BUCKHANNON – The City of Buckhannon paid tribute to a former Upshur County sheriff and longtime law enforcement officer during the fifth annual Wilbur H. “Webb” Grubb Police Officer Recognition Day Wednesday.
City officials and members of the community gathered to honor retired sheriff Dave Coffman May 18 at the Buckhannon Police Department, located in the city’s Public Safety Complex.
Mayor Robbie Skinner highlighted how important Webb Grubb Police Officer Recognition Day and the Buckhannon Fire Department’s Friendly Way Day are to the community. The two recognition ceremonies take place annually each year during Strawberry Festival week, usually at the PSC on Florida Street.
“This facility (the city’s Public Safety Complex) is tremendously important to our city and to our community because the folks who work in this building, they’re the ones answering the call. When you call 911, they’re there,” Skinner said. “I’m very proud of all of the men and women who work here every day and give our community their all.”
He thanked Coffman and his family for everything they do for the community. Coffman is the father of Upshur County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Mike Coffman, a former Upshur County magistrate, and local dentist Dr. Jeff Coffman who owns Buckhannon Family Dental on North Spring Street.
“We’re so happy to honor him and we’re happy that his family is here,” Skinner said of Dave Coffman. “His family provides such tremendous services to this community, from the business Jeff and Cassie own to Mike being part of the sheriff’s department, protecting and serving. We’re very happy to honor a most deserving individual who served this county for many years as well as a family who has been right there with him.”
Buckhannon Police Chief Matt Gregory reviewed the history of the Wilbur H. “Webb” Grubb Police Officer Recognition Day, including its namesake, the first Buckhannon city police officer to die in the line of duty on April 21, 1940.
“Six years ago, myself and councilman-elect David McCauley, who was mayor at the time, began to have discussions about how we could honor not only the memory of officers who paid the ultimate sacrifice but also those officers that have committed their lives so selflessly, to the City of Buckhannon, the residents and all who visit the City of Buckhannon,” Gregory said. “The idea came about at that time to establish a Blue Wall and establish a day and appropriately it always falls, not only on the week of Strawberry Festival, but this is also National Police Week as well and we felt that that was the most appropriate time to establish this tradition.”
Officer Webb Grubb was the first honoree, so the first recognition day was a memorial. Since then, city officials have honored former BPD Lieutenant Keith Rowan (2018), former BPD police chief Fred Gaudet (2019), former BPD Lieutenant Darrell Bennett (2021) and Coffman (2022). Each of the honorees will have his name installed on a placard and placed on the city’s Wall of Blue, located along Webb Grubb Lane near the Public Safety Complex. The Wall of Blue pays tribute to Grubb, Rowan, Gaudet, Coffman and all future police officer honorees.
“We also realize that sacrifices come in many forms – not just the ultimate sacrifice – and I’ve always said that about law enforcement, that when you choose to put on the badge, you’re adopting a lifestyle,” Gregory said. “It’s not just a job where you show up at eight in the morning. Law enforcement is a lifestyle and that can be seen as a sacrifice because of the different shifts that you work, the different dangers that you face each day, and not knowing whether this may be your last day.”
Gregory said he worked with Coffman for many years and the two law enforcement officers always viewed one another as family.
“I got to work with Dave many, many times as he was employed by the Lewis County Sheriff’s Department and certainly through his two terms as sheriff here in Upshur County, I worked very closely with him, and I always have enjoyed working with him,” Gregory said. “We’ve long said law enforcement is one big family, especially here in Upshur County. I think we’re blessed to be able to say that we have each other’s backs, and we’re together through the thick and the thin, and I’ve certainly enjoyed that relationship. I’m proud to have known Dave for most of my life, so again, Dave, thank you for your service, sir; it’s an honor to have you here today.”
Family friend Randy Hyre read a statement from Dave Coffman.
“I would first like to thank Chief Gregory and the Buckhannon Police Department for this honor,” Hyre read on Coffman’s behalf. “I am extremely grateful and blessed to be accepting this award today. My law enforcement career started right here in the Buckhannon Police Department in 1977, when I completed the West Virginia State Police Academy in 1978 and I was with the Buckhannon Police for 11 years. After many years of law enforcement outside of Upshur County, I was honored to be elected sheriff of Upshur County in 2012.”
“As you can see, law enforcement has been my life’s work,” the statement continued. “I have had the pleasure to meet and work with so many wonderful people over the years. I have always taken the honor of serving the citizens of my community seriously. Law enforcement has given my life so much meaning and purpose. Thank you for the extraordinary distinction today.”