Bridge memorial honours Sudbury police officers killed in the line of duty in 1949
On a June day in 1949, when he was a very young boy living in Gatchell, Sudbury MPP Rick Bartolucci remembers getting on the streetcar with his family for a trip downtown.
Suddenly, everyone had to get off at Byng and Ontario streets because something was very wrong.
As it turns out, a gun battle had broken out after Sudbury police constables Edward Terrell and Gerry Dault responded to a domestic disturbance complaint.
Terrell was shot and killed as he approached the house. Dault secured the area, making sure the public was safe, before he was fatally shot, as well. Police eventually found the shooter dead inside the apartment. His wife and children fled.
On March 1, inside council chambers at Tom Davies Square, both officers and their families were honoured as twin bridges are being renamed in the officers’ honour. The bridge crosses the Wanapitei River along Highway 69.
“There’s a spirit of celebration here,” Bartolucci told the crowd gathered at city hall.
They were celebrating both men’s dedication to serving and protecting Sudburians, which they did so well “in their short time on this Earth.”
He recalled the day Terrell and Dault were shot, as people exited the streetcar and took cover.
“In that gun battle, the people we honour today were killed,” he said. “With this memorial, they will always be defined as heroes in their community.”
Bartolucci was key in getting a private members bill passed allowing communities to rename bridges to honour police officers killed in the line of duty.
Terrell and Dault left behind children too young to immediately feel the impact of their fathers’ death. Bill Terrell said growing up without his guitar-playing father was a hardship he was always keenly aware of.
“I never got to play guitar with my dad, or do all those things I’ve been able to do with my children,” he said. “My life changed forever on that day.”
And although he grew up without his dad, his family and friends helped keep his memory alive. He was told his father died doing what he loved to do – being a police officer and protecting the public.
“I can never express how proud I am to be here today,” Terrell said. “Thank you very much. I’m very proud.”
Madeleine Belkosky and Karen Boudreau were also too young to remember their father, Gerry Dault. They said everyone worked very hard to give them a normal upbringing and give them an idea of what sort of person he was.
They heard stories about what a great sense of humour he had, and that he was a hero not only as a policeman, but for the years he spent fighting for Canada in the Second World War.
“And he was able to come home safely to us (after serving) 68 months,” Belkosky said. “And then he died a few years later in an ambush in his own hometown.
“We are proud to be honouring our father.”
Boudreau said it’s fitting both men are being honoured at the same time.
They heard about bridges being named after officers killed in the line of duty.
“This has touched us very deeply,” she said.
“They died together and they’re being honoured together,” Belkosky added.
Sudbury MP Glenn Thibeault said police officers risk their lives every day to protect and serve society, so these sorts of memorials are important.
“(We must) honour the men and women who keep us safe,” he said.
NDP MPP France Gelinas, whose riding includes the twin bridges, said even after all these years, the sadness of the event is still present.
“Two officers lost their lives,” she said. “Two families faced horrifying news … This is a very nice way to say thank you to Const. Terrell and to Const. Dault.”
Greater Sudbury Police Chief Frank Elsner said after all these years, it’s easy to forget that Dault and Terrell were in the prime of life when they were killed.
“These officers were 29 and 32 years old, these were young, young men who lost their lives,” he said. “We can never pay that debt.”
“Nobody expects their father to go to work in the morning and not come home at night,” said Ward 5 Coun. Ron Dupuis, who chairs Sudbury’s police services board. “We all know of the sacrifice these gentlemen have made. This is a show of gratitude.”