PLAINVILLE – Police officers, family and friends of Officer Robert Holcomb gathered at his grave last week on the 40th anniversary of his death.
“It’s a time honored tradition to honor our fallen officers,” said Police Chief Matthew Catania. “We’re very proud to be part of this tribute.”
Holcomb, 28, was killed Nov. 21, 1977 on Hollyberry Lane while responding to a burglary. He was shot once in the arm and four times in the chest. He died at New Britain General Hospital.
Gerald Castonguay, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for Holcomb’s murder. He was granted parole in 2015 which was quickly revoked after the community expressed disappointment in the decision.
“We all take that oath,” Catania said. “Officers put themselves in harm’s way to uphold that oath.”
Since Holcomb’s death, an annual tribute has been held to honor his memory.
His niece, Maria Weinberger, attends every year. She said Tuesday’s ceremony was especially moving because representatives from the U.S. Marines Corps attended and played Taps. Holcomb served two tours of duty in Vietnam.
“This town never forgets,” Weinberger said.
A street in Plainville where the high school is located was renamed after Holcomb and a memorial scholarship was established in his memory.
Weinberger, who was 15 when her uncle died, said the police department has become like a family.
Officers who served with Holcomb participated in the tradition of passing around a cup of coffee for their fallen brother at the cemetery. The “Coffee with Bobby” ceremony was coined by Bill Buden, a now retired officer who worked with Holcomb.
Current officers wear a pin with Holcomb’s badge No. 9. The badge number was retired in his honor.
“It’s the brotherhood of the police department,” Weinberger said. “Our family was greatly impacted and continue to be impacted.”