FREE SOIL TWP. — The setting sun was gleaming through the trees with a light breeze Thursday evening as officers, first responders, family and others paid their respects to Michigan State Trooper Paul Butterfield on the eighth anniversary his death along Custer Road in Free Soil Township.
The service is something that has been ongoing since 2014. Butterfield was slain in the line of duty at 6:30 p.m., Sept. 9, 2013, and that’s the time each year when a ceremony is usually hosted beside the memorial that was built where he was killed. He was making a traffic stop at that time on Custer Road north of Townline Road in Free Soil Township.
“We memorialize him here this afternoon, this evening, and give thanks to God,” said Michigan State Police Chaplain John Hansen as he began the service.
A detail of Michigan State Troopers along with deputies with the Mason County Sheriff’s Office and officers of the Ludington Police Department were there for the service Thursday night. An honor guard from the Ludington American Legion Post No. 76 were also there to fire a rifle salute. Members of the Fountain Fire Department also were there to help with closing the road for the ceremony.
Taylor Makowicki sang the national anthem and “Amazing Grace,” and the service was concluded by the sounding of taps by Mason County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Matt Warmuskerken and Rob Alway.
Hansen gave the benediction prior to the salute.
“Wherever (Butterfield’s family) is tonight, I hope they receive this gesture of grace and mercy as we memorialize Paul. We thank them for allowing us to do this for Paul,” Hansen said. “Paul made his sacrifice eight short years ago. It doesn’t seem like it’s been that long, but it was eight short years ago that this incident happened.
“It really tears a hole in our heart when someone close to us dies, like Paul did, and it’s even more a tragedy when a life is so needlessly taken like Paul’s was.”
Hansen said he believed Butterfield’s family has found some sort of solace since his death as well as those who he served alongside at the Hart Post where he was working.
“For all of you, I hope (God) gives you solace,” he said.
Hansen gave statistics on the number of deaths that have occurred by officers in the line of duty, noting the dozens that occurred already in 2021. The year Butterfield was killed, Hansen said there were 213 duty-related deaths, 34 by gunfire. This year, Hansen said, 254 officers were killed in the line of duty, 39 by gunfire.
“Death, it seems, is always creeping by the door of life, waiting for us,” he said.
He thanked those who are serving now and those who plan to serve in the future.
Shirley Chancellor again helped to organize the dedication to Butterfield, and she was glad to see those who took part. Many of those who were serving in law enforcement that day as well as the first responders were there, from Sheriff Kim Cole and former Mason County Prosecuting Attorney Paul Spaniola to Ludington Police Capt. Steve Wietrzykowski and Mason County Sheriff’s Office Det. Steve Hansen.
The Chancellors were some of the first responders at the scene that night in 2013, and Hansen was one of the first deputies there, too.
Shirley and her husband, Jerry, put the ceremony together, and this year, after Jerry’s death, Shirley kept it going.
“It does my heart good to see people come,” she said. “I’ve had people tell me in the past tell me to let him rest, leave him be, why do you still do this? Because people need to remember what happened here. He was doing his job, and he was killed senselessly.
“With what you hear on TV all the time, people need to remember that. They’re not all bad. There’s some good and bad with everything.
“We are so blessed here. We have great relationship with our officers as far as fire… I trust them implicitly.”
Members of Butterfield’s family were there Thursday, and Chancellor was happy to see them and greet them.