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New memorial to honor county's fallen deputies

Penny Mecklenburg and son Andy, 5, attend the groundbreaking for a memorial for fallen deputies, including her husband, John.
Penny Mecklenburg and son Andy, 5, attend the groundbreaking for a memorial for fallen deputies, including her husband, John.
Published Mar. 17, 2012

BROOKSVILLE — A few months ago, someone asked Angie Bierwiler to join a committee that would design a memorial for deputies who have been killed while serving at the Hernando County Sheriff's Office.

Her husband, Capt. Scott Bierwiler, was killed while driving to work in February 2009 after a teenager veered into his lane and the vehicles collided head-on.

The morning of the first committee meeting, Angie Bierwiler made a pot of coffee. When it was finished, she took out the paper filter and saw something that shocked her. A five-pointed star was imprinted into the coffee grounds. She took a picture of it with a cellphone.

To her, it was a sign from her husband.

On Friday, the committee broke ground on the memorial and unveiled the design. Above a sheriff's prayer on a black slab of granite is the five-pointed star Angie Bierwiler believed her husband wanted.

"We're very proud," she said Friday, standing near the spot where the memorial will be built. "Scott and I made our life here."

The names of four men who have died working for the Sheriff's Office, including Scott Bierwiler, will be placed on the memorial. The others are Deputy John Mecklenburg, who was killed in July after his vehicle struck a tree during a high-speed chase; Deputy Lonnie Coburn, who was shot and killed in 1978, and Sheriff David Hedick, who was killed by two men on the courthouse steps in 1879.

Family members of all four men attended.

Mecklenburg's parents, Chuck and Judi, watched from the second row as Sheriff Al Nienhuis addressed a crowd of about 150 people. They each wore beige shirts inscribed on the back with their son's name and the quote, "I GOT IT," a saying for which he became known.

Mecklenburg's wife, Penny, who kick-started the project last fall, sat just in front of them. Her 5-year-old son, Andy, sat next to her. He wore a jersey from the Green Bay Packers, his dad's favorite team.

"Amazing," Penny Mecklenburg said after the ceremony. "It started because of John, but it's not just about John."

The crowd included some of Hernando's most well-known leaders and politicians, including several county commissioners and U.S. Rep. Rich Nugent, the sheriff before Nienhuis.

Organizers are still raising money and say they need about $30,000 to complete the project.

John Woodrow Cox can be reached at (352) 848-1432 or jcox@tampabay.com.

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