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Courier-Journal (Louisville, Ky.) articleAug. 26, 2009
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Scholarships honor memory of slain Floyd County deputy
By Jenna Esarey
When her police officer husband was killed in the line of duty, Tara Denzinger dreamed of finding a way to honor his memory.
On Aug. 19 she saw that dream come true as two law enforcement officers became the first recipients of The Frank C. Denzinger Memorial Law Enforcement Scholarship.
“In many ways this was Frank's way of saying thank you,” she said at the banquet, held at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany.
Denzinger, a Floyd County deputy, was killed and Detective Joel White was wounded on June 18, 2007, when they were ambushed by a 15-year-old boy while responding to a domestic dispute at the boy's Georgetown home.
“We decided we needed to come up with something positive after a tragedy,” said Jason Thornbury, who is co-chairman of the scholarship committee and a sergeant in the Indiana National Guard.
Tara Denzinger said she and a small group of friends set up the scholarships to assist college students who exemplify the character and commitment to public service her husband displayed.
“The criteria (for the scholarship are) … the characteristics my husband had,” she said.
The $2,500 scholarship is open to full-time law enforcement officers, corrections officers or jail officers within Clark, Floyd or Harrison counties.Applicants must have at least two years of experience in law enforcement and be enrolled either full- or part-time at IUS pursuing a bachelor's in criminal justice, a degree Tara Denzinger herself completed last year.
Preference is given to students who are civic-minded and have shown a commitment to community involvement.
The scholarship was endowed in June 2008, when the first annual scholarship banquet raised over $30,000.
This year's banquet was attended by about 100 people, including many representatives of the law enforcement communities in Floyd and Clark counties.
A table with three place settings and three empty chairs in the front of the room represented county, city and state officers who have died in the line of duty.
The Naval Junior ROTC of Floyd Central High School performed the presentation of colors at this year's banquet, and they were led by Lt. Col. Benjamin Gipe, who knew Denzinger through his role as a reserve officer with the Floyd County police.
“We're honoring Frank,” Gipe said. “We plan to be here every year.”
During speakers' remarks, a video screen flashed family photos of Denzinger. “You never saw him not smiling,” said Jeff Firkins, a Floyd County Sheriff's detective.
Thornbury offered an emotional tribute to Denzinger, comparing him to a stone shaped by his family, refined by the Floyd County police and polished by Tara and their daughter Avery.
The keynote address was delivered by Missy Jenkins Smith, a survivor of the 1997 shooting at Heath High School near Paducah, Ky., in which 14-year-old Michael Carneal killed three students and wounded five.
Smith discussed the experience, which left her paralyzed from the chest down, and the role that bullying in school may have played in the shooting.
White and Sgt. Brad Scott, also of the Floyd Sheriff's Office, were the scholarship recipients. As the scholarships were presented, each recipient was embraced by Tara Denzinger.
“Finishing our criminal justice degrees will help us with our careers,” White said. “I'm grateful for the opportunity.”
Scott said Denzinger was a good friend to him. “We went through the academy together,” Scott said. “The justice degree will help me be a better supervisor, a better leader.”
Despite her own loss, Tara Denzinger said she was happy to have given the pair the scholarships.“ “I'm proud of them,” she said.
HOW TO HELP
Donations to The Frank C. Denzinger Memorial Law Enforcement Scholarship can be made by contacting Charla Stonecipher in the development office at IUS at 941-2464.