NEWINGTON - Before it was anything else, the 14th annual MPO Peter Lavery Memorial Ride was a gathering of friends honoring a courageous man.
More than 400 motorcycles buzzed into Churchill Park early Sunday morning for the event, held in memory of Newington Master Police Officer Peter Lavery.
Being a Master Police Officer means Lavery had years of experience with several different units. He was killed while responding to a domestic violence incident on Dec. 30, 2004.
Lavery was remembered fondly by family, friends and fellow police officers who participated in the ride Sunday.
“It’s amazing and absolutely beautiful,” his wife, Pam Lavery, said of the ride, which saw a tremendous turnout and sunny skies.
Pam was happy to cruise in a T-shirt, instead of the jacket and sweater the yearly event’s late September weather usually requires.
Motor officers from all over Connecticut escorted bikers through eight towns, where they were greeted by spectators on the road sides and fire departments hanging American flags for the occasion.
Family friend John Martin pointed out that the pleasant temperatures might have been sent from above.
“Pete’s got some pull up in heaven,” the Berlin resident said, pointing up to the skies.
Lavery himself loved riding his motorcycle and was proud to serve the Newington Police Department’s motor unit.
“He did a lot of these charity rides,” pointed out Newington Police Lt. Will Jameson, who was part of the day’s escort.
Jameson was trained by Lavery in 1994, when he first started with the department.
“He was a good training officer,” he remembered. “He was strict. Wanted things done the right way. He trained a great deal of the officers in the PD.”
Money collected through T-shirt sales and ride participation benefits a scholarship fund set up in Lavery’s memory. Several local students are presented awards each spring, to help them along in their pursuit of careers in law enforcement.
New Britain residents Harold Ayala and Henry Arroyo joined hundreds of fellow police officers in the procession of bikes.
“A lot of us are current or retired law enforcement,” Ayala explained.
“It’s a very stressful, demanding field,” Arroyo added. “A lot of good happens but you usually only hear about the negative aspects. Police officers miss out on birthdays and holidays…the sacrifice starts there. But Lavery made the ultimate sacrifice, heeding to someone’s call for help.”
Memories of Lavery were common chatter among participants, many of whom worked with him or are family friends.
“I knew Peter since the seventh grade,” Joey Cirigliano said. “We were friends our whole lives. He was an outstanding man, police officer and personal in general.”
Newington resident Brian Tajmajer compared Lavery to the well-minded star of the Andy Griffith Show.
“He was like an Andy Taylor,” he said. “You just wanted to respect the guy.”
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or firstname.lastname@example.org.