Shrine to fallen deputy deserves community’s help

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The tiny American flag flutters vainly from its precarious perch, tied to a crumpled and dingy bouquet; a second dilapidated bouquet points skyward, whipped by the wind over the Androscoggin River and the whoosh of speeding traffic on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge

The memorial to Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Deputy David Rancourt needs work.

Rancourt died unexpectedly in early November, while scuba diving in the Androscoggin in his duty as chief of the county sheriff’s dive team. The 40-year-old, retired from the Army reserves after two tours in Iraq, left behind an 8-year-old boy and his pregnant wife, Dawn.

His passing shocked the close-knit sheriff’s office. One minute, the veteran officer was immersed in the river waters; the next, he was signaling for help. More than 2,000 mourners crowded the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul to pay their final respects to a devoted husband, soldier, officer and friend.

Since then, the impromptu shrine on the Veterans Memorial Bridge – which sits across the section of the river where the accident occurred – has been battered by the elements. Monday’s snowstorm was perhaps the worst blow, as the sanded roads and dirty snow are now pounding it.

Guy Desjardins, the Androscoggin County sheriff, drives across the bridge each day; his eyes train across Rancourt’s shrine each time. He decries its condition as well, and says consideration for a permanent marker honoring “ASO 15” is overdue.

We wholeheartedly agree. Rancourt gave his life while in the duty of this community, after protecting our interests abroad in Middle East conflicts. He was, in the words of his peers, a dedicated officer and a personal friend. His untimely passing deserves a permanent memorial, akin to the public park named for fallen Auburn officer Rodney Bonney, who drowned in 1981, while trying to save a child in the river.

“I’ve wanted to do something to mark that spot,” said Desjardins. “Even if it’s something simple, like a stencil with ‘ASO 15’ and the date.”

We feel this community can do better. Many organizations in the Twin Cities are devoted to preserving the memories of our servicemen and servicewomen; their expertise is needed to create a marker to honor the memory of Deputy David Rancourt.

Desjardins is doing his part. “There’s a new sheriff in town,” he remarked, and that sheriff wants to mark each county vehicle with an “ASO 15” as well. The sheriff also wishes to retire Rancourt’s number, an honor the deputy deserves far more than any athlete.

But the county needs our help. The will is there, all it needs is a way. There are many officers within the sheriff’s office, the sheriff said, who would relish the opportunity to honor their fallen comrade.

Anyone who can help this effort should call Desjardins, or Capt. Ray LaFrance, at 784-7361.

Let’s give them the chance. While a plaque or similar marker from the sheriff’s office would be fitting, this memorial should come from the community.

Deputy Rancourt gave his life while working for us; it’s the least we could do for him, and his family.

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