Fallen trooper remembered at site where he was killed

A photograph of late Delaware State Police Trooper First Class William F. “Bill” Mayer is pictured next to a bouquet during a Wednesday morning memorial service in Smyrna. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

A photograph of late Delaware State Police Trooper First Class William F. “Bill” Mayer is pictured next to a bouquet during a Wednesday morning memorial service in Smyrna. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

SMYRNA — The last fateful words spoken to his patrol partner said so much.

“Charlie, sit still. You look tired.”

About 30 seconds later, Delaware State Police Trooper 1st Class William F. “Bill” Mayer was dead, the victim of an unforeseen motor vehicle crash during a routine call on Aug. 7, 1955. He was 28 when he died.

The fallen trooper was working with now-retired Charlie Nabb, who pulled over a familiar man in a pickup truck for a broken taillight on U.S. 13 near the Duck Creek Bridge in Smyrna.

Concerned for his partner’s fatigue, Tfc. Mayer volunteered to exit the patrol car and handle matters. An approaching tractor-trailer soon ran off the road, striking and pinning him between two vehicles.

Police said the tractor-trailer driver later admitted he had fallen asleep and had been drinking in what developed into a manslaughter case.

At a memorial service Wednesday morning to honor Tfc. Mayer, Mr. Nabb said he believed his partner died instantly and never knew what hit him.

“Bill was one of the finest men I knew on the force,” Mr. Nabb said during emotion-filled remarks at the 40-minute ceremony. “I was with him the night that he died. Even today I get shaky thinking about it.”

Retired Delaware State Police Trooper Charlie Nabb recounts the fateful night when patrol partner Trooper First Class William F. “Bill” Mayer died as the result of a fatal motor vehicle crash on Aug. 7, 1955.

Retired Delaware State Police Trooper Charlie Nabb recounts the fateful night when patrol partner Trooper First Class William F. “Bill” Mayer died as the result of a fatal motor vehicle crash on Aug. 7, 1955.

Other than a torn shirt, Mr. Nabb was unscathed and believes the “Lord intervened somehow.”

Describing Tfc. Mayer as a peacemaker and pointing to his Bible readings, Mr. Nabb said his partner is in the glorious hands of God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God,” Mr. Nabb recited from Matthew 5:9.

Passers-by on the well-traveled northbound roadway now can take notice of a Public Servants Memorial Sign erected in honor of the late trooper. He was described as a “brother, son, husband and hero to us all” by his sister Myrt Werkheiser late in the ceremony.

“He died in uniform doing what he loved,” she said of her older brother.

The remembrances followed remarks by Gov. Jack Markell, Attorney General Matt Denn, Safety and Homeland Security Secretary Lewis D. Schiliro and State Police Superintendent Col. Nathaniel McQueen Jr., among other speakers. They put perspective into Tfc. Mayer’s career and service, along with the dedication shown by all troopers past and present.

The tragedy of nearly 60 years ago illustrated the “danger that Delaware State Police Troopers put themselves in just in performing routine day-to-day duties,” Attorney General Denn said.

On Wednesday morning, a Delaware State Police trooper unveils a sign on U.S. 13 in Smyrna that salutes the memory of late Trooper First Class William F. “Bill” Mayer.

On Wednesday morning, a Delaware State Police trooper unveils a sign on U.S. 13 in Smyrna that salutes the memory of late Trooper First Class William F. “Bill” Mayer.

While signs erected in the memory of every trooper who has made the ultimate sacrifice — 22 have died in the line of duty since 1923 — have a physical presence, Gov. Markell said the story behind each one involves a real person, a real family and someone who gave his life due to a commitment and willingness to keep the public safe.

Secretary Schiliro said the honor, courage and commitment exhibited by Tfc. Mayer and earlier generations of troopers carries through to present day. He said the fallen trooper was the epitome of the commitment and duty to the people he served, for which he gave his life.

Briefly choked with emotion and always poignant, Col. McQueen spoke of the value of getting to know the families of fallen troopers.

A contingent of Tfc. Mayer’s family members attended the ceremony, including his sisters Myrt and Margaret. His widow Ria is in California and unable to attend despite her wishing to do so.

A World War II Army veteran who served in Europe, Tfc. Mayer joined the state police on Jan. 31, 1949. He previously had attended Wilmington High School and Rutgers University. The late trooper is buried in Odd Fellows Cemetery in Dover.

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell converses with Margaret Rickards, a sister of late Trooper First Class William F. “Bill” Mayer, who was honored Wednesday morning in Smyrna.

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell converses with Margaret Rickards, a sister of late Trooper First Class William F. “Bill” Mayer, who was honored Wednesday morning in Smyrna.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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