On Saturday, June 17, local high school students from Saugus, Revere and some surrounding communities will be awarded scholarships at a gathering including their families at the Officer Harold L. Vitale Memorial Park on Ballard Street in Saugus – near the 38th anniversary date of the late officer’s ultimate sacrifice, (E.O.W. June 18, 1985). All of the 2023 recipients will be announced in just a few days; a partial list of awards includes local student Hebat S. Elkacemi.
“We are excited to be able to host our annual scholarships awards ceremony … near the anniversary date of his ultimate sacrifice, June 18. The event allows us an opportunity to meet deserving students and their families,” said Les Vitale, brother of the late officer. “For over 30 years we’ve hosted the ceremony at the Memorial Park named after Harold to honor his life and reflect on his years of service and sacrifice.”
Dick Vitale said, “The cost of a secondary education is soaring and continues to be a challenge for students and their families further compounded by things like the Covid outbreak, a struggling economy, rising interest rates and a shaky stock market. By providing scholarships serves to cover a small part of the students’ overall costs.” He went on to say, “This day provides us a great sense of pride and allows us to spend time at the Park named after Harold here in Saugus where Harold worked protecting the community and where we experience the continued support of Town officials, members in public safety and enjoy the day with the Saugus community.”
Bob Vitale, a retired Transit Police Officer, went on to say, “Hosting this event around Father’s Day is great and is the time of year when families typically make time to celebrate milestones like high school graduations and the college acceptance decisions.” He added, “On top of that June 14th is Flag Day and is Harold’s birthday, so it’s a special day for us though it’s hard to believe 38 years have passed and we’re still hosting this event.”
Niece and nephew Victoria Vitale-Bingham and her brother Nicholas Vitale also spoke. “Uncle Harold would have turned 80 so it’s pretty cool knowing we’ve been handing out these scholarships during our entire adult lives for over 30 years now. Even though we grew up without having him around us, this Reception and our August charity golf outing allowed us to get to know him and be part of turning a tragedy into a sense of pride and lets us stop to recognize the police officers like him for their service to the community,” said Victoria.
Nick Vitale added, “we’ve gotten to meet some of his retired co-workers over the years and hear some great stories about him, and we’ve even gotten to know some of the current members of the Department that stop by every year to pay their respects. They have a tough job, so we’re proud to show our support and respect them for walking the Thin Blue Line every day.”
Eileen Vitale, wife of the late officer remarked, “June 18th will always be a tough day for me to get through, but I love all that we do to remember Harold. The Memorial Park Reception, giving scholarships and our annual golf tournament are good days for me. Our charity work allows us to continue supporting victims’ advocacy programs of some great organizations that helped me get through the difficult times like the National and NE C.O.P.S. (National Concerns of Police Survivors and N.E. C.O.P.S.) and the N.L.E.O.M.F. (National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund). They are amazing organizations who helped us out back in 1985 and we stay involved and give back to them with our support to this day.”
The Officer Harold L. Vitale Memorial Fund, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) organization and was created in 1992 some seven years after his death. Officer Vitale was killed in the line of duty in the early morning hours of June 18, 1985, while attempting to make an arrest, when he was dragged over 1,000 feet to his death. Officer Vitale was 42 at the time and married to his wife Eileen, and they lived in Ipswich with three children: Paul, Michelle and JacLyn. Officer Vitale’s badge #17 was retired upon his death. The Officer Vitale Memorial Park was constructed by the Town of Saugus in 1992 in his honor.
The Memorial Fund Annual Golf Tournament will be held once again on the first Monday in August (August 8) at Ipswich Country Club – for the 28th time.