A new sign posted along South Hamilton Road in Madison Township likely goes unnoticed by many drivers who use the highway, but it has great meaning for many others.
It reads, "Patrolman Dane L. Rowe Memorial Highway," and marks the area where the Madison Township police officer was struck and killed 30 years ago while directing traffic at an accident scene between Gerling Boulevard and Wingate Road.
Even after three decades, those tragic events remain fresh in the minds of those who knew Rowe, a 24-year-old "wet-behind-the-ears" patrolman who, despite his short time in law enforcement, left his mark on the profession.
"It's just one of those things that's continued to bother you over the years," said Gary McDonald, who was a sergeant with the township department. Now retired, McDonald was Rowe's training officer.
"I made a promise not only to Dane and his family, but also to myself that I would find a way for him to be remembered," he said. "He was such a young man."
McDonald, a former Madison Township trustee, reached out to state Rep. Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus), who introduced House Bill 350, the legislation needed to rename a section of state Route 317 (Hamilton Road) in Rowe's memory.
The sign was erected Nov. 5, the same date in 1988 that Rowe died during the early morning hours after being struck at 9:30 p.m. the night before.
Rowe's family, friends and others attended a dedication ceremony Nov. 30.
Police Chief Gary York graduated with Rowe from the Central Ohio Police Officers Training Academy in February 1988. York got a job with Groveport's department and would soon get to know Rowe during conversations in their cruisers during shifts.
He said he won't forget the scene the night Rowe was hit by a vehicle driven by a Fairfield County sheriff's detective, who was not charged. Investigators concluded that poor lighting and wet road conditions were factors in the accident.
Rowe had just started his shift when he was ordered to direct traffic at an accident scene, York said.
Spectators attending a Groveport Madison football game were parked along Hamilton Road because parking spaces at the school had been filled, he said.
"When I got to the scene, I remember vividly seeing a boot sitting upright in the middle of the road," York said. "(The impact) had knocked Dane out of his boots."
Hours later, Rowe died from multiple injuries. He had served just six months as a Madison Township police officer.
In testimony before the Ohio House Transportation and Public Safety Committee, McDonald described Rowe as "a giant of a man, not only because of his physical stature but because of his intellect, concern and willingness to share with his fellow officers and to those citizens whom he served, with fair treatment and justice."
Rowe himself might have best explained his love for his profession in an essay he wrote, "Why I Want To Become A Police Officer," while at the training academy in September 1987.
"I have chosen police work as my profession for a number of reasons," he wrote. "I enjoy working out-of-doors regardless of the weather. I like taking on new and exciting challenges and enjoy meeting and helping people."
In concluding his essay, he wrote, "I hold a police officer's position as one of the most honorable and respectful roles that one can obtain."
"The comfort we've taken in all of this after 30 years is that he loved what he did," said Rowe's widow, Linda Rowe Lipsitt, who has since remarried, has two children and lives in Michigan. "He really enjoyed the people he worked with and was proud to be an officer, so it's quite lovely to honor him, and in a way, everybody who works in that capacity."