Bio & Incident Details
Tour: 6 years
Badge # 1111
Incident Date: 7/10/1966
Tour: 6 years
Badge # 1111
Incident Date: 7/10/1966
What happens to the families of officers cut down in the prime of life? How do their survivors cope with the loss of their loved ones?
It's not easy, but life goes on.
Betty Rehmann is one of the hundreds of people whose lives were changed when their spouses or other family members were killed in the line of duty.
Unlike many police widows who learned about the deaths of their husbands by getting the "dreaded knock on the door," she had some warning. Her husband, Officer Richard Rehmann was wounded on the job the night of July 20, 1966, and died eight days later.
He was the father of seven children, then ages 3 to 12.
She wasn't overly concerned when he didn't arrive at their Juniata home at the usual time after working the 4 p.m.-midnight shift. She assumed he had arrested someone and gotten tied up with paperwork. So she went to bed.
In the morning, she saw his bloody shirt and handkerchief soaking in the bathroom sink.
When she asked him about the items, he answered:
"Oh, I got hit in the head during an arrest. Don't worry about it."
"He knew how much I worried about him, so he made it a point never to tell me details of his night's work."
Since the cut on his head appeared to be minor, the Rehmanns and their seven children went on vacation to Hammonton, N.J., his hometown. While the family was on a side trip to Lake Absagamee, in Tuckerton, she said, Rehmann keeled over in the water.
Pulled out of the lake, he didn't respond to first aid and was taken to Atlantic City Hospital, where he died of a cerebral hemorrhage after eight days in a coma. He was 33; his widow was the same age.
His death was considered job-related, so his widow and the seven children were awarded benefits.
"But it wasn't enough to buy shoes for seven kids, so I went to work."
She worked for several years at Northeast Catholic High School, and now is a secretary at the Thomas Jefferson University Cancer Institute.
Her oldest son, Ron, 39, had these comments about his mother:
"She's a good lady. She stuck with us big time after Dad was killed. And we've all turned out well."
Ron is a federal police officer who works at the Navy Yard and has been decorated twice for heroism. The other survivors are Terry John, 38; Diane, 36; Gary, 35; Rick, 32; and Scott, 30. Daughter Janet, an honor student and vice president of her class at Frankford High School, died at 18. There are 15 grandchildren, with two more on the way.
Betty Rehmann said her husband always wanted to be a policeman. He worked as a milkman for Sealtest before joining the force.
"I didn't want him to be a policeman," Rehmann said. "The job is much too dangerous."
But she settled into being the wife of a policeman, and has some fond
memories of those days.
"Before he left home for duty," she recalled, "he would stop at the mirror to check his appearance, making absolutely certain he would 'pass inspection.' His shoes were shined, the bill on his police hat was sparkling, his hat and jacket badges were polished, his tie was straight, the crease in his pants was sharp. He was proud to be a Philadelphia cop. And I was proud of him.
"He would kiss me and say, 'See you later,' and I would say, 'OK.'
"Whether or not a wife of a policemen really likes the idea that her husband is a policeman, she accepts all that his being one implies.
"She often says a silent prayer whenever she thinks of her husband throughout the day: 'Lord, please keep him safe and bring him home to us.' "
A deeply religious person, Rehmann is a eucharistic minister, serving communion at St. Joachim's Roman Catholic Church, and also serves on the parish council.
A dancer at Little Flower High School when she was growing up in Kensington, Rehmann formerly served as choreographer for musicals performed at North Catholic.
Rehmann is one of many police officers' survivors who are helped by belonging to the Delaware County chapter of COPS (Concerns of Police Survivors), a national organization that serves as a support group for the
families of police officers killed in the line of duty.
"When my husband died, I was on my own," she said. "No organization like COPS existed.
"As wives of policemen, we were primed for the possibility of the inevitable. And, as widows, we are survivors of the reality of that inevitability.
"This group dedicates itself to help police survivors in whatever way that help is needed. There is so much compassion, so much consolation, so much unexpected and knowledgeable help provided - no strings attached."
At 7 p.m. Dec. 18, the local chapter of COPS will hold a candelight vigil in honor of all police officers at the Eternal Flame Memorial at Franklin Square, 6th and Race streets.
"I'll be there," Rehmann said. "And so will many members of our chapter. I invite everyone to join in this ceremony to remember the sacrifices made by police officers who serve us.
"And at Christmas, you will see a blue light in my window to honor the men and women who walk the thin blue line."
What is it like being a widow of a policeman?
Betty Rehmann has this answer:
"Never does a holiday, a birthday, an anniversary, a blessed event like a graduation from high school, the marriage of a child, the birth of a grandchild, never does it seem complete. Because he's not there. And he should be."
August 12, 2016
Create an account for more options, or use this form to leave a Reflection now: