PART ONE: Remembering Eugene Cole

NORRIDGEWOCK, Maine Thursday marks one year since a line of duty death changed Somerset County, perhaps beyond, forever.

Corporal Eugene Cole was killed on April 25th, 2018.

We spoke to members of the community about what this year has meant to them.

Compassionate, dependable, supportive and just a really nice guy.

These are some of the things we heard over and over again when we went to Somerset County to talk to folks about Corporal Eugene Cole.

This past year they've been working hard to make sure his memory is honored in some way every day.

"There isn't a day that goes by that we don't think of him," said Corporal Joseph Jackson.

"I still expect him to walk through the door just because he was such a big part of our agency," said Corporal Ritchie Putnam.

To say it's been difficult for the members of the Somerset County Sheriff's Department to say goodbye to Corporal Eugene Cole would be an understatement, especially after hearing what he meant to them.

"Me as a new hire coming in, you know, nobody required him to take me under his wing and to show me this and to learn the job. It's just that's who he was. That's how he was with anyone. If he could help you, he would help," said Putnam.

"He'd be the enforcer. He'd be your friend. He'd be your brother. He would be a mentor. You know, he knew how to play all those roles," said Jackson.

"He was always there. I mean, you'd get a call, you'd be on a call at like 2:30 in the morning and your phone would be ringing, and he'd be like, 'Hey buddy it's me. You all set?' I mean even when he didn't think he was around, he was around," said Putnam.

A testament heard from so many in Somerset County and where he lived in Norridgewock.

"He loved the town of Norridgewock. It's been referred to as he was Norridgewock's deputy sheriff. He truly embodied what it was to be community policing," said Sheriff Dale Lancaster.

Reminders of Gene can be seen all around town. They've even made the anniversary of his death, April 25th, Corporal Eugene Cole Day. A day of kindness where the community gives back to others, just like he did.

"He was a customer of ours, quite often. He was friendly and always polite. Always helping whoever was in here and needed help. The community misses him terribly," said Rebecca Wyman, Oosoola Country Store Manager.

Misses him for the kind and respectful person he was.

"It's changed our community. It's changed Somerset County and really across the state. You've seen the outpouring of support," said Richard LaBelle, Norridgewock Town Manager.

The loss of Corporal Cole has made a huge impact on Somerset County. This past year, they've been remebering him in permanent ways and with fundraising events organizers hope will become annual traditions.

"My feelings really go to the Cole family and to their loss," said Jessica Gleason.

Thousands turned out last year for the race Gleason organized in his honor.

"It brings the community together and really just helps us connect on that day after a tragic loss. We raised $45,000 last year to send cadets to the academy," she says.

Helping direct the race is meaningful for Everett Flannery as a friend and as a first responder.

""I'm an avid runner. So, running down the road, I would recognize his license plate, 1312. I knew he'd recognize me and wave to me. He was just a really nice guy," he says.

His department even dedicated an ambulance to them.

"He was always good to his arrestees or to my patients that I may have had. He showed an element of compassion that I just respected," said Flannery.

A year of remembrance for a man this community will never let be just a memory.

"He gave his life serving the citizens of this county, and I think they are grateful for that and because of that and because of what they've done in the community, he will never be forgotten," said Sheriff Lancaster.