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Fallen Michigan Conservation officers remembered in Roscommon

ROSCOMMON COUNTY — Conservation officers from Michigan were remembered during a ceremony in Roscommon County on Wednesday.

A Memorial Day ceremony for peace officers also was held at the Ralph A. MacMullan Conference Center earlier Wednesday.

Seventeen fallen conservation officers were remembered, including an officer from Traverse City.

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Lt. Jeremy Payne, the district law supervisor of the Law Enforcement Division of Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources, said being a conservation officer is dangerous work.

Payne said these fallen conservation officers are heroes and they should be remembered.

“We need to remember the COs [conservation officers] that died in the line of duty. We need to remember their family members. And it’s changed the trajectory of their lives,” said Payne.

Payne said oftentimes conservation officers are working alone in remote areas.

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These 17 conservation officers on the Fallen Conservation Officers Memorial illustrates how things could change on a dime.

“There’s 17 names on this list memorial that shows that there are 17 different situations that they weren’t expecting that particular day,” said Payne.

Traverse City’s Scott Averill is one of the officers memorialized on the monument. He died from brain tumors that developed where he was injured after being pistol whipped in 1980.

“He caught some people that were fishing illegally. I believe it was an Acme Creek Grand Traverse there. And he caught a father and a son combo there,” said Payne.

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Payne said it was after the father asked him to change the court date on the citation when Averill was attacked.

Averill’s wife Susan Averill Ewing was at the ceremony. She said it’s meaningful that he has not been forgotten 38 years later.

“Obviously, I wish that wasn’t the case, but it means a lot that they remember him, and other people remember,” said Ewing.

Conservation officer Paul Durham, from Western Michigan, died after suffering a heart attack in his patrol car in 1972.

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His name was added to the Fallen Conservation Officers memorial this year.

Payne said they just recently discovered he should have been included. He said because of a few fires in Lansing some of their records were lost.

“He was a sergeant and some of his people that he supervised contacted me and said, hey, you need to look into Sergeant Paul Durham. He belongs on that memorial. And that’s what we did,” said Payne.

Several members of Durham’s family, including his son, Tim Durham, were on hand for the event.

He said it meant a lot to his family to have his dad’s name included on the monument, more than 50 years later.

“Even though it’s been 52 years, when you’re young and you lose someone, you love, you get cut pretty deep and the scars are always there. But the hurt isn’t quite as bad as it was,” said Durham.

The Fallen Conservation Officers memorial was built two years ago in Roscommon.

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