YOUNGSTOWN Kids craft condolences for death of officer



Some of the cards were delivered to Michael T. Hartzell's parents.
By PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Nearly 100 letters arrived typed on stationery embossed with government seals from as far away as Alaska, California, New Mexico, Vermont, Florida and British Columbia.
The ones on display, though, are construction-paper sympathy cards crafted by local schoolkids using crayons and felt-tip markers. A few are unsigned.
The sentiment in the law-enforcement letters and children's cards is the same: condolences to the Youngstown Police Department for the death of Patrolman Michael T. Hartzell.
One colorful, unsigned card from St. Edward School sums up the emotion felt citywide -- "Dear Police, I'm very sorry your friend died. I know you're sad but I made this card to make you feel happy and glad."
On a few cards, the entire space available was used to draw police officers, cruisers, hearts, flowers, flags, butterflies or heaven. In others, the message sufficed without artwork.
Focused on suspect
One card contains a depiction of suspect Martin L. Koliser Jr. inside a circle with a thick diagonal line drawn through it. The caption reads "No more Koliser" (although on the card, the name is misspelled).
Koliser, 30, of Boardman is charged in the execution-style shooting death of Hartzell, who died April 29 in his cruiser.
Emma Woodberry, secretary to Police Chief Robert E. Bush Jr., said a pouch of handmade cards from Bennett Elementary pupils was delivered to Hartzell's parents. She's not sure if she'll have enough room to display all the other cards coming in (the latest, from Wee Care Day Care), but she's trying.
The sympathy cards can be found on the second floor of the police station downtown. Juvenile Officer Sharman Simon hung the first ones this week.
The cards are taking up the wall space where a giant police badge had hung to mark Hartzell's death.
Thanking protectors
Among those pausing to read the cards was Detective Sgt. Dave Sweeney, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 28. "I think the children realize they lost one of their protectors, and they want to comfort the other officers who will protect them in the future," he said.
"Thank you for protecting our city," wrote August DiGiacobbe, a fourth-grader at St. Christine.
"You help the ones in need! Keep up the good work," Elaina Bettura, another fourth-grader at St. Christine, said in her card.
Lauren Stevens, a fifth-grader at St. Edward, wrote: "Dear officers, Thanks for taking care of Youngstown. I know for a fact Officer Hartzell is watching down on you. Keep up the good work."
"This card isn't much, but it's at least a way to show that you are in our prayers," wrote Dave Guthrie, an Ursuline High School student.
One unsigned card from Ursuline shows a frowning face with a teardrop near one eye and the words "Sorry to hear about your loss."
Catie McKelvey, a fifth-grader at St. Edward, said, "Thank you for keeping our town safe and always being very, very brave."
Bush said he's read quite a few of the cards from the "young folks" and much appreciates them. It shows, he said, that some of the good work police do is sinking in and there's hope.
"They have a sense that a policeman got killed and he was one of the good guys," Bush said of the schoolchildren's expressions of sympathy. "They have that innocence that if there's trouble, look for a police officer -- man or woman."
Official letters
Woodberry, meanwhile, is also collecting in a folder the letters of condolence sent from law-enforcement agencies nationwide and in British Columbia. Police chiefs, sheriffs, heads of federal agencies, state highway patrol commanders, mayors and others wrote.
The cities represented range from Albuquerque, N.M.; Nashville, Tenn.; New York; Denver; and Seattle to Los Angeles; Virginia Beach, Va.; Baton Rouge, La.; Dallas; and Anchorage, Alaska.
"On behalf of the men and women of the United States Secret Service ..." is the salutation from the Department of Homeland Security in Washington, D.C.
Bush said he's overwhelmed by the outpouring of sympathy.
meade@vindy.com

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