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Monumental day: Fallen trooper memorialized, widow later became first APD director

Monumental day: Fallen trooper memorialized, widow later became first APD director

Avon Police Department unveiled a stone memorial etched with the image of fallen Indiana State Trooper Robert Lather II during a building dedication ceremony May 5 at Avon Town Hall. Lather II’s life was cut short after a drunk driver he was pursuing struck his cruiser in Howard County July 6, 1982. His widow, Teresa Bodnyk, who later became Avon’s first Law Enforcement Director, shared the honor of unveiling the memorial with APD Detective Jeff Ritorto.

Teresa Bodnyk moved to Avon with two young children soon after Lather II’s passing. During the dedication ceremony, she expressed her gratitude for being welcomed into the Avon community and to those in attendance that day.

“When I came to this community in 1983, with my six-month-old daughter and two-year-old son, you embraced me and helped to raise my children. You and gave us a good life…”

Rather than rebuild her life outside of the public eye, she made the “selfless decision” to commit herself to public service, said Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter, who spoke at the ceremony.

Bodnyk spent eight years on the Governor’s Council and worked with several major police agencies. This experience led to her appointment as Avon’s first Law Enforcement Director in 1996.

“Today is not only a day to celebrate the life of Robert Lather, it is also a day to celebrate resilience, the human spirit, specifically the spirit of a survivor,” Carter said of Bodnyk.

Avon Police Chief Sean Stoops and Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter present Teresa Lather with a banner like the one posted by her late husband’s grave site, that of fallen Indiana State Trooper Robert Lather II. Photo by Chris Cornwall

APD originally planned to unveil the memorial outside, but uncooperative weather delayed its installation and forced the ceremony inside town hall. However, guests were allowed to view the memorial where it was being held inside the police department.

“It’s truly breathtaking,” Assistant Police Chief Brian Nugent said. “The amount of detail and passion poured into one item for our department and community, and to educate officers and the public is absolutely stunning.”

The piece was crafted by Hunt and Sons Memorials of Avon.

“On the side of this memorial, it says duty and sacrifice, and that is the kind of person he (Trooper Lather II) was,” Bodnyk said. “I hope that every time a police officer goes through these doors at the department, and they look at this memorial, they will remember the person behind this etching and stone, and also remember he was a fine example of how every police officer should be in this community.”

Town Council President Aaron Tevebaugh read a proclamation declaring May 5, 2017, as Trooper Robert J. Lather II Day in the Town of Avon.

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