Saying goodbye to a hero

Colorado Fallen Hero Foundation provides honorable services for law enforcement line-of-duty deaths

The funeral services for Boulder Police Officer Eric Talley, a devout Catholic who was killed in the line of duty March 22, were beautiful, moving and meaningful. They honored Talley’s faith, his sacrifice and the hero he was and let his family, fellow officers and the wider community grieve and show gratitude for his life and selfless service. 

Led by the Talley family’s wishes, a team of law enforcement and civilian volunteers from the nonprofit Colorado Fallen Hero Foundation made the services happen, at no cost to his family or police department.  

“The Colorado Fallen Hero Foundation is a coordinated effort to bring comfort and assistance to the family of a fallen officer and his home agency,” said Deacon Ernie Martinez, a lieutenant with the Denver Police Department who served as liaison for them and the Archdiocese of Denver. “We alleviate the stress on the family and on the home agency to allow them to concentrate on the grieving process and the police investigation.” 

A solemn high requiem funeral Mass was celebrated in Latin by Father Daniel Nolan, FSSP, on March 29 in Denver. Father Nolan, assistant pastor at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Littleton where the Talley family worships, also led a memorial service with police traditions for a fallen officer on March 30 in Lafayette. Preceded by lengthy motorcades of law enforcement vehicles, both services drew hundreds of people. Hundreds more viewed the services online via livestream. 

A memorial for a hero

The services aimed to honor Talley’s life as a faithful Catholic and as a loyal public servant, said Denver Police Officer Danny Veith, a charter board member of the foundation. Veith, a Catholic, served as the foundation’s liaison to the family. The foundation organized and executed the services respecting the family and the home agency’s input, he said. 

“The goal of the foundation and my goal is to gain the family’s trust and express to the department and the foundation what they want done to memorialize their loved one,” Veith said. “I make sure their wishes are followed. I also provide them with information on what the typical fallen officer’s memorial looks like. We make sure it is personalized to reflect the officer’s personality and what they were like as a spouse, parent and co-worker.” 

The traditional Latin Mass with soaring chant and hymns was what was wanted by Officer Talley, Father Nolan said, and was a priority for Talley’s wife Leah and their seven children to practice their faith as they buried their husband and father. The Talley family’s pastor, Father James Jackson, FSSP, delivered a stirring homily and Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila spoke about Talley’s sacrifice and expressed gratitude to all law enforcement. 

The following day’s memorial service gave Talley’s fellow officers the opportunity to observe police customs for a fallen brother. In addition to prayers, it included musical processions by Colorado Emerald Society Pipe and Drum Band, eulogies by civic officials and police, a 21-gun salute, the playing of Taps, an “end of watch” radio call, and the folding and presentation of the flag that covered Talley’s coffin to his widow. 

“It gave his children the chance to witness a memorial where their father is recognized as the hero he was,” Veith said. 

‘A sacred honor and privilege’

Formed in 2017, the Colorado Fallen Hero Foundation partners with Horan & McConaty mortuary, which donates their services and provides a casket or urn at no charge. Likewise, partner Dr. Sara Metz and her Code-4 Counseling provides free therapy for the fallen officers’ agency and family. 

John Horan, founder of Horan & McConaty, cut short a 40th wedding anniversary family vacation in Mexico to return to Denver immediately upon learning of Talley’s death.  

“I was there for our anniversary,” he explained. “We had a great time with our kids. But when something like this is going on, it’s important for me to be here and to make sure all the details are absolutely perfect. We don’t a get a second chance to do this well.” 

Since 1988, Horan, a Catholic, has provided free services to 28 public safety officers. 

“When someone who is charged with keeping the public safe is killed in the line of duty, the least we can do is ensure they don’t have expenses as a result of that,” he said, adding that they also offer guidance about ceremonial procedures. “We make sure the services are done with sensitivity, acknowledging the needs of the family and, to a lesser degree, the community.” 

The foundation volunteers and Horan oversee the thousands of details involved in the services and motorcades.

“My work is a sacred honor and privilege,” Horan said.  

The Colorado Fallen Heroes Foundation helped to coordinate all of the aspects of fallen Officer Eric Talley’s memorial services in the week following his death. The Foundation exists to ensure the family of fallen officers can properly grieve while still being given the chance to honor their loved one with a memorial service. (Photos by Roxanne King)

Foundation treasurer Heidi Prentup, retired division chief of the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office and a Catholic, said the Colorado Fallen Hero Foundation was the idea of former Aurora Police Chief Nick Metz, who had belonged to a similar organization in Seattle. Metz serves as executive liaison for the foundation. 

“Since 2017, we have done seven funerals for officers killed in the line of duty in Colorado,” Prentup said. “We will go anywhere in Colorado at the request of a police chief or sheriff. We don’t take over — we work with the department and the family and do the best we can to fulfill the wishes of both to appropriately honor an officer killed in the line of duty.” 

On March 26, a large conference room at the Boulder Country Sheriff’s Office was buzzing with activity as 65 male and female law enforcement officers from a dozen agencies huddled in different groups ranging from logistics to public information, working out final details for the then upcoming motorcades, Mass and memorial service.  

“Today is the final day to ensure everything is scripted,” Deacon Martinez said. 

“It’s based on the military command model, where everybody has a role,” added Veith. “We turn into an efficient machine, if you will, to carry out all these tasks so when the family experiences the funeral services there are no mistakes. It is a flawless, beautiful tribute.” 

‘We are deeply grateful’

From guarding Talley’s body 24/7 from when he was shot March 22 to the moment he was buried, to the somber rituals carried out at all the events with military precision and respect, the work of the foundation volunteers was an act of love. 

“These people have such a heart,” Deacon Martinez said. “You have police and sheriffs’ officers from all over the metro area, the whole state really. It’s a lot of work. Everybody brings their talents for a common good.” 

As a nonprofit, the Colorado Fallen Hero Foundation depends on donations.  

“It takes a lot of money to pull off these events,” Veith said. “We also do follow-up with the family. Officer Talley’s name will be added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., in May 2022. We will make sure the family will be able to get there.” 

At Talley’s memorial service, Boulder Police Chief Maris Herold offered praise and gratitude to those who made it possible. 

“That was the most beautiful ceremony I’ve seen and witnessed,” she said. “Thank you for that. I would be remiss if I didn’t thank the Colorado Fallen Hero Foundation, Chief Nick Metz and his team for his logistical support.” 

 Leah Talley also extended gratitude. 

“I can’t say enough about the Colorado Fallen Hero Foundation,” she told the Denver Catholic. “How much they have helped us—especially the children. We are deeply grateful. I have no words, really, to explain the depth of our gratitude.” 

Colorado Fallen Hero Foundation 

For information or to donate, visit: 

COMING UP: Did Christians ban the Games? Tales, myths and other fun facts about the ancient Olympics

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The 2020 Summer Olympics began less than a week ago, and as is usually the case, there’s been enough stunning athleticism, shocking upsets and yes, even a little bit of drama on display to keep the water cooler chatter abuzz until at least the 2022 games.

At their best, the Olympic games bridge cultural divides and unite countries around the world as the greatest living athletes around the globe compete for the coveted gold medal in their respective events. There’s a spirit of global camaraderie that welcomely comes about during every Olympiad; whether watching the Games at home with the family or going to a local bar to cheer on your favorite country, the Olympics bring people together in a way that most other sporting events do not.

Another astounding thing about the Olympics is how they’ve endured over the millennia. Indeed, they provide a special glimpse into the history of the world and those common qualities of humanity that will never die; namely, the need for both unitive, universal community and friendly but fierce competition.

The first recorded Olympic games took place in 776 B.C., though some historians speculate that they could have began as early as the 10th century B.C. The games were held every four years in Olympia to honor the greek god Zeus as one of four Panhellenic festivals, this one coinciding with the second full moon following the summer solstice, usually at the end of July or early August. The Olympics became so significant that the term Olympiad was used to mark a year the games took place, and became a common unit of historical time measurement.

Now, the ancient world wasn’t exactly known for its amicability or even peacefulness, as indicated by the countless wars and power usurpations that took place throughout its history. However, Olympic festivals were marked by a truce among the Greeks called ekecheiria, which roughly means “holding of hands.” This ensured safe travels for athletes and spectators as they made their way to the festival and was a common basis for peace among the Greeks. That the Olympic games could get even the constantly feuding Greeks to lay down their arms and come together in a spirit of solidarity speaks to their significance in ancient history.

Early Olympic events included the footrace, wrestling, the long jump, the javelin throw, the discus throw and boxing. Of course, it’s nigh impossible to read about the ancient Olympics and not come across epic tales of chariot racing, an event which was briefly banned early on but was reinstated by the first century B.C. and drew the interest of several key Roman figures (more on that later).

By the fifth century B.C., athletes from all over the Greek-speaking world came to Olympia for the games. The footrace, also called the Stade or Stadion, was considered the most prestigious event, and is where the english word “stadium” is derived from. Stade was a unit of measurement in ancient Greece which modern historians say is the rough equivalent to 600 feet or 200 yards, though the actual length has been a subject of debate for many years. Either way, it represents the length which runners in the Stadion ran to prove themselves as the fastest sprinters in the ancient world.

Interestingly, very little record about the Olympics games during the time of Christ exists. History tells us that the Roman emperor Tiberius, who was emperor during Christ’s life, won the chariot races during the 194th Olympiad in 4 B.C. In 17 A.D., the popular Roman general Germanicus, who was Tiberius’ adopted son and the future father of the third Roman Emperor Caligula, won the chariot races in 17 A.D., presumably around the time Christ was a teenager.

About those chariot races: they were known to attract elite political figures, some of whom won based on true skill, and others who only wanted the appearance of winning to further exert their power and status. During the 211th Olympiad, Emperor Nero, known for his fierce persecution of Christians and rather narcissistic personality, forcibly moved the Olympic games set to take place in 65 A.D. to 67 A.D. so he could compete while on a tour of Greece. He participated in the chariot races (with six more horses than the other competitors), and declared himself the greatest Olympic victor of all time, though historical eyewitness accounts tell a different story. Nero actually nearly died after a severe wreck, but Nero being Nero, he was still declared the winner.

Thankfully, Nero’s title as an Olympic victor and the Olympiad he “won,” which did not adhere to the established chronology of the games, were subsequently stricken from the official Olympic records after his death.

The Olympics grew over the course of 1,200 years until 393 A.D., when Emperor Theodosius I banned all Pagan festivals from the Roman emperor after Christianity became adopted as the state religion. Popular culture and history has long maintained this story of Christianity being to blame for the halt of the Olympic games. However, in recent years, some historians have disputed this account, saying that it was not for religious reasons but rather economic reasons that the games ended when they did. In fact, even after Theodosius’ death, there are still records of Olympic games taking place up until the fifth century. As the administration of Roman Empire evolved, the Olympics could no longer be sponsored by civil funds and instead became sponsored more and more by rich elites of the time. Simply put, the games became too expensive, and no one wanted to pay for them anymore.

The Olympics did not make a return for 1,500 years, until the Athens Olympics in 1896. Over the last 125 years since their reinstatement, the Games have become an integral piece of modern culture and a remnant of ancient history that was revived to great avail. As the Olympics in Tokyo continue over the next week and athletes compete for the gold, the words of St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians serve as a pertinent reminder of how the spirit of an Olympian imitates closely that of a Christian:

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor 9:24-27).

So let the Games continue! And may the race be run not for a perishable prize, but an imperishable one.

Featured photo: Met Museum, Terracotta Panathenaic prize amphora (jar), ca. 510 B.C. Attributed to the Leagros Group.