Thursday, April 24, 2008

Remembering Rob

Two years ago this month our community suffered a tragedy that had never happened before. Rob Targosz was killed by a drunk driver. He was the first Gilbert Police Officer killed in the line of duty.

I will never forget the day I found out. I was in Chicago at a conference when I was talking to my secretary on the phone. She asked if I had heard about the officer who was killed. She told me she thought it was one of the officers that stopped by every now and then to say hi. When she told me it was Rob, I was devastated to hear this awful news. What a tragedy for our community, for his wife and his family, and for his many friends.

I had gotten to know Rob when he took a graduate class from me through NAU. It was the first class that I taught and I had mostly police officers and a couple of teachers. What an experience that was!!!! Rob, Ric, and Steve were the Gilbert Policemen in the class. There were officers from Mesa and Chandler. Those guys kept me on my toes I can tell you that. Over the course of the next few years, I saw Ric and Rob on several occasions. Rob stopped by school every now and then.

I remember the day that the Town of Gilbert honored Rob. The route that the officers, fire departments, dignitaries, and Rob's family would travel would be right by our school. Our children and teachers made banners and we all stood in Elliot road to pay tribute to Rob. A few days later, I received an email from Rob's wife telling me how much it meant to her and to the family to see all of the children lining the streets. Over the past two years, I have been involved in helping with the Memorial that the Town built to honor public safety officers and have gotten to know Rob's wonderful family.

In addition, our sixth graders started a Memorial Garden at our school and have a place to honor Rob. The "761" in the picture was Rob's badge number with the Gilbert Police Department. His family came to see the garden
at the end of the school year last year.

A few weeks ago, I read an article in the Arizona Republic about Rob's dad, Gene, and the father of the young man who was responsible for Rob's death. The article talked about how they have joined forces to lobby the state legislature about DUI laws. It was a touching article about how both families were devastated by this tragedy. Having gotten to know Gene, Brigitte, and Aunt Gina, I can see how they would understand and empathize with the young man's family. They are awesome people!!

I was asked to write a guest editorial for the local newspaper last April. I am including it here.

April, 2007
t Independent

Five years ago this summer, I had the honor of getting to know Officer Rob Targosz because he was a student in a leadership class that I was teaching for Northern Arizona University. The class was mostly police officers with a few teachers. It was the first class that I taught for NAU. I think I learned more from the officers than they learned from me.

I never thought much about their daily lives before that class. That summer, a police officer from Chandler was killed in the line of duty earlier in the day of our evening class. That night’s class will be something I will remember for the rest of my life. I learned about how these men and women face each day and deal with the tragedies of our society. They leave their homes, kiss their families good-bye, and go do their jobs. It could very easily be the last time that they do this.

I also learned what an honorable human being Rob Targosz was. I remember him talking about “doing the right thing” and not asking for credit for doing it. I remember his caring and passion for his profession and the difference that he knew he made each day.

Rob kept in touch with me after the class. He came to Gilbert Elementary and worked with our students on science projects. He shared how much he loved science because of his dad. I believe it is so good for our children to view police officers in different roles.

It is great to know that our town is in the process of raising funds for the Gilbert Public Safety Memorial to honor our police and firefighters. I believe that the memorial is very important, as our police officers and firefighters who make sure that all citizens are safe each and every day of the year. Their jobs have the potential of being extremely dangerous. Our society looks up to athletes, musicians, and actors who make millions of dollars. I believe that the people who go to work day in and day out in for the betterment of our society (including educators) should be our heroes. We need to recognize and honor these wonderful professions.

The children in the Gilbert School District have participated in the fund-raising as every school has sent in donations. Many of the schools have raised enough to have a tile with the school’s name on it as part of the memorial.

Every day heroes, like Rob Targosz, are what make Gilbert such an incredible community in which to live. I am proud to say I am a resident of Gilbert, Arizona!

Rob Targosz was truly an incredible human being!!! Our world is a better place because of him. What a legacy he has left to our community!!

4 remarks:

F Wilson said...

This is truly a wonderful rememberance. Thank you for posting it. I have forwarded it to Rob's father.

F. Wilson

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Sheila, for honoring Rob at this time. He truly was a fine and loving Nephew - loved his job at a Policeman, loved school children and helping them to know the difference from right and wrong, loved science because of learning it from his father, Gene, and especially loved his Family very much. He is truly missed!

Gina Targosz Richards

velvet brick said...

This is such an important and beautiful post, Sheila. I never met Rob personally, but I would often see him in Starbuck's when I'd stop in on my way to work. He also worked the street on my way to work...keeping speeders and drunks from harming others. What an selfless man who gave everything...absolutely everything. As my cottage is next to the memorial garden, I am reminded on a daily basis of him, and I hope, somehow...that Officer Targosz knows that his legacy continues and that he is not forgotten.

Susie of Arabia said...

What a lovely tribute - and what a great loss to the community and his family. Nice post, Cheela.