Ray Duckler: A law enforcement official, long forgotten, suddenly has a family

  • Scenes from the New Hampshire Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial Ceremony outside the Legislative Office Building in Concord on Friday, May 20, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • The Londonderry Marching Lancers perform during the New Hampshire Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial Ceremony in Concord on Friday, May 20, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Scenes from the New Hampshire Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial Ceremony outside the Legislative Office Building in Concord on Friday, May 20, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Three-year-old twins Zachary (left) and Joshua Brannock of Manchester listen to the Londonderry Marching Lancers with their great aunt Pam Hollis (center) during the New Hampshire Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial Ceremony in Concord on Friday, May 20, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Scenes from the New Hampshire Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial Ceremony outside the Legislative Office Building in Concord on Friday, May 20, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Olivia Tsetsilas sings the national anthem during the New Hampshire Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial Ceremony in Concord on Friday, May 20, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Scenes from the New Hampshire Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial Ceremony outside the Legislative Office Building in Concord on Friday, May 20, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • The New Hampshire Fish and Game color guard stands during the procession of the New Hampshire Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial Ceremony in Concord on Friday, May 20, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Scenes from the New Hampshire Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial Ceremony outside the Legislative Office Building in Concord on Friday, May 20, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Scenes from the New Hampshire Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial Ceremony outside the Legislative Office Building in Concord on Friday, May 20, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • A sign language interpreter signs the national anthem sung by Olivia Tsetsilas during the New Hampshire Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial Ceremony in Concord on Friday, May 20, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • The Londonderry Marching Lancers perform during the New Hampshire Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial Ceremony in Concord on Friday, May 20, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • U.S. Attorney for New Hampshire Emily Rice and Gov. Maggie Hassan stand during the opening procession of the New Hampshire Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial Ceremony in Concord on Friday, May 20, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Scenes from the New Hampshire Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial Ceremony outside the Legislative Office Building in Concord on Friday, May 20, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Gov. Maggie Hassan speaks during the New Hampshire Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial Ceremony in Concord on Friday, May 20, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • U.S. Attorney for New Hampshire Emily Rice speaks during the New Hampshire Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial Ceremony in Concord on Friday, May 20, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Scenes from the New Hampshire Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial Ceremony outside the Legislative Office Building in Concord on Friday, May 20, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • U.S. Attorney for New Hampshire Emily Rice speaks during the New Hampshire Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial Ceremony in Concord on Friday, May 20, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Scenes from the New Hampshire Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial Ceremony outside the Legislative Office Building in Concord on Friday, May 20, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

Monitor columnist
Published: 5/21/2016 12:15:42 AM

Deputy Sheriff John Walker Sr., anonymous in history for 130 years, now has a family embracing him.

Just like Sgt. James Noyes.

Both died serving in the line of duty. Both were remembered Friday at an annual event recognizing the state’s fallen law enforcement officers.

Noyes’s widow, sons and grandsons attended. And many in the crowd of a few hundred recalled the day in 1994, when Noyes was killed trying to stop a man from committing suicide.

There were no relatives or friends representing Walker, no one who could tell me about the man, because Walker was killed long ago. He tried to help a woman escape her abusive husband and paid for it with his life.

In 1886.

That means Walker, thanks to recently discovered facts, is officially the first cop killed in the line of duty in state history. And that means New Hampshire’s state and local police forces have now adopted him, for all time.

Walker’s name will be added to the golden-flame memorial’s wall on North State Street later this summer. He owes his historical immortality to Tuftonboro police Chief Andrew Shagoury and Cheshire County Sheriff Eli Rivera.

Shagoury heard about Walker through a University of Pennsylvania research program, then contacted Rivera and told him the possibility existed that an officer in his county had died in the line of duty in the 19th century.

Rivera checked old newspapers, records and documents and learned that Walker had tried to help a Walpole woman as she packed her belongings to leave her abusive husband.

The husband, Charles Jennings, attacked Walker with an ax, striking his head and arm. Walker died five weeks later, on April 22, 1886. It’s unclear if Walker was on duty, but helping someone in need was deemed good enough to earn him a spot with the other 47 names on the granite wall.

Walker was the first honor-roll name announced by Col. Kevin Jordan of the Fish and Game Department. A state trooper placed a rose in a basket in front of spectators seated under a canopy.

Which brings us to the other part of this story, the one about the family with actual bloodline connections.

The Noyes family.

Holding the basket of roses up front was 11-year-old Cole Noyes, James Noyes’s grandson. James’s son, Nate Noyes, also a state trooper, was there too, as was Nate’s other son, 4-year-old Austin, James’s wife, Debra, and Nate’s wife, Keely.

Debra, Keely and Austin brought the rose up front when James’s name was called. They were honoring a 17-year veteran of the state police, killed on Oct. 3, 1994, when Noyes entered the Gilford home of a man named James Monsante, who had threatened to shoot himself.

Monsante, distraught over the recent death of his wife, had barricaded himself in his house. Noyes tried to save him.

After the ceremony, I spoke to Noyes’s son Nate, who’s been a trooper for 15 years. He lives in New Boston. He was 16, a student at Kennett High School in North Conway when his father died. He declined to talk about where he was when he learned his father had been killed.

Father and son went hiking together. James coached Nate in grade school, in baseball and basketball. The gym at the grade school in Madison, where Debra lives, is named after James.

“He loved his kids,” Nate said, “and he loved the profession of law enforcement.”

James coordinated the 50th anniversary celebration of the state police. He was president of the NHSP Benevolent Association.

“He cared deeply to make sure we had the best people possible to do this job, and it’s a difficult job,” Nate told me. “He was instrumental in our training program that we now have. That was important to him.”

Two of James’s brothers, Steve and Charlie Noyes, were state troopers as well, now retired. Nate and his family were at Fenway Park recently on a night dedicated to law enforcement. Cole shouted “Play Ball” near home plate, right there on the Fenway field, before a Red Sox game.

“Cole is very involved with survivor stories,” Debra told me. “He’s very respectful of families who are dealing with loss.”

Debra spoke openly about that awful day in 1994.

“My husband died at 5:30 in the morning,” she said. “I was in bed. I had just woken up and realized he still hadn’t come home during the night, and I was worried something had happened. I got up to get the kids ready for school.”

She paused.

“I got a phone call and our whole life changed at that moment.”

Debra wore a necklace with a duplicate of her husband’s badge on it, No. 502. She attends the ceremony every year.

“This is incredible, what it does for the survivors, what it does for the law enforcement community,” Debra said. “It makes me very proud that people remember, not just Jim, but all the officers who gave their lives.”

That includes a man named John Walker Sr.

The newest member to this family.




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