St. Marys Journal Argus
SEBRINGVILLE — “We’re a different organization than the OPP was back (in 1968), and I’m very proud of that. We now do all that we can to ensure that our fallen officers are not forgotten,” explained Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Chris Lewis, during a ceremony Tuesday, Nov. 19 at the Sebringville Community Centre, marking the dedication of a bridge in the heart of the village in honour of Constable Sam Ankenmann.
Const. Ankenmann, a native of Shakespeare, was a 12-year veteran of the provincial police force when his cruiser slipped off a road in North Easthope Township in heavy early morning fog back in June, 1968. Two local men pulled him from the burning vehicle, but his injuries had already taken his life.
Over 100 people attended Tuesday’s ceremony, including dozens of OPP officers in formal police uniforms — a number of whom participated in an Honour Guard procession prior to the dedication. Following speeches from OPP leadership and Const. Ankenmann’s son, Rev. Shawn Ankenmann, a replica of a highway sign denoting the bridge’s dedication (signs in both easterly and westerly directions had already been erected at the nearby site) was unveiled before Const. Ankenmann’s surviving family members.
In keeping with a Private Member’s Bill introduced into the Ontario Legislature in 2002 by Libreral Rick Bartolucci, 52 officers (including Const. Ankenmann) have now been recognized through bridge dedications. Lewis noted that Ontario’s 105 fallen officers (just over half lost their lives in traffic incidents) are already recognized in Toronto, Ottawa, and at OPP headquarters in Orillia. But the introduction of the bridge dedication program added a vital local level of recognition.
Lewis then addressed the surviving Ankenmanns, saying, “You will always be a part of the OPP family . . . You were his support system. And you are his legacy. So this bridge dedication is not only for Sam; it’s also for you.”
Rev. Shawn Ankenmann, a United Church pastor in Flesherton, was just nine months old when his father died, and two family members with more vivid memories of Const. Ankenmann — his mother and his older brother —have also since passed away. But the fallen OPP officer’s son offered assurances that his mother and brother “are sharing in this moment of pride.”
He also offered a level of assurance that, although he doesn’t remember his father, he feels certain Const. Ankenmann’s qualities have been passed on to himself and his children. Rev. Ankenmann admitted it was always very difficult for his mother to talk about his father — “it was a loss that we didn’t ever really recover from” — and that discussion became even more difficult when grandchildren arrived. But he found solace in the many mementos kept by the family — photos, as well as tributes that came in from far and wide when Const. Ankenmann lost his life.
Rev. Ankenmann’s address to the dedication audience was peppered with humour — something with which, he noted, Const. Ankenmann was also blessed.
“Dad was known to me through the stories, the memories and the recollections. And let me tell you, those were quite the stories — his pranks, his teasing, his sense of humour.”
But the address was also filled with emotion, including when he told about his daughter deciding — when asked to research “a Canadian hero” — to do a school project about her grandfather.