McHenry County Sheriff Deputy Dwight Maness was buried Saturday with the honors and ceremony befitting a law enforcement officer.
In somber silence, with lights flashing, more than a hundred McHenry County squad cars led the procession to the cemetery. Hundreds more vehicles carrying family and friends followed over more than 30 miles of Woodstock and McHenry roads lined with thousands of mourners holding signs and flags.
And behind the hearse carrying her husband’s body rode Sue Maness on her Harley Davidson.
“It was a very tough day, very emotional,” said Winthrop Police Officer Ron Page. He said Maness would have been happy with his wife’s decision to ride her motorcycle. “I’m not surprised, that’s what he would have wanted.”
Maness died unexpectedly Monday of a blood clot while he was recuperating from gunshot wounds suffered while on duty last October. He was shot in the back and the leg responding to a possible domestic disturbance. The gunman was convicted of attempted murder and was sentenced to 135 years in prison. Deputy Eric Luna, who was on that fateful call in October, on Saturday drove Maness’s squad car in the procession.
Earlier Saturday, mourners gathered for the visitation at Woodstock North High School.
Fred Spitzer, a retired Woodstock police officer who lives nearby, pushed his 1-year-old granddaughter in a stroller. Spitzer knew Maness and last saw him at a fundraiser in his honor last year. He was shocked to hear of his death.
“This makes me sick. … Makes me heartbroken,” he said.
Joe Alger of Crystal Lake stood at the parking lot entrance holding an American flag and saluting as cars entered. Alger, a member of the Warriors Watch Riders, did not know Maness but said he was there to honor the deputy as a war veteran and a police officer. He said this is important “particularly now when they are under attack more than ever.”
Todd and Jan Hoover did not know Maness, but Jan Hoover’s father was a police officer in Nebraska and the couple felt it was important to pay their respects to the fallen officer.
“Another loss,” said Todd Hoover. “In simplest terms, this is just awful.”
He said these shootings are done by “people who are deranged … who do not understand the magnitude of what they cause and the heartbreak they cause to the family and the community at large.”
After the private service for family and public safety officials, the funeral procession, which included police from throughout Illinois and Wisconsin, drove to McHenry County Memorial Park Cemetery. A sea of blue police uniforms gathered around the casket. Bag pipes rang through the chilly air. A 21-gun salute sounded followed by two helicopters flying overhead.
Deputy Sheriff Joseph Tarnowski, who drove from Madison, said the day was “bittersweet.”
“It feels good honoring the officer but it was really sad to see how it affects everyone, to see how it affects his family,” he said. Tarnowski did not know Maness but said law enforcement is a “brotherhood.”
Page, the Winthrop officer, said he met Maness at the hospital after he was shot. He said he knew all too well what it was like. In 1986, as a McHenry County deputy, he was shot in the neck. Page called the day’s services “very heart wrenching.”
In a recent interview with the Tribune, Maness said he had undergone multiple surgeries over the past 11 months but was making good strides in his recovery and looked forward to returning to work. Maness lamented on the recent spate of shootings of law enforcement officials around the country, saying he was bothered by “the lack of respect … society seems to have for police officers.”
Maness died two weeks after the interview.
At the cemetery as the sun dipped behind a nearby tree line a haunting “529” call recording was played marking the end of an officer’s life:
“All units be advised 529 Deputy Maness is not responding … Your spirit and strength will live on through your family, both blood and blue … Thank you for your service and ultimate sacrifice. Rest in peace brother, we will take it from here.”
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Subject: EOW Dwight