“Show me a hero and I will write you a tragedy.” - Author Unknown
To the exact day, next Tuesday, September 6 marks the 119th anniversary of the murder on Ninth Street of Constable John Robert Davey. In one month, on Friday, September 23, the Cornwall Police Association will remember the sacrifice made by John Robert Davey on that fateful Tuesday in 1892. Yes, that is correct 1892. A year and a half ago, I began researching for a history of our police force. I didn’t get too far as within a month of gathering some stories, I happened on a Freeholder article written in 2007 by managing editor Andrew Carroll. That story told of the Ontario Police Memorial at Queens Park and how a team of researchers had uncovered the story of John Robert Davey, Cornwall Policeman killed on duty over a century ago. I took the story to heart and began my own research. I was possessed to say the least and over a year and a half later, John Robert Davey, a simple man who was a shoe maker and leather fabricator by trade, will receive a new tombstone, have a block of Ninth Street where he was killed named in his honour and two days later will receive the ultimate recognition, as the Canadian Police Memorial on Parliament Hill will forever remember this one time Cornwall Militia Captain and Special Constable on the wall of honour.
The story also has another important figure, his name was Louis Lafave.
Lafave was from Martintown and just before Constable Davey was killed, Lafave tried in vain to apprehend the killer and was shot in the arm. Like many of the men and women who serve our community in many capacities, family is the constant that makes us all stop and think when the need to support each other arises. Over the weekend of September 23, numerous members of the Davey and Lafave families will be in our city to take part in the memorial. Some will come from as far away as California returning to their roots which in some cases, many knew nothing about.
Not everyone sees the positive in a story like this. I read some letters to the editor when the designation on Ninth Street was announced. One man asked why the police think they are special or different than a regular Joe who dies at work. The answer is simple, death is death and tragedies are mourned regardless the profession, so it should never be about who has the more important job, that’s silly. But, the police family is a guarded one, we protect each other because we signed up for something a great lot would never want to do. Many days in this community the men and women who serve put their lives on the line, we understand each other and with each on duty death, we see ourselves in that same position and catch ourselves saying, that could have been me ten times over. We travel to the funerals and march to honour the fallen hero and carry that very unique feeling with each and every step we take. This is a great story for our community; it brings back a tragedy in a positive way and will reunite many family members who have never met each other. That should be a special part of this entire event and I encourage everyone to embrace it.
If you want to be a part of the ceremony at the Grave yard or the Street designation on Ninth Street, please feel welcome to take part. If you run into a member of the Davey family visiting our city, say hello and if you’re up to it, mention how important their ancestors sacrifice was, I’m sure they will appreciate it. If you think you are related to a member of the Davey, Gallagher, Johnson, and Lafave families and I have not yet contacted you, please get in touch.