For almost two decades, a modest memorial to Whitehall police officer Terry McDowell -- the only Whitehall officer to be killed in the line of duty -- stood inside a traffic island at Little Flower and Saint Francis lanes in the Norton Field subdivision, where McDowell served as liaison officer.

Ronnie Brewer envisioned something better.

"I wanted something permanent for Terry," said Brewer, who rode in McDowell's cruiser as an auxiliary officer and played softball and hunted with McDowell when they were off duty.

McDowell was fatally shot Aug. 24, 2001, when he and officer Eric Brill delivered a traffic citation to a residence on Beechbank Road. Brill was shot in the face and lost vision in one eye, forcing his early retirement from the Whitehall Division of Police.

The man who shot both officers fatally shot himself in the backyard of the residence moments later.

Police had arrested the man earlier that day for OVI and had returned to the residence to issue a summons to his wife, who had arrived at the station and drove her husband home without a driver's license. The man fired a large-caliber pistol through the front screen door of the residence as the officers approached.

Brewer said the former memorial, placed by the neighborhood, had become a little worse for wear.

"I was maintaining it and took it to the service shop a few times to repair it," said Brewer, a 1982 Whitehall-Yearling High School graduate and a 25-year employee of the city's service department.

"It had been hit by the weed eater a few times, and after (many winters and summers) the vinyl was hard to keep looking good," he said.

His first move was to take it to a trophy shop and have it reconditioned at his own expense, but he said he still didn't like how it looked.

Next, he went to Salem Stones, an Obetz business that operated on Poth Road in Whitehall from 2008-16.

The result is an etched granite memorial, resembling a tombstone, which was publicly dedicated May 2, immediately after the 32nd Ohio Peace Officer Memorial Ceremony at the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy in London.

McDowell's family and friends and the law-enforcement community gather at McDowell's memorial each Aug. 24, on the anniversary of his slaying, but after attending the annual statewide memorial, held each May 2 in London, they gathered to dedicate the new memorial.

McDowell was survived by his wife, Angie; son, Seth; and daughter, Taylor.

After McDowell's death, Angie McDowell founded Get Behind the Badge, an organization that provides emotional and material support to the families of officers killed in the line of duty.

Seth McDowell was 8 years old and Taylor McDowell was 11 months old when their father was killed.

Today, Seth McDowell is a Union County sheriff's deputy and often speaks at his father's memorial ceremony each August. Taylor McDowell spoke publicly for the first time during the May 2 dedication of the new memorial.

"I've never done this before, but I wanted to speak on my mother's behalf today," she said, her voice cracking while her brother provided support.

Angie McDowell could not attend the ceremony due to illness.

Taylor McDowell thanked those gathered May 2 for their support and all the previous times McDowell's friends and the Whitehall community had come together.

"Terry is always with us," said Whitehall police Chief Mike Crispen, who offered Scripture to describe McDowell's ultimate act serving the residents of Whitehall.

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends," said Crispen, reciting John 15:13.

"Terry laid down his life for his friends, and there is no greater love than that," Crispen said. "No matter what we do here today, we are not ever going to be able to reach that level, but we are going to continue to do as much as we can to thank him and his family."

The new memorial was donated by Salem Stones.

After Brewer explained the purpose of the memorial and provided the company with a picture of McDowell, employees traveled to the Whitehall Division of Police to obtain an image of his No. 32 badge, using both to create the etchings in McDowell's memorial.

"It was the very least I could do. Whitehall police do so much for the community," said Lenin Kailasammani, owner of Salem Stones.

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo