More than 1,000 relatives, friends and colleagues of Los Angeles County Safety Police Officer Thomas Worley attended memorial and burial services on December 29, 1994.
Worley died December 21 from gunshot wounds received when Jesus Mario Valenzuela tried to rob a shoe store. Confronted by Worley, the robber opened fire. Worley returned fire; both died of their injuries a short time later.
Pam Worley rushed to her husband’s side, where an off-duty firefighter, Don Reyes, was attempting to revive the mortally wounded officer. “It was wonderful what that firefighter did; I could never thank him enough,” she said. The couple would have celebrated their fourth wedding anniversary in March.
“Tom’s sense of justice, his commitment to serve others caused his life to end much too soon,” his mother, the Rev. Dorothy Worley, told mourners at the First United Methodist Church in Santa Monica. She urged them to cherish him in death as they did in life. “He will live on within each of us,” she said.
Hundreds of Southern California law enforcement officers attended the funeral, including Los Angeles County Sheriff Sherman Block and Los Angeles Police Chief Willie T. Williams.
After the memorial service, 40 motorcycles led a huge procession of police vehicles to Oakwood Memorial Park in Chatsworth. There a lone bagpiper played as eight of Worley’s colleagues escorted his flag-draped casket to the grave.
Worley’s wife accepted the folded flag, then hugged her family. Thomas and Pam had a two-year-old son, and Worley had a six-year-old daughter from a previous marriage.
Following a 21-gun salute and the playing of “Taps,” Worley was laid to rest in the family plot. Relatives and friends spoke in quavering voices of Worley’s short life and a bright future lost.
“For us, Christmas will forever have a bittersweet taste. As we celebrate it every year, we will remember Tom and feel the pain anew. But we must remember that he gave his life for a great cause,” his father, Robert Worley, said. His son viewed law enforcement as more than a career. “Tom had a calling to be in law enforcement. He knew it. He said it.”
Worley’s colleagues spoke of his dedication and how they still cannot believe he will not be joining them for the next shift. “One day you get the call, and he is gone,” said county Safety Police Officer Ken Reichling.
“He was the epitome of a law enforcement officer,” stated Henry Jex, the father of Worley’s ex-wife, Suzanne Worley. “The kind of guy you would want protecting you and your country.”
Worley’s mother spoke of the family’s pride. “We are deeply hurt; there’s no hurt greater than this. At the same time we are very proud of him. He was doing what he had always wanted to do, protecting other people. He was a fine Christian young man, a wonderful husband and father,” she said.
Safety Police Officer Dale Bailey, who graduated with Worley from the Rio Hondo Community College Academy in 1994, praised his dedication. “That was his life,” Bailey said. “He was an outstanding officer.”
His voice shaking, Safety Police Officer James Schickel recalled how Worley could be relied on for a steady hand and level head in the face of danger. “I knew my backup was there, and I’d be safe.”
And, as a friend, “Tom could be counted on to lend a shoulder and a kind word,” Schickel said. “He always knew the right thing to say. He gave me hope.”
Contributions to a trust fund for the family may be sent to the Thomas Worley Memorial Fund, Los Angeles County/USC Medical Center Foundation, 1200 North State St., Room 1112, Los Angeles, CA 90033.