SKOWHEGAN, Maine — Family and friends of slain Somerset County sheriff’s Cpl. Eugene Cole gathered with members of the law enforcement community to pay their respects Sunday night at the Skowhegan Armory.
The wake was an opportunity for the community to honor Cole and show support before the much larger memorial service planned for noon Monday at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. The Bangor event is expected to draw thousands.
“The [Cole family] are very loving and kind people,” said Carolyn Sabioe, who attended the visiting hours with three fellow Skowhegan residents. “A lot of us in the community won’t get to Bangor, so this is it for us.”
The fallen deputy was honored Sunday by more than 150 law enforcement officers from throughout New England. They marched over a quarter-mile from the Department of Health and Human Services office on North Avenue to the Skowhegan Armory, then filed into the building, where the deputy’s patrol vehicle was on display behind his closed casket, said Cpl. John MacDonald of the Maine Warden Service.
“Law enforcement are just an extension of the community,” Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster said outside the event. “We just enforce those laws that they enact. So not only was [the killing of Eugene Cole] an assault against us, it was an assault against the community, and I think that is in part the reason for the outpour, just because that horrific crime, that senseless murder affected us all.”
Cole was killed April 25 in Norridgewock while working an early morning shift. John Williams, 29, of Madison was arrested and charged with murder after a four-day manhunt.
“Law enforcement historically is a dangerous job and there’s always that risk,” said Somerset County Chief Deputy James Ross. “We pray no one has to go through it. That’s why I think when it does happen you see the outpouring of support from across the country.”
Visitors arriving at the event recalled Cole’s dry sense of humor, admirable work ethic, kindness and love for music. As a lead guitarist, he played with the band Borderline Express for over 20 years, and after his retirement from the group in 1994 he continued to fill in for them occasionally. Most recently, he and his brother Tom, known as The Cole Brothers, played at T&B’s pub in Skowhegan every month.
“My husband and I were blessed on a date night to see Eugene and Tom’s last performance together at T&B’s,” said Beckie Ganthner of Skowhegan, a neighbor and longtime friend of Cole family. “I’ve known the Cole family many years, just a wonderful bunch of people.”
Signs praising and honoring the fallen 61-year-old deputy have been erected on lawns and at businesses throughout Skowhegan and surrounding towns. And blue ribbons in support of Cole and his fellow officers have been tied to trees around town, where flags continue to be flown at half staff weeks after his death.
“He was a big part of the community, there was a lot of people who looked up to him one way or another. There are so many people here from all walks of life,” said Thomas Provencal, a Skowhegan native who attended the event with his wife, Samantha Provencal, a close friend of Cole’s daughter, Jill. “It’s just a huge congregation of different types of people, either out of respect for him or out of support of the family.”
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