Pasco sheriff's Capt. Michael Schreck hit the road early Friday after packing a pickup with buckets, bleach, brushes and a crew of fellow honor guard members. Their job: spruce up grave sites of the officers killed in the line of duty.
The final stop, the Brooksville Cemetery, provided a particular challenge to the men, as Sheldon S. Nicks' weathered headstone hadn't received much attention since his family erected it almost 100 years ago to the day. Schreck and his men scrubbed and bleached and when they were done, the marble marker glistened.
Etched on the stone is "Gone but not forgotten,'' and for the first time in ages, that would seem true.
But for the efforts of Jeff Miller, a Gulf High School math teacher and amateur historian, Sheldon Nicks' story would be lost to history. Now, when law enforcement officers gather this week for the annual tribute to those who fell in Pasco, his name will be next to six others in a position of honor — just as they are at similar permanent memorials in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C.
Miller, whose Web page www.fivay.org provides a comprehensive history of Pasco through words and pictures, discovered evidence last year that Nicks died at age 23 on May 8, 1909, when he jumped in front of a bullet meant for his father, Henry Robert Nicks, the area's chief law enforcement officer, who had been dispatched to arrest a man in the former sawmill town of Fivay.
Miller found old newspaper clippings that mentioned Nicks was a deputy and drew on the memories of Frances Mallett, H.R. Nicks' granddaughter, who is considered Port Richey's historian. Mrs. Mallett was 8 when her grandfather died in 1928 at age 75.
Mrs. Mallett remains sharp and clear in her recollections, but says she doesn't get out much anymore. But when the Sheriff's Office conducts the memorial at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the historic courthouse in Dade City, she expect to be in the front row.
"I wouldn't miss this,'' she said.