NAPPANEE — Dozens gathered in Nappanee Sunday, Nov. 3, for the final public services honoring Sgt. Brant “Butch” Nine, who was killed in the line of duty Nov. 3, 1988.
Nappanee Police Chief Julie Dijkstra estimated there were between 60 and 70 people in attendance at the service, which was held at Bremen Cemetery.
Dijkstra said the turnout for the “somber” service was one of the largest they’ve had in 25 years of holding the memorials in Nine’s honor.
“I think that because it was on a Sunday helped a lot with the family being able to get there,” she said after the service.
Dijkstra said there were also approximately 30 vehicles that participated in the procession from the Nappanee Police station to the cemetery, including Nappanee police cars, two fire trucks, a Bremen police car and citizen vehicles.
On Nov. 3, 1988, Nine and patrolman Phillip Hochstetler responded to a call at a jewelry store where an individual tried to pass a bad check.
When Nine tried to arrest then 24-year-old Michael Steele, the suspect took Nine’s gun and shot him fatally in the chest.
Nine’s family and friends have since held memorial services every year on the very day that Nine was killed, Dijkstra said.
This year was particularly special, not only because it was the last year for public services, but because of two of the speakers.
Nine’s widow, Marah Lee Nine, and the owner of the jewelry store, Nine’s brother-in-law Brad Newcomer, both spoke at the ceremony for the first time.
The service also featured Nine’s grandson, Brantlee Joseph, singing “Amazing Grace.”
After 25 years, however, Nine’s family had asked that this be the last year for public services.
That doesn’t mean Nine will be forgotten.
The family will continue to hold private ceremonies in the future. Those services will be augmented by written and video-recorded memories of Nine collected at the reception that followed the service at Bremen Cemetery.
Nine’s wife “knows the stories because she’s heard them for 25 years, but she wants them to be preserved,” Dijkstra said. “It’s making sure that all the memories and the stories of Butch are preserved for the future generations of their family.”
The collection of memories is also important to the Nappanee Police, Dijkstra said.
“You don’t ever want the officers to forget, either, the sacrifice he made for our community and our department.”