend and protector for his neighbors. By the time students finished their letters and illustrations, even those who never met him knew he was a very special person.

For his wife, Bethanne Kronick Blann, awarding the students for their entries in the essay contest was the culmination of a memorial for Deputy Dave. The event took place just a few days after the second anniversary of his death.

“It was a perfect day, and things went just as I had hoped,” she said. “I know Dave smiled all day. This was such a huge honor for him, for the Black Butte School students, and the community of Camp Sherman. For me personally, my dream for the memorial was achieved: for Dave to be remembered and honored, and for the students to learn an appreciation for law enforcement in our society.”

Some community members were disappointed there wasn’t more of a presence and show of support by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO), Deputy Dave’s employer for 24 years. Bethanne was appreciative to be joined by two deputies, Deputy Ron Larson of Columbia County Sheriff’s Office who previously worked with Dave at the JCSO, and Reserve Deputy Mike Lepin from the JCSO.

Deputy Lepin spoke to the students about his childhood impression of what being a sheriff was all about. On television he saw guys on horses with big hats or lots of car chases and wrecks. He wanted to be a police officer and when he finally was one, he got to meet officers like Deputy Dave.

“Dave reminded me of that old Western deputy sheriff, who rode around on a horse saving everybody,” he said. “I saw in Dave that guy who goes off by himself and saves the world. Always with a big cheesy grin and a big mustache.

“Dave was always doing stuff that made the community better, whether he was doing police work, search and rescue, or picking on us guys who hadn’t been there as long as him. I never walked away from him without a smile on my face. I learned a lot from him. I’m trying to put what he taught me into how I work with people. Hopefully, I can make them smile too.”

Lepin ended his talk by thanking the students for honoring his friend and coworker.

Deputy Larson spoke to the students as well. He told them he knows it’s important for law enforcement to listen to what kids have to say. He appreciated the letters they wrote.

“Understanding what the next generation is going through is important so law enforcement knows where they’re coming from,” Larson said. “Dave would sit down with me and talk to me and listen to what I had to say. For him to live and work in the Camp Sherman community for 24 years, and to have a positive relationship with almost everybody in the neighborhood was impressive. It was hard not to cry reading some of the letters.”

There were three judges who read all the entries: Corporal Jason Pollock, who attended the January event; Camp Sherman resident and artist Glenn Corbett; and Bethanne. They sat together going over the wonderfully written and illustrated letters to Deputy Dave. Corbett said it was hard to judge with so many great entries. Judges looked at creativity, content and effort, based on students’ age. In the end, they decided to do four prizes with two runners-up and two grand prizes.

The two grand-prize winners, who were both 9 years old, each received a mountain bike. Roxanna Gray wrote a letter recounting a time she met Deputy Dave:

“I remember when I first saw you. Me and my sisters were riding our bikes in Camp Sherman. You were driving your police car and stopped. I felt nervous inside because I thought we were in trouble. But instead you said, ‘Thanks for wearing your helmet kids.’ Then I felt happy inside and proud. I miss seeing you… and I still always wear my helmet. Love, Roxanna Gray.”

The other grand-prize winner was 9-year-old Orion Roper, who did an acrostic poem about what law enforcement officers should be. The poem used Deputy Dave to describe the answer. Words like protecting, understanding, trustworthy, enthusiastic, and vigilant were in the poem.

The runners-up were Saul Roper, first grade, and Amaya Contreras, seventh grade. Their letters to Deputy Dave touched the hearts of the judges and won them a hydration backpack to use when they ride bikes, which was one of Deputy Dave’s favorite activities. In addition, all the entrants received a Deputy Dave memorial water bottle imprinted with his three rules to live by: “First, have fun. Second, make someone smile, and; third, see rule number one.”

Bethanne was touched by every letter to her late husband. The students’ ideas, images, and words reflected their appreciation for Deputy Dave and their understanding that law-enforcement personnel are an important and necessary part of community life. Blann’s value was increased even beyond his duty and dedication to Camp Sherman residents. He also brought love, a sense of humor, and a heart big enough to embrace the entire community. The Black Butte School students returned the favor.