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Laura Kessel is managing editor of The News-Herald in Willoughby. She writes a weekly column and shares her thoughts here.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Story of bike ride shows off ties that bind

I probably shouldn’t brag.

But, if you know me at all, you know I’m going to.

Nyah, nyah, nyah!

Perhaps I should explain.

In the two weeks since I wrote about Michael T. Rae using his skills as an ordained minister to raise money for his participation in the Police Unity Tour bike ride, he’s had quite a haul.

In that same two weeks, the Mentor resident also been getting a lot of other media attention, including a Cleveland radio station that wants him to be a guest on a weekend public affairs show.

Trouble is, he’s done that show before. Twice.

And he said he’s managed to raise a total of $1 from those guest shots.

In the two weeks since my article, he’s sold five autographed books on eBay and received $350 in donations.

Take that, radio station I won’t disclose.

Nyah, nyah, nyah!

What I will share is how this story has shown me what a small world we’re living in.

Yes, that’s a good thing.

Small in this case means amazingly interesting. I was tempted to say ironic, but I don’t want to get into a debate over the definition.

One of the first examples is that one of the first people to reach out to Rae after the article ran was the wife of an area police officer who was killed in the line of duty.

John Apanites died April 7, 1969, while interviewing suspected shoplifters at a Petries store in downtown Cleveland. He was shot during a scuffle over a weapon while waiting for a patrol car to arrive to take the suspects to the police station.

Apanites was survived by his wife, Jackie, and two young children.

His daughter, Barb, is a Wickliffe High School graduate and was a classmate of mine in Kent State University’s journalism school during the late 1980s.

But the small-worldy-ness of this example goes back many years to my mother frequently talking about this young police officer who died one night downtown, leaving his wife to raise their two children. They had never met, but my mother felt a kinship because their children were about the same age.

Barb was five days shy of her first birthday when her father was slain.

Jackie Apanites later remarried one of John fellow narcotics officers, and Richard Hlivak helped raised the children as his own.

Barb Apanites said she referred to John Apanites as her “first dad” or “my other dad” when she was growing up.

“I don’t have any memories of my first dad,” she said. “(Hlivak) raised me. He was there for all the moments of my life.”

Hlivak served as a pall bearer during Apanites’ funeral, and told Barb just before his September 2011 death that taking over for her father was difficult.

“He said he didn’t feel that it was a fair or a good trade,” she said. “He had such respect for him and felt so badly that we missed out.”

I told Barb that during my interview with Rae, I mentioned to him that about 15 years ago, I traveled to Washington with a friend on vacation and stopped at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. I remember telling my friend that our classmate’s father had been killed in the line of duty and that I wanted to see if his name was listed in the printed registry at the memorial.

Sure enough, John Apanites Jr. was listed in the book. We sat down and reflected for a moment on her loss, so many years before, and went on our way around D.C.

Then, all these years later, Apanites’ widow sees my story about a law enforcement official taking part in a memorial bike ride and sends him a $100 check.

“I commend you and all the others on the Police Unity Tour. Ride safely and know that what you do is most appreciated,” she wrote to Rae.

Rae now plans to wear a memorial wristband bearing Apanites’ name during the Police Unity Tour in May.

I gave Barb a call this week to thank her for a kind comment she left on the story, and asked what she’s been up to these past few years.

Small-world moment No. 4: Barb works as a probation officer in Cuyahoga County, serving as an investigator who prepares reports on those who apply for expungements.

Before that, she worked as a tutor in Mentor, teaching English as a second language. And, after college, she worked in New York City in children’s book publishing.

But it was the investigator position that gave me pause. I told her that she definitely needs to get into contact with Rae, who serves as an inspector attorney for the United States Postal Service.

It’s a thrill to bring these folks together. Here’s hoping that Rae’s efforts will continue to bring attention to those who have given so much and those who so sadly have been left behind.
Twitter: @Lauranh


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Laura: You are right it is a small world. I was hired at the General Motors Fisher Body Plant on coit road in Septmeber of 1968,I was 21 years old and starting my 32 year career with the company. As you said John Apanites was shot on April 7,1969 at this time I was Johns mothers timekeeper at the plant. Ann I believe was her name and she went on leave after the shooting, but when she came back she would be in her work station with tears streaming down her face. We all felt her pain and I know she never got over the loss of John. Your story brings back a very sad memory.

February 25, 2012 at 10:29 AM 
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March 2, 2012 at 1:44 PM 

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