ALGONQUIN – Bill Buck has always known his father died while on duty as a Chicago police officer.
But now, nearly 73 years later, that fact is written on a very tangible wall thanks to his own unwavering resolve and the help of a local library.
The 86-year-old Algonquin resident last summer read an article about Chicago’s memorial for fallen police officers. It got him thinking about his father, William Buck, who was killed on duty in a car crash.
“I had searched but did not find my father’s name among the names of police officers who had fallen,” Buck said. “I read something about the wall in Chicago and I thought, ‘It’d be good to get my dad’s name on there.’ ”
Buck said he remembered the night his father died. It was late November and William Buck was on the midnight-to-8 a.m. shift, his son recalled.
“A couple detectives came to the house in the middle of the night, awakened my mother and me and took us to the hospital,” Buck said. “He was in a coma at that time because he had severe brain damage.”
Buck knew all this, and to him, the way in which his father died called for honorable recognition.
The task proved a little more difficult than he had anticipated, though.
His father’s end-of-watch date was Nov. 28, 1941, long before the memorial by Soldier Field even existed.
Dedicated in 2006, the memorial is meant to pay tribute to those who have died in the line and performance of duty since the Chicago Police Department’s beginning in the 1830s, according to the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation website.
Buck said he was told he needed proof that his father was killed while on duty in order for him to be included on the wall.
That’s where the Algonquin Area Public Library came in – more specifically, Virginia Freyre, the community outreach and adult programming librarian.
“He’s a regular library user so I know him,” Freyre said of Buck. “One day he came in and said he had been working on this project for so long and he just needed to prove his father died in the line of duty.”
For her, it was a simple search on the library’s electronic database. For him, it was the key to his father’s legacy.
Freyre found the issue of the Chicago Tribune in which his father’s death was included and detailed. She also gave Buck his dad’s obituary.
“Everything she gave me was instrumental in finally tracking down what had happened,” he said, adding the tangible evidence was exactly what the memorial organization needed to add the name.
Years after searching for details and wanting recognition for his father, Buck stood alongside his family – some of whom traveled from Colorado and California – for a memorial ceremony July 30 in Chicago. His dad, in addition to three others who died in the 1960s and ‘70s, was honored and officially added to the wall, according to the Chicago Police Department Gold Star Families website.
After removing a piece of tape covering the name, Buck also received a flag honoring his dad’s death.
“It was very emotional,” he said, less than a month later. “I’m so pleased – my whole family is pleased – that the recognition is finally there.”