Town pays tribute to officer

ROCKWELL CITY – An old and important part of Rockwell City was renamed in honor of a fallen hero Sunday afternoon.

The area north of the Rockwell City park, including the duck pond, is now known as Jamie Buenting Memorial Park, in memory of the officer killed in the line of duty September 2013.

The park includes the duck pond, which was recently dug out, renovated and refilled, along with a new shelter on the bank, donated benches around the perimeter of the pond and “Jamie’s Jetty”.

“Jamie loved the outdoors, fishing, hunting and camping,” said the Rev. Owen Englin. “He loved spending time with his family and friends. He loved Rockwell City and protecting the people within its community. Jamie had such a passion about this little pond, especially.”

Buenting’s wife, Mandy Buenting, said she’d found about 250 pictures of the pond in various stages of restoration on Jamie’s phone.

“He was like a little boy with bright eyes, spending hours watching Tom Anderson and his equipment load by load restore this landmark,” Mandy Buenting said. “He was anxious to watch his children and the children of this community fish and enjoy the outdoors here. The quote on the sign fits him well.”

The sign at the park entrance quotes Jamie Buenting saying, “If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there’d be a shortage of fishing poles.”

Event organizers estimated 100 to 150 people attended the event.

Jamie Buenting is sorely missed, Mandy Buenting said, but he made all his family proud. She read a poem called the “Cop’s Prayer.”

“I start my tour of duty, God, wherever crime may be, as I walk the darkened streets alone hold me close to thee,” she read. As she reached the end, there was a catch in her voice: “And if some some dark and dreary night I must give up my life, Lord, with your understanding and love, please protect my children and my wife.

“I want to thank you guys because that’s what you do for me today,” she said to the gathered community. “You protect me and my children, and Jamie’s family.”

Buenting’s two children, Ethan and Kalie Buenting, also thanked the crowd for their help.

“I miss him so much, I’d do anything to have him come back. Thank you for the pond and this memory,” Kalie Buenting said.

Work on the pond has been ongoing for about a year and a half, said Duane Murley, one of the speakers Sunday. A great amount of community support and donations have gone into making the park possible.

John Schmit, who helped start the pond project, said the pond had degraded, and was filled with “ugly, green water” before.

“The water out of there, it was about 2 foot deep in water, and 6 foot deep in mud. They hauled over 400 truckloads of mud out of there,” Schmit said. “Over time the pond had silted in, became much shallower than it should have been. We lined up people to dig it out deeper, restructure the banks of it, and haul away the chunks of concrete that had been used to keep the banks from falling into the bottom.

“It’s deeper and nicer than it ever was.”

Mayor Phil Heinlin, who had memories of playing ice hockey on the pond when he was young, said there is still more work to do.

The hope, he said, is to put an illuminated flag on a pole in the middle of the pond.