Police officers from across the state were among the 2,000 people who attended a funeral Mass April 19, 1995 for Newport Beach Police Officer Bob Henry.
Henry, shot in the head March 12 by a man who then took his own life, clung to life in a coma for 33 days before he died.
Mourners heard the 30-year-old father of three remembered as a devoted Catholic who made the ultimate sacrifice that shadows the life of every peace officer. Also remembered was his good-hearted sense of humor, his love of surfing, his proposal to his wife on his knee in front of a class-room full of children she was teaching.
After the funeral Mass, hundreds of police vehicles and a fire engine followed the hearse to Holy Sepulcher Cemetery in Orange.
The graveside service was somber. Five police helicopters flew overhead in a missing-man formation. Henry received a 21-gun salute by the Los Angeles Police Department Honor Guard. Row after row of officers, mostly from the Newport Beach Police Department, stood at attention while a trumpeter played “Taps.” The private burial followed a day of public remembrances of Henry at the Mass and at a reception in Newport Beach.
At the Mass, mourners heard the message of Resurrection offered by The Rev. Stephen J. Duffin of St. Catherine of Siena Church. “A whole police force, a whole army, cannot stop death from taking our brother,” said Duffin as Henry’s parents, brothers, sister, wife and three small children stood nearby. “But for us, this isn’t the end, it’s a new beginning.”
The Henry recalled most fondly was a loving friend who used his humor to shepherd those close to him through trying emotional times.
Sheila McHenry, a friend of Bob and Patty Henry, said Henry cheered her up after her cancer surgery. She told Henry that doctors had removed a tumor the size of a volleyball. “Yeah, right,” Henry replied. “The surgery was probably one hour long and they were playing volleyball for the other four.”
Mike Guerena went to school with Henry from first grade through graduation from Mater Dei High School. He recalled the time that a bored Henry, who had landed them both jobs in a mail room, slipped a cardboard box over his torso and began hopping around, only to be surprised by his boss.
The Mass served as a public grieving and the seed of healing for more than 1,000 police officers who came to honor Henry. “No matter where we work, we’re doing the same type of job, striving for a safe community,” said Fremont Police Officer William Caratini. “It could be any one of us at any time.”
Bob Henry was the 38th Orange County officer killed in the line of duty. Newport Beach Police Chief Robert J. McDonell, who offered one of the eulogies, vowed to watch over Henry’s wife and three children: six-year old Bobby, Jenna, 2, and Alyssa, two months old when her father died. “We pledge to you Bob Henry that we will close ranks and protect your family until you are all happily together,” he said through tears.
The loss hit the close-knit Newport Beach force hard, said Officer Mark Hamilton. “Bob gave us hope. Bob gave us courage. Bob gave us strength,” Hamilton said. “On April 13, 1995, Bob gave us his life.”
Contributions to benefit the Henry family may be made to the Robert Henry Fund, Newport Beach Police Department, Attn: Sgt. Andy Goins, P.O. Box 7000, Newport Beach, CA 92658-7000.
For its my duty that’s been bestowed
The life of a cop
Is a life of the unknown
I kiss my family good-bye
Not knowing if I will see them again
And venture off into the night
Again and Again
Lord, I pray that you will grant me
The strength to carry on
So my family will not ever have to worry
If I will be coming home
And, if that day should arrive
And my duty comes to an end
Watch over my loving family
Because they were my best friends
And if this day should come
May my duty be forever told
With this final request
That no more names be carved in stone