75 Years After His Death, Fallen Officer Honored Thanks To Efforts Of His Daughter, Law Enforcement Across The Country - NBC Bay Area
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75 Years After His Death, Fallen Officer Honored Thanks To Efforts Of His Daughter, Law Enforcement Across The Country

June Amrhein was just 9-years-old in 1942 when her father, Louis Phipps, was killed in the line of duty. She was 83 when he was properly honored for it.

(Published Friday, June 2, 2017)

Most of the things 83-year-old June Amrhein of Half Moon Bay still has of her late father, Louis Phipps, fit neatly into a single bag.

His draft card. His police badge. A few old photographs.

Most, but not all.

There is one thing she wears proudly each and every day for all to see. "I inherited his smile," Amrhein said. "That's what everyone tells me that remembered him."

Remembering her father, it turns out, has been something of an obsession for Amrhein for the past 30 years. Or, better said, making sure her father's memory is honored is what she has longed for decades.

Amrhein is the oldest of Phipps' five children. She was 9-years-old in 1942 when he died.

A year earlier, the start of the United States' involvement in World War II, many young men in Amrhein's hometown of Ashland, Massachusetts went off to fight. That left many vacancies in the town's police and fire departments. Phipps left his job at a local clockmaker to join the police force.

In June of 1942, he was assaulted by a drunk patron at a bar in town. He died a few days later of his injuries.

"I just couldn't believe it," Amrhein said. "This was my hero. How could he be dead?"

For a number of reasons, not all of which Amrhein understands to this day, Phipps was never honored as a police officer who had died in the line of duty.

It was something that always bugged her, but didn't come completely to the surface until the 1980s when another fallen officer's picture when up on the wall at Ashland's police headquarters. "I said, 'Why isn't my father up there?' That's when the wheels started to work for me."

For years, Amrhein would talk to whomever she could contact in town government and the police department but was never able to convince anyone to take her cause seriously.

"I didn't have any records. I didn't have any evidence," Amrhein said.

But then, while cleaning out her mother's belongings after her death, Amrhein uncovered an old document that, in great detail, described the circumstances of her father's death.

Not long after, she also found a sympathetic ear on the department: Sgt. Greg Fawkes.

Once Fawkes, a police union representative, heard Amrhein's story, he got to work. "He told me this shouldn't be a problem," Amrhein said. Turns out, he was right.

Within just a few months, Amrhein got the world that her father's name was being added to the Fallen Officers National Memorial in Washington, DC. "I just sat down and cried. I couldn't believe it," Amrhein said.

All she had to do then, was find a way to get to the airport, to fly to the dedication last month. That proved to be no problem as well.

"It was a no-brainer," said Sgt. Leo Capovilla of the San Mateo County Sheriff's Department. Knowing that Amrhein was having difficulty finding a ride to the airport, Fawkes had called his counterparts in the Bay Area. Capovilla quickly arranged rides to and from the airport as well as personal escorts through security, all the way to the gate.

"This was a fellow officer who gave his life," Capovilla said. "I didn't have to think twice."

Amrhein says the ceremony in Washington was everything she knew it would be. Though she never knew just how this honor would happen, and couldn't have guessed the unexpected turns her journey would take, she always knew it would happen. There just wasn't another option.

"I was never going to give up. No. It had to happen."

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