Tears flowed among the honor guards lining the outskirts of the Skyrose Chapel at Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier.
More than 500 mourners stood solemnly during a service for Officer Paul B. Beridon, 51, a Chino Hills resident who was a state prison guard for 25 years. He died September 11, 1997 in a traffic accident along with Officer Mylene G. Zalar, 36.
“He was a caring individual who took the time to teach others,” said Lt. Tom J. Padilla, who worked with Beridon at the California Institution for Men in Chino.
As honor guards stood by, colleagues said Beridon had been a calm, confident member of the staff at CIM, where he began working as a corrections officer in 1972.
Beridon and Zalar died instantly in a traffic accident on September 11. Beridon, Zalar, and fellow guard Louis Ordaz, 48 were on their way to the Sierra Conservation Center near Modesto to pick up and transport new prisoners when a truck swerved and struck their car, said Lt. Kevin Peters of CIM. Officer Ordaz received severe injuries and was treated at a Modesto hospital.
“It’s devastating any time we lose anybody… especially in an accident like this one,” Peters said.
Along with his duties as a transportation officer, Beridon also served on the Special Emergency Response Team at CIM, which responds to emergency situations at the prison.
“Everything he did was above and beyond,” said assistant SERT commander Fred Faulk.
Larry Witek, the warden at CIM, said Beridon set the example for the institution’s staff.
“He was professional and respectful to all people,” he said. “He really represented what peace officers should be.”
During the 90-minute-long service, the chapel was packed with officers from the Department of Corrections, California Highway Patrol, Huntington Park Police Department, Chino Police Department, the California Youth Authority and the Anaheim Police Department.
Beridon is survived by his wife of 28 years, Mary; daughter, Yvette; son, Shawn; son-in-law, Steve Polly; and granddaughters, Alexa Beridon and Brianna Polley.
Officer Zalar began her career at CIM in 1990. She worked at California State Prison, Calipatria and returned to CIM before transferring to the transportation unit in 1993. Fellow officers say she was known for her grit and determination. She recently turned down a position with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to stay with the Department of Corrections.
A memorial service for Ofc. Mylene was held at the Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Riverside on Wednesday, Sept. 17. Several of her coworkers presented a tribute to her at the Interment Service held at the Olivewood Cemetery following the service. The presenters included: David Tristan, deputy director – Institutions Division; Tom Goughnour, chief of the Transportation Unit; Capt. Mike Evans, Southern Transportation Hub; and Lt. Chacon, CIM Honor Guard.
Zalar, who was born in Berlin, Germany, began her career at CIM in 1990. She worked at California State Prison, Calipatria and returned to CIM before transferring to the Transportation Unit in 1993. Fellow officers say she was known for her grit and determination.
Zalar recently turned down a position with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to stay with the Department of Corrections. She especially enjoyed her coveted assignment with the Transportation Unit.
Zalar was a 1980 graduate of John W. North High School in Riverside. She went on to further her education at Riverside Community College where she graduated with honors in 1982. Her educational ambition and hard work ethic earned her a biochemistry degree from the University of California, Riverside while also working for the Press-Enterprise newspaper. In 1983 she earned a Service Award from the newspaper. From 1986 to 1989 she was a lab tech. Specialist in genetics at UCR.
Zalar is survived by her mother, Annalore Zalar Keyes; step-father, Robert J. Keyes; brother, Joseph Zalar; sister-in-law, Daniela; step-brother, Robert Keyes; step-sister, Klaudia Dell; and special niece, Jennifer Zalar.