EUGENE, Ore. (KMTR) – Unveiling an honor Saturday, Highway 126 through Eugene-Springfield has a new name in remembrance of fallen Eugene Police Officer Chris Kilcullen.
About 200 family, friends and community members gathered Saturday, December 10th, 2011 at the Willamette High School football field for a special ceremony, dedicating a new series of signs posted along Highways 126 reading “Officer Chris Kilcullen Memorial Highway.” The signs were unveiled by the Kilcullen family.
Oregon’s state legislature passed the bill to make it happen in summer 2011. Four signs now dot the highway from 6th Avenue in Eugene to Main Street in Springfield.
The signs mark the first permanent memorial to Officer Chris Kilcullen, who died from a gunshot wound he received in the line of duty in April 2011.
Eight months after his death, the community continues to honor Officer Kilcullen for his roll inside and outside of his job.
“He was a loving son, husband and father,” said Chief Pete Kerns of the Eugene Police Department.
“A kind generous and dedicated and loving man,” said John Kilcullen, Chris Kilcullen’s father.
Speaking from his time working on Eugene Police’s crisis negotiation team, Lane County Sheriff Tom Turner remembered Chris in his ability to speak to people.
“How he appealed to people, and how he related to people,” said Turner.
“There's no greater love than to lay down one's life for his friends, and everybody in the community was Chris' friend,” said Chief Jerry Smith from the Springfield Police Department.
Eight months after Officer Kilcullen’s death, Saturday’s ceremony was about honor, as the crowd applauded the new Officer Chris Kilcullen Memorial Highway sign. The highway was where Chris spent many hours working.
“Chris is probably the one who single handedly reduced the speed limit by 10 miles an hour on that 105 - 126 stretch,” said John Kilcullen.
While a sign cannot replace what’s been lost, those who knew Chris hope it helps the community remember.
"He'll never be replaced, but he won't be forgotten, and everytime we drive down that stretch of freeway between Eugene and Springfield, Chris will be there," said John Kilcullen.
“This is a person who in every setting, no matter who he was with, was the same person, how many of us can say that,” said Kerns.
“I hope that they remember the police officers, the job that they do, the sacrifices that they make, and the terrible sacrifices that they can make if something goes on and that they just show a greater respect for the law enforcement community, all of the agencies,” said John Kilcullen.
With placement of the memorial highway signs on Highway 126, the roadside memorial at 52nd Street will soon disappear. Volunteers will remove the memorial and deliver pieces from it to the family of Chris Kilcullen. Legislators are working on putting another permanent memorial highways sign at that site.