On Saturday June 16, six local high school students from Saugus, Revere, Wakefield and Winthrop were awarded scholarships at a reception at the Officer Vitale Memorial Park on Ballard Street, Saugus.
Madison Lyn Cunningham, MacKenzie Lee Cunningham and Jack Wayne Elam, all of Revere High School, wereawarded the 2018 Officer Harold L. Vitale Memorial Scholarship honoring the late Revere resident and former Saugus Police Officer.
Officer Vitale was a 1961 graduate of Revere High and later went on to serve in the U.S. Army and became a member of the Revere Auxiliary Police prior to his full-time appointment to the Saugus Police Department. Samuel Zichella’s father, Matt.currently serves on the Saugus Police Department.
This year’s recipients also included;
Samuel Matthew Zichella – Winthrop HS, Winthrop
Ricardo Alberto Martinez-Moretta, Saugus HS, Saugus
Michael Chankhour – Wakefield HS, Wakefield
“For our family to have the honor of coming to the beautiful park named after Harold for over 20 years and remember him for how he lived, not how he died is very satisfying for us. We’ve often been told not a lot of organizations are fortunate enough to host an event like this for more than 20 years, so we are extremely grateful to have opportunity” said Les Vitale, president of the Memorial Fund. “To enjoy this day with these kids and their families on the eve of Father’s Day is really special.” June 18 is the 33rd Anniversary of Harold’s death and, June 14 was his 75th birthday. Les went on to say, “His premature death meant he missed a lot, like his own children’s graduations, marriages and the birth of his grandchildren, but we carry on for him.” This year marks the 24th consecutive year the Fund has granted scholarships.
As Victoria Vitale, the niece to her late uncle, ran around snapping pictures of the attendees and scholarship recipients she commented how important this day is her and her brother. “I was born in June of 1985, and Nick was born a little more than a year later, so we weren’t around or aware of the time when he was killed but for us this is a special time because it allows us to hear the stories and get to know him and reflect on his life.” Nick said, the reception brings us all together and a lot of our relatives attend so it’s also a big family reunion. We listen to his co-workers; my parents and my aunts and uncles share stories about him so even though he was killed just before I was born I really feel like I know him. He was the best,” said Nick. “Our Aunt Eileen tells us stories all the time about how much he loved family gatherings, so I know he’s really happy we keep doing this.” Victoria said, “I’m getting married next month and I’m kind of sad he can’t be there to celebrate it with me, but we’ll take a minute that day to remember him and the others in my family who’ve passed away. We call that ‘Vitale Pride’ and my uncles tell us Uncle Harold called it that, it’s awesome!” Victoria is currently an elementary school teacher at the Hill School and formerly taught at the McKinley School that was attended by Officer Vitale and 7 other members of his family.
Bob Vitale, a retired transit police officer and brother of the late officer said, “It’s always great to see a few of the older active members that remain on the job from Harold’s era and some of the retirees come down to enjoy this with us but it’s really great to see many of the younger guys show up to pay their respects. These guys don’t forget. A lot of the children of the officers have received scholarships and this year will be more of the same. This year we’re also going to take a minute to remember the life of the Yarmouth Police Officer Sgt Sean Gannon who just killed in the line of duty. A big part of our mission is to raise awareness, so we will take a minute to talk about and remember Sean.”
Eileen Vitale, the wife of the late officer remarked; “June 18 is always a tough day for me, it always has been and always will be. I love that we still host the park reception and the golf tournament.” She went on to say, “It’s a great, proud way to keep Harold’s memory alive. We’re also able to continue our support of victim advocate organizations who reached out to help us back in 1985. Organizations like the National C.O.P.S. (Concerns of Police Survivors) the N.E. Chapter C.O.P.S. and the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) receive financial support from us each year. This year we made a special gift to them to cover the cost of having Sgt. Sean Gannon’s name inscribed on the Memorial walls. Doing that is really important to us and we continue to make an impact.”
The Officer Vitale Memorial Fund, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) organization and was created in 1992 some seven years after Officer Vitale’s death. Officer Vitale was killed in the line of duty in the early morning hours of June 18, 1985, while attempting to make an arrest when he was dragged over 1,000 feet to his death. Officer Vitale was 42 at the time and married to his wife Eileen where he lived in Ipswich with three children, Paul, Michelle and JacLyn. Officer Vitale’s badge # 17 was retired upon his death. The Officer Vitale Memorial Park was constructed by the Town of Saugus in 1992 in his honor.
The Memorial Fund will be hosting its annual Golf Tournament on Monday, Aug. 6, at Ipswich Country Club at noon. Information submitted by Les Vitale, President Officer Harold L. Vitale Memorial Fund, Inc. c/o Caputo & Co, CPA’s 99 Conifer Hill Drive, Suite 202 Danvers, MA 01923 or visit on the web at www.vitalememorialfund.org.