Community Says ‘Good-Bye’ To Beloved Officer

The intersection of Fourth Street and Central Avenue near Dunkirk City Hall with a steady stream of vehicles making up the Procession for Officer Hazelton. The Procession started at Holy Trinity Church and ended at the cemetery in Portland.
Photo by Damian Sebouhian

The intersection of Fourth Street and Central Avenue near Dunkirk City Hall with a steady stream of vehicles making up the Procession for Officer Hazelton. The Procession started at Holy Trinity Church and ended at the cemetery in Portland. Photo by Damian Sebouhian

DUNKIRK — “As a testament to the respect of officer Matthew L. Hazelton, effective today, as a chief officer of the City of Dunkirk Police Department, I have ordered an emblem bearing ID 63 be made a part of the uniform of the day and decals bearing ID 63 Dispatch be permanently placed on every marked patrol car in the city of Dunkirk Police Department.”

These were the words of Dunkirk Police Chief David Ortolano, delivered Thursday during his emotionally stirring eulogy for the widely admired and respected Dunkirk City K-9 Officer, who passed Sunday at the age of 39 after a long sickness.

Sixty-three was the badge number Hazelton wore during his 14 years of service to the Dunkirk community, and based on the testimony given during his funeral service, he wore it like no other.

The service began with the heart-rendering elegiac sounds of bagpipes echoing through the high-vaulted chamber of the Holy Trinity Church, setting the tone for the packed room of friends, family and colleagues gathered to mourn the passing of a man who — by all accounts — dedicated his life to be the best husband, father and officer he could be.

The Rev. Daniel Walsh directed the service and delivered the homily in which he declared to those in attendance, that though Hazelton is no longer with his loved ones in body, his spirit lives on.

“He is untied of those worries, those responsibilities, those anxieties, those fears, those questions that we all have,” Walsh said, positing that the community be thankful for Hazelton’s presence in their lives. “Thank you, God, that we had him for 39 years, for his family, for his wonderful daughter, for his friends, for the service he gave to his community and all of us.”

Three members of the Dunkirk Police Department — Chief Ortolano, Sgt. Mark Gruber and Officer Darren McIntyre — delivered eulogies, rendering a collective verbal picture of their beloved colleague so complete, it became obvious why Hazelton was held in such high esteem.

“Matthew was a private person,” Ortolano said. “But when it came to his family, I knew he loved them very much because every time I would ask him about them he would give me that weird look of his and smile from ear to ear.”

Ortolano’s speech moved from tear-inducing to humorously touching.

“I’m sure he’s already written a couple dozen tickets in heaven,” Ortolano said, calling Hazelton his “go-to guy” who was always “the first to volunteer for any detail. He would even change his days off so he could spend a whole night at National Night Out (event).”

“If I had an issue that needed to be taken care of, I’d call him into the office,” Ortolano said, explaining how Hazelton was his biggest producer in terms of writing tickets.

Ortolano told of the time he had received a complaint about people speeding on West Second Street.

“I sent Matthew over there,” Ortolano said. “A couple days later, same outcome, (a bunch of tickets issued). But this one was a little bit different. I ran into some of the ladies that lived on West Second Street; they told me that they brought him cookies. For the first and only time in Matthew’s career, I had to yell at him because he knows how much I like cookies and he didn’t bring me any.”

All three eulogists recounted how professional Hazelton was, that he was born to be a policeman, and described what a powerful love he had for his family and his community. They reminded Hazelton’s wife and daughter that they will always be a part of the Dunkirk Police Department family.

“Please know that you are a part of the DPD family and we are DPD strong,” Ortolano said to Hazelton’s wife, Jennifer. “Our love for you and Eva will forever be DPD strong. I think the proudest moments for Matthew was the day he met Jen, the day Ava was born and his next most prized possession was his partner, Nico. He was so proud of his and Nico’s accomplishments.”

Ortolano acknowledged the outpouring of support from the community and nearly broke down in sobs when describing a recent anonymous tribute.

“One of the most touching moments is when I came into work yesterday morning,” Ortolano said, fighting back tears. “Someone left two stones outside headquarters at Matthew’s grave. One was painted with a blue line and the words on it: ‘Condolences on the loss of your friend and fellow officer.’ The second one was a heart-shaped rock and it was painted broken.”

The service ended with the traditional flag folding ceremony, 21-gun salute, taps and presentation of the flag followed by last call, in which Matthew Hazelton’s name and badge number were called out.

After the service, area police and other emergency servicepeople conducted a procession down Central Avenue to Route 5 and on to the cemetery in Portland where Hazelton was interred.

The procession was led by area K-9 units with the police dog in the first vehicle craning his head out the window and barking his own eulogistic bark all the way down Central Avenue.

Two fire trucks were parked at the intersection of Fourth and Central, and hoisted an American flag high above the pavement as the procession passed beneath

“Dedication, integrity, honor, respect. These are words that describe Matthew Hazelton,” Ortolano had said in his eulogy. “He was a consummate professional, quietly doing his job each and every day. He was proud of the Dunkirk Police Department and we were proud of him.”

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