PLYMOUTH, Minn. (KMSP) - Ahead of the funeral for Wayzata Police Officer William Mathews set for Thursday morning, volunteers with Backing the Blue Line are systematically removing the thorns, spray painting petals blue and attaching cards onto 2,000 roses bearing the fallen officer's badge number.
Mathews was fatally struck by a vehicle while he was trying to remove debris on Highway 12 in Wayzata last week.
“I don't know how many people don't have that thought was my officer, my significant other who wears a badge,” said Shannon Pederson, Rose Memorial Chair.
Backing the Blue Line is mostly made of women married to officers in the west metro, but also as far as Beltrami County. For everyone gathered at the Plymouth Fire station Wednesday afternoon, Officer Mathews' death is a sobering reminder of their constant fears.
“My husband responded to the scene,” said Kathy Kuklok. “It just has really hit home for us, and you know it's hard to come home and have to talk about that kind of stuff with your husband. It's also an honor to be that wife.”
Gwen Besser will never forget when she was on the receiving end. Her husband, Officer Todd Besser died just two years ago.
“I know as I walked in and saw all the blue roses in everyone’s hands I can't explain it,” said Besser. “As I told these ladies, I hope you never have to receive them. But it's something that you will cherish forever.”
This beautiful gesture is just the first point of contact Backing the Blue Line will have with the Mathews family. Now roughly 1,600 members strong, the group will be offering help with everything needed from babysitting to construction projects to mowing lawns - anything to make the sudden loss of a loved one slightly easier.
“What I liken it to, we are like the modern day church basement ladies,” said Pederson. “Something terrible happens, you feel like there is nothing you can do. You want to bring a casserole, you want to do something.”
“We walk with them for this first year, we want them to know they are supported,” said Meghann, Backing the Blue Line secretary. “We want them to know their blue family doesn't disappear just because they've lost their officer.”
BtBL is also running a memorial fund by request from the family that can be found at this link.
Flowers for the rose memorial were donated by Wendy Johnson from Always Blooming Floral. The Plymouth Fire Department provided space for assembly. If you would like to contribute toward these and other ways BtBL supports law enforcement families click here.