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Scholarships keep deputy's memory alive

Rob Mahoney, who was a 13-year veteran with the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, died Feb. 14 after a bout with cancer.

"Over the last month or two, it became pretty obvious that he wasn't going to be well again," said his widow, Lori. "I wanted to have something to have him be alive (after his death)."

Mrs. Mahoney started the Rob Mahoney Memorial Scholarship Fund to give civilian and correctional employees at the Sheriff's Office a chance at what her husband loved best: a career in law enforcement.

"His love was police work," she said Friday. "It became important to me to help people who want to be something but they can't because they don't have the money for it."

Two scholarships, each for about $1,000, were presented at a Sheriff's Office dinner last week. The winners are Ian Berkman, a crime scene technician, and Robin Penix, a radio dispatcher. The scholarships may be used at Pasco's Police Academy but that is not a requirement, said sheriff's spokesman Jon Powers.

"People that were interested in receiving the scholarship had to write a letter to personnel," Mrs. Mahoney said. "Out of the letters, I chose the two recipients. . . . (Berkman and Penix) both captured my heart (with) their written tribute to Rob. They both captured my heart tremendously.

"I just looked at why they wanted to be police," she said. "It was important to me that they feel the same" as her husband did about the job.

The funds were raised by contributions from Sheriff's Office employees, friends, family and Mrs. Mahoney's co-workers at North Bay Medical Center in New Port Richey, where she is a nursing supervisor. "My original intent was that this would come from my heart," she said. "It would also be a healing thing for me and my kids."

Mrs. Mahoney said she plans to fund a scholarship every year.

Mahoney, who was 40 when he died, is survived by a son, Joseph, 7, and a daughter, Nicole, 2.

"He was very, very well-loved at the Sheriff's Office," said Mrs. Mahoney. "This is a way to kind of keep his memory alive."