PINETOP-LAKESIDE — People may not remember what the weather was on Feb. 17, 2020, or what day of the week it was on that day, but gathering for a candlelight vigil on Feb. 17 this week, they remembered White Mountain Apache Tribal Police Officer David Kellywood whose watch ended on Feb. 17, 2020 as he performed his duties as a police officer.

With a heavy snow falling at the Kellywood Memorial site on State Route 73 near the junction of State Route 260, across from Hon Dah Resort and Casino, members of the law enforcement brotherhood, tribal leaders and the Kellywood family gathered under and around a tent to commemorate the life of the fallen officer.

Due to COVID-19, attendance was limited, but the ceremony was livestreamed on the White Mountain Apache Tribe Police Department Facebook page.

District 2 White Mountain Apache Tribe (WMAT) Councilman Jerold Altaha emceed the event which opened with a prayer by Pastor Christian Lent of Canyon Day Assembly of God Church.

WMAT Tribal Chairwoman Gwendena Lee-Gatewood, hovered under an umbrella with a microphone as the snow fell, and welcomed attendees on behalf of the Tribe.

“His smile would have melted the snow as it is falling down now,” said Lee-Gatewood, who thanked everyone for coming out for the event.

That David Kellywood smile would be mentioned many other times throughout the evening by his fellow officers.

WMAT Police Chief Theodore Shaw addressed the crowd by moving to the spot where he said that Kellywood paid the ultimate price for his fellow man, and choking with deep emotion quoted scripture saying, “Greater love hath no man than this; that a man lay down his life for another.”

Turning to the group of cadets who were among others assembled for the ceremony, Shaw spoke directly to them saying, “No one is compelled to choose the profession of police officer. But, having chosen it, everyone is obligated to perform its duties to live up to the high standards to fit the requirements. I want you guys to always remember that.”

Transitioning to acknowledging his own weakness of emotion regarding the memory of Kellywood, Shaw said he never allows himself to show weakness. But, as the hurt of Kellywood’s loss surfaced for him last week, he turned his thinking to remembering the good memories and recited some of the funny things about Kellywood.

Others also recounted their fond, humorous, and sometime serious memories of Kellywood. Capt. Lehigh Jessup, Lt. Stephen Kane, Sgt. Carl Leslie, Sgt. Antonio Cantu, and Deputy Zajac of the Navajo County Sheriff’s Office spoke remembering their brother. With each story, there was no doubt for the listener that Kellywood had a lasting impact on all who knew him, and he would not be forgotten.

Kellywood’s wife, Kamellia, gave the closing remarks. With fortitude and grace she pulled everyone in closely with her own personal stories about her husband that, even if you didn’t know him personally, made you feel like you did. She said she liked to think the snow that was falling was her husband. She said he loved this weather; he loved the cold. He would tell their boys he was a polar bear because he could go outside in the cold with his slippers and short pants and not be affected at all.

Kamellia recounted that as the day began, someone important to her said, “We need to remember how David lived. We all know how he died. We know what happened to him on the morning of Feb. 17, 2020. So, today I ask that you all just remember how he lived, who he was as a father, as a husband, as a police officer, as a brother, a son, and he was a very dedicated worker. He worked hard and I am really grateful for all the stories that everybody shared.”.

“As long as I knew him,” said Kamellia, “he wanted to become a police officer and all the characteristics that made him who he was made him a great police officer. He was hard working, he was dedicated, loving and most of all he was patient. He was good with people and he enjoyed being out there and working here for the people and serving like Lehigh Jessup mentioned, a servant. Serving was something he enjoyed because he wanted to become a police officer he wanted to be a role model for his children and make the world a safer place for his boys to grow up in.”

Kamellia painted a picture for everyone by sharing that they always watched him get ready by the door for work. She said he looked forward to going out there every single day and they would watch him put on his uniform and his belt. She said she was fortunate to capture that in a picture and on Tuesday this week she put that picture on her Facebook page.

Kamellia said David wanted to be a police officer as long as she could remember. He wanted to retire from WMAT Police Department and his goal was to go back to school so that he could meet the requirements to become the Chief of Police like Chief Shaw who was a role model for him.

With Altaha presenting the first candle to Kamellia to ignite, the candlelight vigil — with snow still steadily falling — began, accompanied by special music.

Feb. 17 may have been the end of watch for Kellywood, but it is definitely not the end of his memory.

Reach the reporter at bbruce@wmicentral.com

Barbara Bruce is a reporter for the White Mountain Independent, covering arts and entertainment on the Mountain and the Pinetop-Lakeside town government.

(1) comment

Bob Smith

Thank you for your service Officer Kellywood, you left us way too young. Rest in peace.

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