By John Joyce
Published in News on May 8, 2014 1:46 PM
Investigator Daren Craig, front, with the Wayne County Sheriff's Office, holds the American flag to his chest and bows his head during the opening prayer at the Law Enforcement Memorial Service at Wayne Community College on Wednesday.
Wayne County Sheriff Larry Pierce presents a shadow box to Teresa Winders, the widow of the county's late sheriff, Carey Winders. Mrs. Winders said she has been humbled by the support she and her family have received since her husband's death.
The sound of cowboy boots tapping across a wooden deck.
The sight of a white Chevrolet pulling into the driveway.
The way a man's grin spreads into a long smile when his wife comes into view.
The little things that become routine during the course of a marriage might seem simple.
But for Teresa Winders, they represent the most noticeably absent -- and longed for -- moments of each day that has passed since her husband died after suffering a massive heart attack earlier this year.
In reality, the day belonged to each of the local lawmen who have died in service to their city and county since Sheriff John Coor-Pender was shot and killed in 1816.
But many of those who attended the 2014 Law Enforcement Memorial Service at Wayne Community College Wednesday morning could not help but turn their focus to the three generations of women who bear the name -- and features -- of Wayne County's late sheriff, Carey Winders.
And when the man who now holds the post Winders defined for more than 20 years presented his widow with a shadow box that contained, among other things, the memorial flag flown over the sheriff's office the day he died, many would have started missing their friend all over again had they not carried the loss with them ever since the January day they received the shocking news that he had passed.
Teresa is still overwhelmed -- and humbled -- by the outpouring of support she and her family members have been on the receiving end of since.
"I just want to thank all the citizens of Wayne County for all their outpouring of support and love during our loss," she said. "I don't believe Carey really had a clue how much people loved him, respected him and thought of him."
The ceremony brought back memories of Winders' funeral, but the late sheriff was not the only beloved lawman absent at the college.
Capt. Jerry Best was the most recent to fall in the line of duty -- when, in 2002, he was struck by a vehicle while removing a deer carcass from the roadway.
His story -- and the names and circumstances surrounding the deaths of another 10 who died serving Wayne County were read aloud.
Then, seven rifleman each fired three shots skyward.
A lone bugler played taps.
The ranks of deputies, officers and Seymour Johnson Air Force Base airmen who gathered by the local law enforcement memorial stood at parade rest during comments delivered by the respective heads of the Wayne County Sheriff's Office and the Fremont and Goldsboro Police Departments.
Teresa still longs to hear the sound of cowboy boots tapping across her wooden deck.
She wishes that she could see that white Chevrolet pull into the driveway -- if only just one more time.
"I just miss him," she said. "He was a good daddy, a good husband and an awesome, awesome man."
But his granddaughters, Lainey Rae Sparks and Charleigh Grace Rouse, of whom he was so proud, will still know Carey, she said.
They will grow up surrounded by his photos.
They will hear the stories that seemed to define him.
And they will come to know him as those who remembered him Wednesday did -- as the practical joker, the man with the often indecipherable drawl and the unlikely candidate that became -- and remained for 20 years -- the sheriff of Wayne County.