Cpl. Eugene Cole was remembered today as a model policeman who was beloved in his community and whose recent death deeply affected law enforcement across the region, state and nation.

Thousands of people turned out as a procession carrying the casket of Cole, the Somerset County sheriff’s officer who was shot and killed while on duty April 25, left Skowhegan and then arrived in Bangor for funeral services at the Cross Insurance Center.

An elite motorcycle unit from the New York City Police Department led the procession, which departed Skowhegan about 10:30 a.m. and arrived at the Bangor facility about 11:50 a.m.

By noon, a flag-draped coffin was being carried by officers into the building. Moments before, a hush fell inside the Cross Insurance Center as twin screens showed the motorcade and hearse arriving, with officers standing at attention. Family and close relatives of Cole filed into the expansive arena about 12:10 p.m. — the only sound the gentle hum of air conditioning and snaps of camera shutters.

A celebration of Cole’s life was underway soon after, with Chaplain Kevin Brooks officiating. Cole was a musician and is surely playing lead guitar in a band in heaven, Brooks said.

Cole’s classic country band, Borderline Express, which has been a popular band in central Maine for decades, performed “American Soldier,” while his brother Tom and son Scott performed “Homesick.”

Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster, in remarks during the service, said Cole “epitomized community policing,” and also “exemplified our core values: integrity, respect, fairness and dedication.”

“Gene worked every day to make Somerset County and Norridgewock a safer place to live,” Lancaster said. “Goodbye for now, my friend. We will never forget you.”

Somerset County Detective David Cole — Eugene Cole’s son — said during the service: “Rest easy, dad. We’ve got the watch from here.” He broke down crying as he spoke of his mother’s strength and his memories of his father.

At 1:55 p.m., a Somerset County dispatcher broadcast the last call of Cole live all over the statewide police frequencies, saying Eugene Cole was “10-7,” or officially out of service.

Shortly after 2 p.m., Maine State Police troopers assembled in the parking lot outside the Cross Center for a flag-folding ceremony and presentation of the flag to Cole’s widow, Sheryl.

Cole, who was 61 and a 13-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, was the first Maine police officer to die in a shooting in nearly 30 years.

“Today is about showing honor and respect for his family and honoring his life,” Howard said. “When this is over, we’ll take a minute to grieve as individuals. Right now, we have a mission to bring honor and respect to Cpl. Cole’s family.”

Somerset County fire departments and crowds holding flags lined Madison Avenue, down Route 2 to Newport, to honor Cole ahead of the procession earlier Monday morning. The procession took Cole from the Smart & Edwards Funeral Home in Skowhegan to the memorial service in Bangor, through town to U.S. Route 2 and Interstate 95.

In Skowhegan, hundreds of residents and staff from local fire departments lined Madison Avenue and Water Street as the procession made its way out of town. Among the crowds in Skowhegan were John Murphy and Kelly Hageman, who held homemade signs along the road saying “Rest in Peace” and “Thank you for your service.”

Mac Watts, 61, sat in a lawn chair across from Smart & Edwards Funeral Home, where the Cole family waited, dressed in black and blue, the color of law enforcement, receiving hugs from visitors. Blue ribbons hung on telephone poles along the street.

“I’m just here to pay my respects,” Watts said. “I think it’s time we support our law enforcement. You never really expect something like this to happen in a small community, but I guess that doesn’t make us exempt from these kinds of things.”

Farther down Madison Avenue, George and Renee White were watching with their three children.

George White, who was wearing a hat and shirt from the Maine Criminal Justice Academy, is studying to become a law enforcement officer. He said he made the decision to do so the day after Cole died.

“He’s been thinking about it for a while, but with Gene’s passing he pretty much decided he needed to do this,” said Renee White, 36.

The family did not know Cole well, but George White used to work at the Somerset County Jail with him and they would occasionally see him around town on patrol. White, 41, also said he knew Cole from his days running an electronics repair shop in Skowhegan.

“His death made me think about the job more and how important it is what they do out there,” he said.

“It scares me to death but it’s something he wants to do,” his wife said.

Fire departments from throughout Somerset County, along with a few from Kennebec and Franklin counties, were lining the route from Skowhegan to Newport for the procession.

Meanwhile, every bridge overpass across Interstate 95 from Newport to Bangor was lined with people and fire engines, red lights flashing.

In Bangor, former Skowhegan police chief Larry Jones stood at the Cross Center as the procession neared.

“This is just so overwhelming,” said Jones, who retired in 1994. “So many law enforcement, so many people. Gene was a wonderful guy. Everybody liked him.”

John D. Williams, 29, of Madison is alleged to have shot and killed Cole and stolen his marked cruiser just after 1 a.m. April 25. Williams made his first court appearance April 30 in Augusta and was charged with intentional or knowing murder. Williams is being held without bail at the Maine Correctional Center in Windham.

Portland Press Herald staff writer Matt Byrne contributed to this report.

Law-enforcement officers from numerous departments proceed down Madison Avenue in Skowhegan behind the hearse carrying Somerset County Sheriff’s Cpl. Eugene Cole during the procession to Cole’s funeral service Monday in Bangor. (David Leaming/Morning Sentinel)


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