Memorial draws people across US

Some attending service were from Quebec, Toronto

JOHNSTOWN — It was about honor and camaraderie for the thousands of people who attended a memorial service Wednesday for Sgt. Mark Baserman, who succumbed to injuries he suffered in the line of duty at the State Correctional Insti­tu­­tion at Somerset last month.

Baserman died Feb. 26 at Conemaugh Memorial Medi­cal Center in Johnstown, 11 days after being assaulted by inmate Paul Jawon Kendrick, 22, of Pittsburgh, in the common area of cell block F-B, according to the Department of Corrections. Kendrick was arraigned Monday on felony murder and aggravated assault charges.

Wednesday’s memorial service drew people from all over the country and beyond.

Andrew Sawyer, an administrative supervisor in the corrections department in Washington state, stood outside the sports complex at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown as a long line of people slowly moved inside the building for the memorial service.

He pointed to two Washington state honor guards, their red and black colors visible among the thousand officers who formed a corridor of black along the walkway leading into the complex.

The group flew into Pittsburgh and rented a vehicle to drive to the event in Richland Township.

Washington also lost a corrections officer in the line of duty.

“The turnout at that memorial really sparked our department,” Sawyer said. “Now each of our prisons take turns sending people to memorials across the country honoring corrections (employees) who died in the line of duty.”

Like Sawyer, many of those attending the service came from other states and even another country. The license plates on vehicles parked on campus showed visitors from Iowa, Nebraska, Michigan, Delaware, Maryland, Vir­ginia, Ohio, Arkansas and New York, as well as Quebec and Toronto, Canada.

New York Corrections Lt. Scott Markowski stood beside a vehicle that minutes before was filled with a group of correction officers that met at 3:30 a.m. to make the six-hour trip to Cambria County.

The officers straightened their uniforms and hats and prepared to join their colleagues at the service.

The reason for their trip was simple.

“We wanted to honor an officer who gave his life in the line of duty,” Markowski said.

He said that even though he is too young to have been there, the 1971 riots at Attica Correctional Facility in New York, in which 39 people were killed, are never far from the minds of the people who work there.

The snowy day waxed long for the police officers who performed traffic control. Former Richland Township police Sgt. John Rozum, who now works part time for the university, asked to work at the event.

“I’m honored to be here,” he said.

Rozum knew Baserman, especially when he worked in emergency medical services prior to becoming a corrections officer.

“He was a happy-go-lucky guy,” he said. “He’d help anybody. He was the first one there to help when he ran with the ambulance service.”

Rozum said he was one of the beneficiaries of Baser­man’s “enormous heart,” calling him a kind and dedicated officer.

Reprinted with permission of the (Somerset) Daily American.