AUBURN, Mass. – For many, New Year’s Day signifies an annual celebration of new beginnings. In 1986, however, Jan. 1 was not a new beginning for Auburn Patrolman Stephen Lukas but the tragic end of his life as he responded to a call to help others.
Twenty-seven years later, the Police Department held a ceremony at Hillside Cemetery on New Year’s Day, placing a wreath on Lukas’ grave. Lukas was 25 years old when he was killed in a car accident while responding to an emergency call when his patrol vehicle skidded off the icy road and struck a utility pole.
“Stephen reminds us that our chosen profession carries with it very real dangers and the possibility of great sacrifice, not only for ourselves but for those who love us and see us off to work each day hoping for our safe return,” said Detective Sgt. Jeffrey Lourie. “His story of rapid achievement at police work and his sudden and unforeseen death is told to all new officers that report to work at the Auburn Police Department.
“Stephen’s legacy represents to us inspiration and hope for our own lives and careers - courage, family, hard work, friendship, camaraderie and achievement - all blended with a great sense of humor,” Lourie added. “His story offers a history lesson for all Auburn officers and even those to come.”
Members of the Auburn Police Association place a memorial wreath on his grave each Jan. 1, but Lourie said the officers chose to hold a brief ceremony with the wreath-laying this year.
“We memorialize him every year at this time and we are reminded of him each and every day as we pass the granite memorial and wooden plaque bearing his image - as we report to duty,” Lourie said. “As we lay this wreath in honor of Officer Lukas, let us also not forget the sacrifice made by his family, his friends and his brothers in arms.”
Lukas’ name is engraved on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C. with 19,000 other names.
“Like the words that are etched in stone at the Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington so poignantly read: ‘It is not how these men died that makes them heroes. It’s how they lived,’ ” Lourie said.