Island loses a great resource: Officer Lannon
|Lannon visitation, funeral,
Visitation for Holmes Beach Police Officer Pete Lannon, who died June 1, will be 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Tuesday, June 5, at Brown and Sons Funeral Home, 604 43rd St. W., Bradenton.
A funeral Mass will be held at 1 p.m. Wednesday, June 6, at Sts. Peter and Paul the Apostles Catholic Church, 2850 75th St. W., Bradenton.
The Mass will be followed by a procession to Manasota Memorial Park, 1221 53rd Ave. E., Bradenton.
Immediately following the burial, the family and the HBPD will welcome guests to a reception at the Elks Lodge No. 1511, 2511 75th St. W., Bradenton.
|'I don't think we'll ever be able to replace him. How do you fill those shoes?' - Holmes Beach Police Chief Jay Romine.
"I'm sure he wants [the kids] to remember his teachings,
aspire to be great caring adults and strive to achieve
their highest goals. Reach for their dreams...." -
|Learning to cope
On learning Friday morning that "Officer Pete" Lannon had died, Joselin Presswood set out "all on her own" with chalk in hand to remember him in her own way, with a drawing of Officer Lannon on top of the world, surrounded by figures of the artist, now a fifth-grader at Anna Maria Elementary, and her friends, Elena, Josh, Holly, Ricky and Tori. The artwork is on the sidewalk at The Islander newspaper office. Islander Photo: Bonner Joy
If the soft rain and gray clouds weren't enough to dampen Island
spirits Friday, June 1, the news of Holmes Beach Police
Officer Pete Lannon's passing put many in a somber mood.
was a fixture at Anna Maria Elementary School for seven
years, where he taught students much more than just Drug Awareness Resistance
Education until illness prevented his return last fall.
been more than just a school resource officer at AME, he has been an active member
of the Island community. Many who didn't know Lannon personally still looked
forward to being greeted with a smile and friendly wave as they passed the school
where he was the crossing guard for more than five years.
Lannon's presence in front of the
school was noticeably absent shortly after the start of the 2006-07 school year
and news soon followed that he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
his diagnosis in October 2006, the Island community
banded together, planning several fundraisers including
a spaghetti dinner and walk-a-thon to support his family as Lannon began
radiation treatment to shrink the size of the pancreatic tumor. He also
received small doses of intravenous chemotherapy drugs to help make the
tumor cells receptive to the radiation.
The illness caught people by surprise,
especially his family. At 48 years old and having overall
good health, doctors weren't
looking for anything so drastic when Lannon began complaining
of back pain earlier last year.
Wife Debra, whom Pete called his "rock," says, "He
put up a great fight even though we knew the odds were
against us with pancreatic and liver cancer.
"The past few weeks have been hectic
to say the least," she continued. "I was lucky enough
that my work-place, Lakewood Ranch Medical Women's Center, was able to give me as much time
off as I needed to care for Pete. I kept him at home as long as I could care
for him safely. Tuesday night was a very restless, uncomfortable night for him,
so Wednesday morning I decided to place him in the Ellenton Hospice House. They
made him very comfortable and at peace.
"His friends and family visited him
at all hours and his family was there at his passing.
I was wondering why he was hanging on so long," she said, "then I remembered
it was his mother's birthday June 1. He waited until 36 minutes after midnight [to
Lannon's fighting spirit and infallible
positive outlook as he battled this challenge in the public eye only made him
more of a positive role model for the community. Holmes Beach Police Chief Jay
Romine spent some time with Lannon shortly before his death and noted that although
he wasn't quite his "normal self" he was "joking and
keeping his spirits up as much as possible."
Lannon joined the Holmes Beach Police
Department after moving to the area from North Carolina
and taught the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program at AME. Tim Kolbe
was the principal when Lannon began his school duties.
"From the moment he walked into the
school you just knew, it's hard to pinpoint, but you just knew he was a
good guy," said Kolbe. "I remember I'd look out my window and
there he'd be walking in. He was so friendly - not a mean bit in
his spirit - and he never changed. We considered him part of our staff."
already miss him," said Jamie Walstad, AME parent and
friend. "He always wanted to be involved. He was a great leader and friend.
He was an angel to us here and I know he'll
be an angel in heaven."
"I am not sad for Pete," said
Joy Murphy, AME Parent-Teacher Organization president
and family friend. "Pete is in a better place and his pain is gone. I
am sad for his family; all those who loved him and those who will not
get a chance to know this wonderful man. Our community has lost a tremendous
asset. The Island is going to be missing a little bit of its sunshine
without Pete. It won't be the same to drive
by the school and not see his smiling face or not see him on summer patrol on
"Pete loved with all his heart and
gave everything with no reserve. Our school and our
community were blessed with him for just a short while. We will miss
sure I've ever
seen an officer have a more positive effect on a community," said Romine. "He
was here seven years but it feels like 70. I don't think we'll ever
be able to measure what he meant to the school and all the kids on whom he has
had an impact. I don't think we'll ever be able to replace him.
do you fill those shoes?"
Romine said that officers from across the
country are planning to attend the June 6 funeral services,
which will be a full law enforcement ceremony. In addition, Romine said
he received a letter May 31 from the DARE program announcing that beginning
in 2008 the statewide "DARE Officer of the Year" award will be named
after Lannon, who was a recipient of the award in 2005.
"He stands for everything DARE would
want in an officer," said Romine. "I think he'd want kids to
remember that if you have a good attitude you can do anything."
"I want them to
remember him as a fun-loving, vibrant man who had their
best interests at heart," said wife Debra. "I'm sure he wants them to remember his teachings,
aspire to be great caring adults and strive to achieve their highest goals. Reach
for their dreams. And remember him as someone who really enjoyed life and lived
for his work."
Debra said that the family is "holding
up extremely well right now. We have surprised ourselves."
A funeral mass will
be held at 1 p.m. Wednesday, June 6, at Sts. Peter
and Paul the Apostle on 75th Street in Bradenton. Graveside services
and burial will follow at Manasota Memorial Park, 1221 53rd St. E., Bradenton.
"[The family] chose row 9, lot 58, for his birthday (March 9, 1958),"
The Holmes Beach Police Department and the
Lannon family announced that guests are welcome at
a reception at the Elks Lodge No. 1511, 2511 75th St. W., Bradenton,
immediately following the service at Manasota Memorial Park.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made
to the Pete Lannon Memorial Fund at Wachovia Bank.
"He truly loved his AMI/AME
community. I know he will miss it," Debra said.
Candle light for Lannon
By Diana Bogan. Islander Reporter
There are many things I will
remember about Officer Pete Lannon - his affinity for Superman,
ability to create Etch-A-Sketch masterpieces, and how
he liked to see blue lights in windows at Christmas.
Lannon related a
story about the blue lights to me each year as we chatted
casually about how we each celebrated the holiday and
our family traditions.
According to Lannon, there is a tradition in which
people place a blue light in their window during the
winter holidays to let the police officers on duty know
that their services are appreciated.
Rather than wait for the holidays,
I plan to put a blue light or blue candle in my front
window Wednesday, after his memorial service - just to let him know how much I have
appreciated knowing him. I invite you to join me.
How to help kids cope with loss
Anna Maria Elementary
School students have lost a mentor and teacher with the
passing of School Resource Officer Pete Lannon. Lannon, a member of
the Holmes Beach Police Department, served the community and the school
for seven years. Not only was he a crossing guard, but also taught students
about drug awareness.
"Officer Lannon would want the kids
to keep their heads up, which is what we're all trying to do - it's
tough," said Holmes Beach Police Chief Jay Romine.
Anna Maria Elementary
School counselor Cindi Harrison and licensed therapist
Rosemarie Fisher of the Anna Maria Island Community Center
have compiled 10 strategies for parents and guardians to speak with
children about death and help guide them through the grieving process.
honest with children and use the word "death" rather than
other things that will be harder for children to understand.
death to the cycle of birth-life-death that is normal
for all people and even for animals.
- Use the faith context
of "heaven" and
life after death if this is your family's belief.
- Invite your
child to go to the funeral if they want to, but talk
to them about what it will be like before you go so
they will not be surprised that people are crying and that they may
see a coffin. Do not force your child to go to a funeral.
- In speaking
about cancer, make it clear to your child that many
people recover from cancer and do not die from it,
but that there are some cancers that are so strong that the body cannot
recover from the illness.
- Know that this death may remind them
of other deaths your family has experienced and they
may have more questions because they were younger at the time those occurred.
positive memories about the person who has died, not
just once, but often.
- Talk about the person's qualities
and strengths with your child and see how you can make
them part of your lives as a way of keeping the person alive through memories.
the person by planting a tree in your yard or some
other symbol that creates a place of memory.
- Put a picture
of the person in the child's room to remember them.
- If you see
that your child is not sleeping or seems to have lost
his/her appetite, consider counseling if symptoms last for more than
Harrison is available
for counseling by calling Anna Maria Elementary School
at 941-708-5527, and Fisher is also available for counseling through
the Center, call 941-778-1908.