BATH TOWNSHIP — The life of Matthew Converse, who died Aug. 11, will be remembered with a new plaque that will be displayed at Great Day Academy, where Converse was a second grader.
Converse, 8, slipped away from his home unattended and was found in a pond near North McCullough Street.
Thursday afternoon, the Lima Police Department presented the plaque in his honor to Great Day Academy, the Allen County Educational Service Center’s Unit for Children with Autism.
“It’s a very bittersweet day for all of us,” Chief Kevin Martin explained. “It’s sweet in the fact that we get to honor the life, however tragically short it was, of a very special young person. It’s bitter though in the fact that he’s not here with us to be able to accept this honor.”
Earlier this school year, Martin and other officers visited the academy and developed a special bond with Converse, who wanted to be an officer.
“When I was letting him sit there in the cruiser, I made a big mistake of not having the police radio turned off and he grabbed the mic and started talking into it because he wanted to be a real policeman,” Martin said, laughing. “I had to call into the police station to explain everything was OK, he just wanted to talk on the police radio.”
Despite but one exchange, Martin said Converse made a lasting impact.
“That is why we wanted to recognize Matthew. He wanted to be a police officer, and we want to recognize him as having that spirit of a police officer — of making a difference, of bringing positive influence into other peoples’ lives even when he didn’t realize it.”
LPD also presented a Challenge Coin to Converse’s family.
“It’s very special because Matthew, he had no fear but he loved law enforcement,” said mother Stephanie Berna. “He loved everyone here at Great Day, so it’s great to know that he will have a constant reminder here at the place he loved most.”
Kim Nellis, special education director, said the academy will display the plaque, which includes a photo of Converse and Martin, proudly.
“I couldn’t think of anyone other than Matthew that would stand for what Great Day is all about,” Kellis said. “He is the epitome of what we stand for and what we want our students to be like.”
Reach Tara Jones at 567-242-0511.