Fifty-one years later, hats are off for Officer Couch
Updated 4:37 pm, Thursday, May 14, 2015
A New Milford police officer who lost his life in the line of duty will be remembered for years to come.
A memorial monument and plaque placed in front of the New Milford Police Department will be dedicated this week.
Officer H. Kenneth Couch, 61, died June 3, 1964 while attempting a water rescue on the Housatonic River.
On Friday, May 15 at 10 a.m., a ceremony at the police department will honor his memory and commemorate the monument and an American flag to be flown there.
"It was just a little over 50 years ago that he was lost," said NMPD Lt. William Scribner. "What better way could we have to honor a man who gave his life serving the community."
The emergency call came in that day in 1964 around 1 p.m. that a man and a 13-year-old boy may have been in a boat that capsized near the bleachery dam at a treacherous turn in the river.
At that time, New Milford had a resident state trooper and four sworn police officers.
Couch came up to the court and got Adams to respond to the call.
The two officers commandeered a small boat from a marina along the Housatonic and went into the turbulent river below the dam near West Street.
The boat was pulled into the dam, capsized and they were caught in an undertow.
Couch was trapped under the dam and drowned. Adams, who was much younger, was able to swim to shore, Scribner said.
No boaters in distress were ever found.
McMahon remembered Couch as a "gentleman, very quiet."
"He loved the job and had an excellent relationship with the residents in town," McMahon recalled. "He would walk around downtown, greeting everyone he met and talking with them."
McMahon said June 3 was "a horrible day."
"There were five of us policing the town and, not only did we lose Officer Couch, we were suddenly down two men," he said. "Officer Adams was hospitalized for some time. The barracks in Litchfield and Ridgefield boosted our manpower, adding patrols."
Adams would go on to one day be the department's chief.
Couch's nephew, Lawrence Couch, now in his 70s, remembers his uncle as "a quiet person."
"He didn't look to be in the limelight," Lawrence Couch said. "He was a policeman and he did his job.
"I think it is a very nice thing that the department and town is doing in his memory," he added. "Most of the remaining family lives out of the area but I will be at the ceremony."
"Bill Scribner called me and said the department wanted to put up a flag pole to honor a fallen officer," said Orenski, a custom flag dealer. "I was so very impressed that 50 years later they were honoring one of their own. I asked if I could donate the flag pole and the first round of flags."
Crawford said he was also contacted by Scribner.
"It's a fantastic tribute to a man who gave his life in the line of duty, trying to save someone else," Crawford said. "Lt. Scribner contacted me and asked if I'd like to get involved. Being an artist, the monument is my contribution."