A heart for young people

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Cassville is mourning the loss of a dedicated public servant. While on vacation for Christmas, I received word that long-time Cassville police officer and police chief Lonnie McCullough died on Dec. 26, 2011. I considered Lonnie a friend, and I am deeply saddened by his death.

I met Lonnie when I first began covering news events for the Cassville Democrat in the late 1980s. He was serving as a Cassville police officer at the time. When Mike and I eventually purchased the paper and I became editor, I got to know Lonnie even better. By that time, Lonnie was the school public safety officer, a position that was funded through a cooperative agreement between the city and the Cassville R-4 School District. In that capacity, Lonnie was the face of the local police department and he loved interacting with the students. Lonnie had a gift for making young people feel at ease, and as a result, I believe students learned to trust law enforcement officers rather than fear them. Lonnie was kind and showed a sincere interest for the well being of Cassville's young people. He was also in charge of the DARE program at Cassville Schools and provided students with the knowledge they needed to make positive lifestyle decisions and avoid the trap of alcohol and drug addiction.

Some of my favorite memories of Lonnie involved our work together with the Cassville Community 2000 organization, a group he headed for its first 10 years. I enjoyed working with Lonnie on projects that offered young people a recreational alternative. We chaperoned a dance or two and also worked on several service projects -- all for the benefit of young people. Lonnie quietly led, and I was happy to follow. I also remember fondly Lonnie's involvement with the Cassville Middle School's Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs program. This was another passion of Lonnie's, and he and Darren Rhea together created another positive outlet for young people to explore and enjoy. Lonnie also loved volunteering for Roaring River State Park's popular Kids Fishing Days.

Lonnie was not a man who liked to be in the spotlight, but I believe he deserves recognition for the impact he made on Cassville. He was a geniunely caring individual who was willing to give unselfishly of himself to make sure young people had the chance for a better life. Lonnie also worked hard to establish a professional law enforcement organization for the City of Cassville that Chief Dana Kammerlohr is now building upon. Lonnie was well respected, well loved and will be greatly missed by the entire Cassville community.

Lisa Schlichtman