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Alaska honors VPSO Thomas Madole, killed fulfilling a calling

Laurel Andrews
Thomas Madole's casket is taken away in a hearse after his memorial service on Sunday, March 24, as dozens of troopers and police officers watch on. Madole was remembered as true public servant who followed his calling until the end. Laurel Andrews photo

A Sunday memorial service for Thomas Olaf Madole, a Village Police Safety Officer who was killed in the line of duty last week, painted the portrait of a loving, compassionate man who was committed to his faith and community, and who sacrificed his life in fulfillment of his calling.

More than 100 people gathered in remembrance of Madole, among them his wife, Luan Madole, son Seth Madole and daughter Mindy Lopez, as well as dozens of police officers and Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell.

Madole, 54, was serving as the VPSO in the village of Manokotak when he was shot and killed on March 19, after responding to a call for help. The case is under investigation, but Alaska State Troopers allege that Manokotak resident Leroy B. Dick Jr., 42, shot Madole. Dick is being held at the Dillingham jail, awaiting arraignment.

On Sunday Madole was honored with the Posting of the Colors ceremony by the Alaska State Troopers Color Guard, where troopers carried the Alaska and U.S. flags in procession to his casket, and all the law enforcement officers present gave Madole a salute, at both the beginning and end of the service.

'My very brave hero'

Madole began serving as a pastor in Missouri in 1998 and in 2000 moved to Bethel, a regional hub in rural Southwest Alaska, where for six years he worked as the senior pastor at Bethel Community Assembly of God. In 2006, his family moved to Wasilla, and he worked as a Guardian Security guard from 2007 to 2009. He served at the Village Public Safety Officer in Manokotak from 2011 to 2013.

Melissa Paul, village health aide in Manokotak, spoke to the crowd on behalf of the village. “I stand here today because of my very brave hero,” she said, fighting back tears. “To our community, he’s a family member, a friend, an adopted uncle, grandpa, and to many, a brother in Christ,” she said. She spoke of his contagious laughter, and how he always greeted people with a smile. He was so well-liked that sometimes women asked whether he was married, she said.

He was a man who followed his calling, wherever it lead him. Bill Welch, superintendent at the Assembly of God, said Madole originally came to the Last Frontier in 2000 because he “felt urged by God to inquire about churches without pastors in Alaska.” That’s when Welch and Madole first became friends. After six years of ministering in Bethel, his family moved to Wasilla. During that time, Madole battled cancer, and he eventually emerged with a clean bill of health.

Welch said that in 2010, Madole came to him saying that he had been praying about becoming a VPSO. “Honestly, I was a little puzzled,” Welch said, and asked Madole why he would want to pursue this path, at his age, after his fight with cancer. Without hesitation, Madole replied, “To serve and help the people in the village.”

“That was all he had to say to me,” Welch said.

“It was his mission in life to serve the people,” Welch continued, and although his tragic ending was senseless, it was also his final call to duty, to which he responded. “He didn’t respond expecting to die ... but it was necessary to die that day, to serve the people, and he was willing to take that risk.”

That’s how Madole lived his life. “This is who he really was.”

Welch also spoke of Madole’s love of the state, with its great outdoors and hunting and fishing opportunities. But more than Alaska’s scenery, “Thom loved the people of Alaska.”

A grateful state

Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell called Madole a leader, both physically and spiritually. Treadwell thanked Madole’s family “on behalf of the grateful state of Alaska.”

Joseph Masters, Department of Public Safety commissioner, said Madole was kind, fair and funny, but it was Madole’s commitment that truly defined him. “It’s very special and heroic individuals indeed who put themselves in harm’s way for others,” Masters said. For his service, Madole will be posthumously awarded a Law Enforcement Purple Heart and a medal recognizing his bravery on behalf of the state.

Masters also read a letter from Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell, who expressed his condolences and gratitude to Madole’s family. Gov. Parnell offered the family an Alaska flag that had flown over Juneau, the state capitol, which was presented to the family by Alaska State Troopers Col. Keith Mallard.

After the service, Welch spoke more about Madole’s qualities. “He’s not phony, he loves his family, he loves children, he’s always available for others. It didn’t matter if they had everything going on well, or if they were drunk and needed help. He was there for them.”

Annie Golia, VPSO program assistant in Dillingham, said she’ll remember Madole as “always outgoing, willing to help cover other VPSOs,” He helped not just when responding to police calls, but “even just helping ball games or when carnivals are going on.”

At the end of the service, Madole’s casket was drapped with an American flag, and was carried out by troopers, police officers and fellow VPSOs. A bagpipe played "Amazing Grace" and the casket was loaded into a hearse as snow fell on the dozens of uniformed men and women who saluted him.

Contact Laurel Andrews at laurel(at)alaskadispatch.com.