An image Auburn police use to memorialize Officer Rodney “Rocky” Bonney, who drowned in 1981 trying to save a child in the Androscoggin River. Submitted image

AUBURN — Police patrolling the city on Thursday wore black bands on their badges. The flag at the station was lowered to half staff.

As they do every year, Auburn police were marking the anniversary of the death of Officer Rodney “Rocky” Bonney, 32, who died April 6, 1981, while trying to save a boy who had fallen into the Androscoggin River.

Almost everyone who has been in the Lewiston-Auburn area awhile is familiar with Bonney’s name. The park on the Auburn side of the trestle, near the area where the drowning occurred, is named in his honor. A stone monument honoring Bonney and other fallen officers stands outside the police station on Court Street. And at least one police dog has been named “Rocky” in remembrance of the officer.

According to news reports from the time, Bonney drowned while trying to save the 15-year-old Lewiston boy who had fallen into the river from the railroad trestle.

The call that a kid was in the river came in around 9:30 p.m. Bonney and his partner, John Perrino, rushed to the riverfront and jumped into the frigid water.

“The officers reached the boy, but were unable to pull him to shore in the strong current,” according to a police account of the drowning. “Bonney and the boy slipped beneath the waters and disappeared. Their bodies were not found until the next afternoon, despite tireless search efforts.”

Bonney was a U.S. Navy veteran and had served with the Auburn Police Department for two years. A native of Waterford, he was survived by his wife, a son and a daughter.

“We remember his service,” Auburn police wrote on their Facebook page Thursday. “We honor his sacrifice.”

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