TPD, Mark family honors fallen Officer Harley Mark

TORRINGTON – Among the community who attended a special memorial for fallen Torrington Police Department (TPD) Lt. Harley Lorenze Mark at the Wednesday service were his wife, three daughters, old and new TPD officers, and community members who all fondly remembered Mark and the legacy of service he left in the community.

“He was an all-around amazing dad, person, community member, officer and friend, really,” Mark’s daughter, Tammy Cearns, who now works at TPD, said. “It means a lot to us, our family – that Torrington Police Department continues to honor him and his years of service to the community, on the job and as a friend to many.”

“Everybody loved him; everybody knew they could count on him and go to him when they needed something – but they knew not to go to him if they didn’t want to hear the truth,” Cearns reminisced about her father.

Mark’s second daughter, Wendy Martinez said, “He took care of the community – he took care of us – he was my hero, still is my hero, and to many people in our community, I think the same can be said for him about his service to our entire community.”

Mark’s third daughter, Dawn Swanson, added, “he was such a great guy, and if you knew him – you couldn’t help but to love him or what he meant to all of us. We miss him.”

Mark’s wife, Joanne Mark, said she was thankful and overcome with such love from the community and TPD Chief Matt Johnson for making it a point to remember him and the service he gave to the community. 

“We can’t thank Chief (Johnson) enough, and we are thankful for his commitment to keeping Harley’s memory alive.”

Chief Johnson said Harley laid the foundation for how TPD operates today and its stronghold in putting community policing first.

“I didn’t know Mark personally, but I know a lot of him from our community members – and what I know is he put the community first every day and in every aspect of his life during his service before he was killed on duty,” Chief Johnson explained. “We cannot allow such a legacy to go unnoticed or forgotten – because it’s the bedrock of our department today. We owe a lot of gratitude in many ways to Lt. Mark.”

During a small speech before roughly 60 family, friends, members of law enforcement/emergency management and community members in attendance, Johnson said, “Thank you for joining us this evening as we honor the sacrifice and legacy of Lt. Harley Mark, who gave his life in the service of our community 29 years ago today.”

Adding, “We also wish to honor his family for their sacrifice and the loss they have endured these many years.”

The joint Torrington Volunteer Fire Department and TPD Honor Guard presented the colors and paid respect to Lt. Mark.

“Scripture tells us that there is no greater love than for a man to lay down his life for his friends,” Johnson said. “On Sept. 7, 1993, Lt. Harley Mark did exactly that. He willingly set aside his own safety, his own hopes and his own dreams – so that he could help to apprehend a violent predator who was harming the people that he loved.”

“His courage and sacrifice are a part of who we are as a community, and it shall never be forgotten,” Johnson added.

Cearns recalled how on that day, her father called them to tell them to “lock the doors and have a gun ready because this man is bad – and then he told us he loved us and would see us later.”

Her sister, Martinez, chimed in, saying, “he was always honest with us and the community – he knew this man needed to be caught, he knew how violent he was, and he did not gloss over that when he called.”

During his speech, Chief Johnson also said, “There is more to Lt. Mark’s story than just his sacrifice; there is his legacy – a legacy of a family that continues to thrive and give back to their community, here in Torrington and around the county.”

“The legacy of an agency that still bears his thumbprint and believes in the important things like putting people first and building relationships,” Johnson explained to memorial attendees. “And the legacy of a community that has been forever changed by his kindness, friendship, his courage, and the challenge to care about each other as much as he did for those that he loved.”

Mark’s daughters Cearns and Martinez jointly said, “he was a man of integrity, honor, admiration, dedication and generosity – as well as a genuine love for his family, friends and community. I think his legacy is that he was dedicated to each and every one of us whether in uniform or not.”

Mark, 48, was a veteran officer in the department, who was tragically killed while in pursuit of an escaped, dangerous convict from then Goshen Jail, now Goshen County Detention Center, when another law enforcement agency struck his vehicle during the pursuit.

The suspect Mark was pursuing was later found and apprehended a short time later in Nebraska.

In years past, TPD and surviving family members, wife, Joanne Mark and daughters, Tammy Cearns, Wendy Martinez and Dawn Mark, have hosted memorials and fundraisers in his name to bring awareness and also to remember the impact of his service to the community.

Mark was deeply involved with the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program in Torrington, in which community members and former D.A.R.E. participants expressed their gratitude for Mark changing their lives through this community policing program.

“For the first responders standing here today, who have taken a sacred oath and now wear a badge on their chest to remember it by – Lt. Mark has set an example for us to follow,” Johnson explained. “We must find the courage and discipline to serve this community with integrity, kindness and a mighty love in our hearts.”

Adding, “Thank you for joining us to remember and honor Lt. Mark – please keep his family in your thoughts and prayers on this anniversary.”

When asked what they would tell new recruits about what it means to be a community leader and police officer in memory of their father, Mark’s daughters collectively said, “always do your best – be honest, have integrity and know hard times and incidents happen, but that’s not what defines who you are or what you do as an officer, it’s how you serve the community as a leader here. And to do that – you need to learn to put the community first.”

Chief Johnson echoed Mark’s family sentiments and said, “Lt. Mark was a community-first oriented officer; he had a boots-on-the-ground approach in community policing, which is an approach we really attempt to emulate in our department today.”

When asked why Chief Johnson helps host a memorial every year, he said, “It’s a sacred honor and duty – as a leader, TPD Chief, and in the community, to remember a man who made the ultimate sacrifice for us in the pursuant of keeping us safe. His philosophy then, and ours now, is people, or community, first with building deeply rooted relationships in our community by working together to create solutions before issues become bigger problems later on – that’s Lt. Mark’s legacy, and that’s a legacy worth honoring every year.”

Lt. Mark is the only TPD officer lost in the line of duty.

When asked what he tells future recruits to TPD about the dangers of the job and in remembrance of Lt. Mark, Chief Johnson said, “it’s an interesting balance – this job definitely has its risks, but it also has its benefits, so I would tell them, get out of your head and be alert because the reward of a life in this career lives in the way we serve our community, by putting them first, which I think continues to honor Lt. Mark.”

Adding, “you have to learn to be okay with loss – and your family has to learn to be okay with it – that’s not to say it’s ever okay to lose an officer, but you have to be okay with that being a possibility, the significance of what we do outweighs the potential risk, especially here in Torrington.”

Chief Johnson also said it’s important to remember the groundwork and precedence Lt. Mark set for TPD in the community and with the community as it relates to community policing and its various programs. He also said it’s because of that drive TPD continues to honor Lt. Mark and the various acts of service the Mark family continues to commit to, 29 years after they laid him to rest.


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