SOUTH LOOP — Families of current and former police officers gathered Sunday at Gold Star Memorial Park to celebrate Father's Day with their extended families, those whose fathers died in the line of duty.
"I know I don't know how these families feel; I can only imagine their emotion on Father's Day, and my heart goes out to them," said Terri Simi, as about 200 families gathered sitting on coolers, blankets and lawn chairs for the Annual Father's Day Mass, a solemn tribute honoring the lost fathers whose names are etched on the memorial.
"Because I know officers on this wall, I reflect on the good times with them and remember the special role they had on my girls, in our families and this city. I feel for them as a mother," Simi said.
For the 55-year-old Norwood Park resident the mass is not only a celebration of the fathers who were killed on duty. It's also a tradition for her husband, who's been on the force for almost 30 years, to celebrate with their two daughters.
"We're very proud of him. He's been on the force since 1985," said Simi, who added the family takes a look at all of the names added to the wall each year before the mass.
Christine Summers, 32, has attended the mass for the last four years with her father, and said the ceremony brings mixed emotions.
"We visit my father every year and he wants to come every year," said Summers, a Florida resident. "It's somber on one hand, really sad, but on the other, joyous because their in God's kingdom now."
She said her father has extended the emotional tradition by visiting the wall of names and taking the opportunity to reconnect with some of his old Police Department buddies.
Police officer Paul Bauer, 49, is a regular at department masses but said this one is much different. It's an essential tradition, he said.
"Not only as a father, but an officer, it's important to celebrate this day not just with your family, but you're extended family in the Gold Star community, also," said the 28-year department veteran.
Bauer, a Bridgeport resident, attended the mass with his daughter, which made him a bit emotional thinking about the families surrounding him that had lost their fathers.
"I thank the grace of God that I'm here," Bauer said glancing at his daughter a few feet away. "I feel lucky, real lucky."
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