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Why We Love This Place Wednesdays: Rob McElrath and his Family

Wednesday, November 7th, 2018

Robbie with his uncles, Alex and Seanne at Senior night

By Terra Avilla

My very first day at the police department I learned about Rob McElrath. In the years that would come, I would learn to love Rob, even though I never met him. Today I want to take a moment to write about one of our community’s heroes.

Even though he may not still be here to respond to calls for service and we may not be able to hug, see or talk to him, Rob is still present in our community. He is very much so, one of the reasons I love this place we call home.

Walking into the police department, there is indicia memorializing Rob throughout our building.

I wasn’t on the job more than thirty minutes before my Field Training Officer brought up Officer McElrath. I was told about the heartbreaking incident that took Officer McElrath away from the police department, but more tragically away from his family – his children.

I was also told by Officer Inman how passionate and big-hearted Rob (his partner) was.

Officer McElrath was badge number 839, a number that has since been retired, so when I started, instead of giving me the next available number, they skipped his number and gave me ‘840’ and I’m glad they did. There is no way I could have ever lived up to the bar that he set as an officer.

I’ve never encountered another officer that when you bring up their name, no matter what company you are with, they only have good things to say about the person that he was. Everyone will tell you how hard he worked for his family – how hard he worked for this town.

When I say that I love Rob, I feel like I can say that without hesitation, as I have met the living facets of who he was as a person; his mother, his father, his sister, his brothers, his daughter and his namesake and youngest son, Robbie.

When I talk about good human beings, I simply mean it doesn’t get better than them. Humble, honest, kind hearted, salt of the earth – give you the shirt off their back kind of people.

I had the fortune to be meet Seanne, one of his younger brothers for an event. My heart breaks into a thousand pieces whenever Rob’s name is mentioned in front of him.

Two years ago a softball mitt of Rob’s was mailed to the police department and I had the honor of giving it Seanne. There was sadness in his expression and I could tell he missed his big brother.

Seanne remains a servant of this community nevertheless. Still supportive of the police department, one of the ties he still has to his big brother. There is also Alex (the middle brother). You might recognize him happily taking care of the city’s parks, and other buildings. Sweet. Soft spoken. A good human.

Seanne and Alex donate their time every year dancing for Lassen Family Services, an agency striving to eradicate Domestic Violence, the curse that took their brother away from them.

They are heroes too. I hope they know that.

And of course, there is Robbie. Goofy, free spirited, tenderhearted Robbie. He wants to go into the military like his father. I see him around campus every day. I sure do love that kid.

This last week I saw Robbie performing at the football game for senior night. Yes I cried.

I cried because I know Rob was there. Rob was there through his brothers who came to watch their nephew, but also through everyone in the crowd who loved Rob and who came up to Robbie after the game to hug him.

You see, I read an article recently about what happens when a community loses a police officer. Sometimes it turns into a political agenda, Facebook buzzes, but the real way to honor that officer is to love their family. To make sure that someone checks in on their children. To make sure Robbie goes to Prom, learns how to change a tire, gets good grades, knows how to tie a tie, walks across that stage at graduation and has people yelling and cheering for him in the stands.

We, as a community, will never be able to fill in for Rob, but we can love on his son, and that’s what we do. That’s how you really honor a fallen officer.

That kind of love and support, I see it. I see it here in Lassen County. I see it for Rob. I saw it during Pastor Conrad’s and Doria Dalu’s dance they did in homage for him at Dancing for a Brand new Me. Never forgotten. Always loved. That is something special we have in our county.

There are plaques, a bench and even a street named after Rob, to honor his memory. But the real honor to Rob’s legacy is for all of us to take care of his family and take care of each other.

It is my good fortune to live in a place that respects fallen heroes like Rob as much as they do.

To my McElrath family – you are the very best parts of Rob and the very embodiment of why I love this place.

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10 Responses to Why We Love This Place Wednesdays: Rob McElrath and his Family

  1. Heather Glover

    Heather Glover

    Wednesday, November 7th, 2018 at 7:15 pm

    I never knew Rob, but always think of him whenever I hear his last name. Your tribute is beautiful… I couldn’t help but cry while reading it 💕

  2. Angel Smith

    Angel Smith

    Wednesday, November 7th, 2018 at 6:39 pm

    Thats awsome rob was such a nice guy. A good indian brother

  3. Janina Rodriguez

    Janina Rodriguez

    Wednesday, November 7th, 2018 at 11:16 am

    Wonderfully written. With heartfelt love. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Susan ReBell

    Susan ReBell

    Wednesday, November 7th, 2018 at 8:34 am

    Beautiful words for a beautiful family! 💕

  5. Maggie Dixon

    Maggie Dixon

    Wednesday, November 7th, 2018 at 8:23 am

    Terra what beautiful words about Rob and his family! We do live in a great community and the support and love is still alive😍🦅🙏🏽

  6. Claire Cantole Chambers

    Claire Cantole Chambers

    Wednesday, November 7th, 2018 at 8:18 am

    Beautiful article about Rob I’m truly honored to call him a friend 💕💕💕💕

  7. Keri Richards

    Keri Richards

    Wednesday, November 7th, 2018 at 7:14 am

    I tried to write something profound but found myself choked up and at a loss for words. Terra this is beautiful 😢

  8. Teresa Dixon

    Teresa Dixon

    Wednesday, November 7th, 2018 at 7:13 am

    Beautiful words written about Rob McElrath. May his family be blessed always. Always in our Hearts and Not Forgotten ♥️.

  9. Sue Ritz

    Sue Ritz

    Wednesday, November 7th, 2018 at 6:59 am

    Tera what a beautifully written article. I had the honor of knowing Rob since high school and beyond. I missed those bear hugs he always gave. When Mountain Lifeflight 3 went down with our son on it, Rob was one of the first to come to our home to share his grief. He was truly a wonderful human being. 😢❤️

  10. Mavrey Uptegrove

    Mavrey Uptegrove

    Wednesday, November 7th, 2018 at 6:34 am

    Again a wonderful article.

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