Early Wednesday afternoon, people started lining Highway 90 from south of Benson to Sierra Vista.
Wanting to pay tribute to Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever, hundreds lined the highway to watch a memorial procession in Dever’s honor. In a show of support for the late sheriff, his wife, Nancy, and the Dever family, some held signs bearing messages of condolences and some waved flags. A few had children in tow.
Guided by the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office, the procession included Dever’s family, close friends and dignitaries, along with law enforcement from Arizona and neighboring states as it traveled south from Benson and made its way to the Buena Performing Arts Center in Sierra Vista for Dever’s public memorial service.
The outpouring of support from the state and country served as a testament to the respect and admiration Dever earned during his four terms as Cochise County’s sheriff. Law enforcement officers from throughout the country sent condolences and sentiments, while several out-of-town officials attended Dever’s memorial service.
“There were at least five sheriffs from the east coast alone,” said Carol Capas, the county sheriff’s office spokeswoman. “The section we had reserved (at the Performing Arts Center) for dignitaries filled up quickly. Some of them were high ranking officials from Fort Huachuca. We had Tempe PD, Mesa PD, Cottonwood PD, Benson and Sierra Vista PD, Sierra Vista Fire, Utah State Police, Sedona Police, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, Pima County Sheriff’s Office, Department of Transportation and more.”
Capas said she started counting the law enforcement vehicles represented in Dever’s procession, but stopped at 125, with a long line stretching as far as she could see that had gone uncounted. James Henderson, one of the hundreds of spectators standing along Highway 90, said he started counting vehicles long after the beginning of the procession had passed by but, like Capas, stopped after the number topped 100. “I was just trying to get an idea of how many vehicles there were, but I gave up,” he said. “I’m guessing somewhere around 400, but I really don’t know.”
All along the route, people commented about the vast representation of law enforcement from other areas of the state.
“It was hard for me to keep a stiff upper lip,” said Bert Shill, who waved an Arizona flag as the procession passed. “The number of vehicles that participated in the tribute was amazing. And then to see all the different counties from all parts of Arizona was just incredible. I thought it was a fitting tribute for a very deserving and respected man.”
“This was an incredible thing to see,” said Karl Hamel of the Rain Valley Ranch area. Hamel, who watched the procession with his wife, Sylvia, and son, Kenny, said, “There were law enforcement agencies from all over. We saw Cottonwood, Pima County, Maricopa County and New Mexico. I thought this was a great tribute for a great sheriff.”
Susan Richards, a Whetstone resident who was traveling just ahead of the procession as she headed south from Benson, said, “There were miles and miles of emergency vehicles lined up along the highway when I drove by, all of them preparing to join the procession. And there were hundreds of citizens stopped along (Highway) 90 to watch,” she added. “When I first heard the newscasts about Larry Dever’s accident, I was stunned. He was such a well-liked, highly respected sheriff. I thought the procession in his honor was a fitting tribute. It was a reflection of how well respected Larry Dever was, not only throughout this region, but across Arizona and the country. His influence was far reaching and he will be missed.”
People standing along the route – from Benson to Sierra Vista - held signs and flags, many saluted as the procession drove by, while others stood silently and watched the long line of vehicles.
Law enforcement agencies, to include police departments of Douglas, Sierra Vista, Benson, Willcox, Huachuca City and Bisbee, along with the Department of Public Safety, volunteered to take calls for the county sheriff’s office during the memorial procession and service that followed, said Capas. In addition, the sheriff’s office command center was staffed by other agencies so the county sheriff’s personnel could attend the service, said Capas, who expressed her gratitude to the participating agencies for the way they all came together and assisted.
“All these things made this an invaluable asset in the planning of an event such as this,” Capas said.
She also extended words of praise to Chief Deputy Rod Rothrock, whom she said, “was there to oversee, orchestrate, monitor and participate while others were not.”
The crowd attending the memorial service Wednesday evening overflowed Buena Performing Arts Center, which seats 1,300.
“The tremendous attendance you see here tonight is a reflection of how far and how deep the loss of Larry Dever has affected our world,” said Rothrock, one of nine speakers at the memorial service.
Other speakers included: Brendon Dever, son of Larry Dever; Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl; Ken Kimmel, Sierra Vista police chief; Randy Redmond, Sierra Vista fire chief; Harold Eavenson, sheriff of Rockwell County, Texas; Aaron Kennard, executive director of the National Sheriff’s Association; Ralph Ogdon, sheriff of Yuma County; Todd Garrison of the Southwestern Border Sheriff’s Coalition and sheriff of Dona Ana County, N.M.