Never forgotten

Feasterville Business Association’s 17th annual Project Blue Light Holiday Tree Lighting honors fallen police officers

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

Lighting up the holidays: Community members, township representatives and local police officers, including William Wiegman Jr., retired chief of police of Lower Southampton Township, and Ted Krimmel, current chief of police, gathered for the 17th annual Project Blue Light Holiday Tree Lighting. SAMANTHA BAMBINO / TIMES PHOTO

Not even a steady drizzle could put a damper on the touching ceremony that took place last Tuesday evening. Outside of the Township Library of Lower Southampton, an intimate crowd of community members, supervisors and police officers gathered for the Feasterville Business Association’s 17th annual Project Blue Light Holiday Tree Lighting, a local tradition to honor fallen police officers.

Project Blue Light was started in 1989 by Dolly Craig. Her son-in-law, Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Gleason, was killed in the line of duty in 1986, and she wished to pay tribute to his memory.

Craig sent a message to Concerns Of Police Survivors, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to rebuilding the shattered lives of survivors and coworkers affected by line-of-duty death. She informed COPS that she would be placing two blue lights in her window throughout the holiday season, one for Gleason and one in memory of his wife Pam, who was killed in an automobile accident in 1988.

Although Craig is now deceased, her legacy lives on. Project Blue Light has since become a national program and annual tradition for thousands of surviving families of officers killed in action. To participate and pay tribute to the memory of a fallen police officer, all one needs to do is place a single blue light in a window.

But in Lower Southampton Township, community members take it a step further with the annual tree lighting ceremony. Planted directly outside the library at 1983 Bridgetown Pike in Feasterville, the massive Christmas tree is easily visible from the busy road.

Kicking off the ceremony was event chairman Michael Hughes, who reminded attendees why they were all there — to honor fallen officers and remember their ultimate sacrifice during the holiday season.

Hughes read aloud a list of local officers who never came home from duty, giving loved ones and coworkers in the crowd a chance to reflect. He also brought forth a few statistics. According to him, 118 officers have been killed in action this year, with two from Pennsylvania. Twenty K9 officers also lost their lives. While any number above zero isn’t ideal, this is a 15 percent decrease from 2016.

The Rev. Herb Phillips, who is retired from the Trevose United Methodist Church and a former police officer, and the Rev. Michael Davis, pastor of Assumption BVM Catholic Church in Feasterville, offered a special blessing.

“They placed our lives before their own,” Davis said of the officers.

Finally, it was time for the official tree lighting. After a quick flip of the switch, the tree blazed blue for all to see. This year, the lights are energy-efficient LED ones. Hughes’ hope is that by going “green,” the library will save on its electric bills and no fuses will be blown, which was an issue in previous years.

In loving memory: Project Blue Light was started in 1989 by Dolly Craig. Her son-in-law, Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Gleason, was killed in the line of duty in 1986. SAMANTHA BAMBINO / TIMES PHOTO

A choral group from the United Methodist Church then led the crowd in singing a variety of holiday classics such as “O Tannenbaum,” “Deck the Halls,” “Jingle Bells” and, as an encore, “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.”

Though the rain continued to fall, not one person rushed inside after the final verse was sung. Instead, attendees remained outside, taking in the beauty of the tree and standing together for pictures beside it. Among the crowd were a number of local officers and law enforcement, including William Wiegman Jr., retired chief of police of Lower Southampton Township, Bucks County Sheriff Edward “Duke” Donnelly and Ted Krimmel, Lower Southampton Township chief of police.

Also present was Karen Madotto, FBA president, Lower Southampton Township supervisors Ed Shannon and Joseph McFadden, Lower Southampton Township manager John McMenamin and Linda Pupkiewicz, FBA secretary of the board of directors.

Afterward, everyone was invited inside the meeting room of the library for coffee and other refreshments, which were sponsored by the Friends of the Lower Southampton Library.

The tree will remain lit throughout the holiday season, so if you catch yourself stuck in rush-hour traffic along Bridgetown Pike, take a moment to acknowledge the bright blue lights and the memories and sacrifices each one stands for. ••

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com