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Deputies honor comrade

by Linda Hiller

More than 400 people sat in a gentle rain at Zephyr Cove Tuesday morning to bid farewell to Edward Ronald Callahan, eulogized as a man of integrity, honesty and dedication.

Deputy Callahan, 54, a seasonal Douglas County Sheriff’s Office boat patrolman, drowned 11 days ago on Memorial Day weekend, when a dinghy he was attempting to board capsized, throwing him into the frigid waters of Lake Tahoe.

Rev. Pete Nelson of the Carson Valley United Methodist Church spoke first to those in attendance, which included many of Callahan’s family members. He is survived by his wife, Camille, daughters, Patricia, Christina and Theresa, son Victor and brother Patrick.

“Welcome to a bright Nevada day – a day that Ed Callahan knew very well,” Nelson said, explaining that Callahan had rescued many a boater in foul weather. “In a way, it makes the raindrops appropriate – like a small baptism – helping us to take the pain we all engender and divide it among ourselves. We are here to give thanks for a life well-lived.”

Callahan’s partner and friend, reserve deputy sheriff Wes Rice, remembered him as “one of the finest men I’ve ever known.”

“He was kind, gentle, compassionate, tolerant and dedicated his life to serving others,” Rice said. “He touched lives in ways he never knew – from the people he rescued off the Lake to those he just talked to. He mattered.”

Every May for the past three years, Rice said he looked forward to Callahan’s arrival with his camping trailer at the Zephyr Cove campground, where he spent the summer while working as a seasonal boat patrolman.

“He was a part of the Zephyr Cove community and everyone called him Ed – not Officer Callahan or Deputy Callahan. Just Ed,” Rice explained. “He would come here and be a part of my life – of all our lives. May will never be the same. Goodbye, partner.”

Callahan’s daughter Tina remembered her father as someone who always listened to her and supported her through good times as well as bad.

“He was my co-conspirator in practical jokes and always insisted that I be happy,” she said as the rain continued to sprinkle those listening. “He gave me the gift of life and then taught me how to live. He was my friend and I am happy that I have no regrets for things unsaid.”

DCSO Sheriff Ron Pierini read a poem written by two members of his department in honor of Callahan. As he read, the rain began to subside.

He told those in attendance a brief summary of Callahan’s life: born in Chicago on May 3, 1945 joining the United States Marine Corps after high school, serving three tours of duty in Southeast Asia as a lieutenant. Callahan then joined the ranks of the U.S. Customs Service in 1971 and retired in 1995. Among his customs service assignments was patrolling Pacific Ocean waters off the coast of California for many years, so he was no stranger to rough waters.

Callahan and Rice had just completed their tour of duty around 5 p.m. on May 24 and secured their patrol boat to the buoy about 200 feet from shore.

Zephyr Cove dockmaster Chris Burke piloted the ferry dinghy out to fetch the deputies. As the two were attempting to board the dinghy, a large wave capsized the small boat, sending all three men into the icy water.

Burke was able to get onto the boat and help Rice aboard, but Callahan was nowhere to be seen, they said. After rescuers arrived, Callahan was located at the bottom of the lake in 10 feet of water. Resuscitation was unsuccessful and he was pronounced dead one hour later at Barton Memorial Hospital.

Pierini said that next May, Callahan’s name will be added to three separate law enforcement memorials – Carson City, Sparks and Washington, D.C. – as the 85th Nevada peace officer to die in the line of duty.

“Let’s hope there will never be a number 86,” he said, adding that Callahan will be remembered as a hero – someone with compassion, resolve and devotion.

Among those present at Callahan’s memorial were hundreds of law officers from not only Douglas County, but El Dorado County, Washoe County, Sparks, Tahoe-Douglas, South Lake Tahoe, Boulder City, the Nevada Division of Wildlife, Mono County, Calif., Monterey, Calif., Lodi, Calif., San Jose, Calif. and more.

As the sun began to streak through the trees, Nelson remembered Callahan as someone who gets inside you like a virus – a good virus, he said.

“People like Ed change us forever,” he said. “They make us better people.”

A 21-gun salute was performed by seven U.S. Marines stationed in Stead as sirens from 12 patrol boats sounded a final salute to Ed Callahan.

Those in attendance silently watched the boats on the now-calm Lake, not far from the spot where Callahan died.

The Record-Courier E-mail: rc@tahoe.com

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