North Carolina Department of Correction

North Carolina Correctional Officers Memorial Service


Secretary Beck

Officer Mike Starnes

Roll Call of Honor

Memorial Service Program

Photos of Service

Sponsored by
North Carolina Police Benevolence Association

May 20, 1999

Fairview Baptist Church

Statesville, North Carolina

Remarks by Theodis Beck, Secretary of Correction
Good morning to all of you. Thank you for inviting me to join you today for this day of remembrance for eight Department of Correction employees who are very much alive in the minds of all of us, especially today as we pay tribute along with the families and co-workers of our honorees. We are here to encompass James Chesser, Kermit Jackson, Earl Strickland, Randall Cupp, William Lee, Leslie Besci, Sarah Valentine and David Anthony in our love.

Correction work attracts a special kind of person. Not many people would be willing to come face to face with the state’s most dangerous criminals every day. Correction people do. Their hearts are rich, their rewards intangible. Each of these eight co-workers gave their lives in service to the department. No greater love is there, than this.

As we remember the life and the spirit of each of these employees, let us see our own lives dedicated to a higher cause, let their remembrance lift us higher in truth and love. These eight men and women have shown us how to live a fuller life. We feel their presence ever near, as if they are carrying the banner, leading the way.

Theodis Beck,
Secretary of Correction

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Each day thousands of probation, parole and correctional officers head to work, stepping in the midst of known danger. What kind of person does it take to accept this work? One with courage, determination, self-worth, honor, and foresight. They must be as wise as serpents and harmless as doves. They must lead, correct, and encourage. They must be mothers, fathers, teachers and role models. They must be alert. They must be thinkers. Chesser, Jackson, Strickland, Cupp, Lee, Besci, Valentine, and Anthony were all of that and more.

God gives to each of his children, individual talents, and calls on each one for special service according to that talent. God gave the unique talent and calling of public service to these eight men and women. Recorded in the greatest book ever written is a story which brings to mind some words from Isaiah: "then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? Who will go for us? Our honorees answered that call by saying, "Here I am, send me."

I can see a parallel here, because these eight officers answered the call for public service with the North Carolina Department of Correction when they demonstrated their willingness to help protect the citizens of this state and help improve the lives of North Carolinians.

For not much money and for terrible hours, on a daily basis, they put their lives at risk for two simple reasons -- to protect and help others. In many situations, they were trying to help and protect people they did not even know -- and on occasion, helping and protecting those who may have even wished them harm. There is no calling in this great country which calls for more moral strength, sacrifice and fidelity than that of public service; a calling which calls at once for the courage of David, the patience of Job and the faith of the Centurion.

The passing of these eight officers humbles us deeply. "Great trees in the forest of man have fallen across all of our hearts." They have taught us to look at one another with greater respect, to seek higher ground when faced with challenges, to see that we are all capable of doing much more than what is required, and that in reality, our burdens are light.

Now, written in the records of history and sealed in the tomb of death, are leaders of the past. We all mourn, because the Angel of Death has come for these soldiers of public service. No one can dispel the hour of grief; the hills cry in their silence; the community cries in remorse, but they shall never be forgotten. They shall forever live in the hearts of those who knew and loved them.

As the page is turned in the Book of Life, let the record reflect that these officers stood tall enough to match our mountains. It has been said that what a person does for themselves dies with them, but what they do for others lives on. And this is truly the legacy that James Chesser, Kermit Jackson, Earl Strickland, Randall Cupp, William Lee, Leslie Besci, Sarah Valentine and David Anthony leaves to all of us.

To the families, I say:

Be not too sad of heart
God shares all your sorrows
He will bring you peace of mind
And brighten your tomorrow

Lean heavily upon our Lord
Love and comfort He will give to you
In his arms He’ll ever hold you
And fill you with the spirit to live

Thank you for having shared your family members with us. We are all better people because they touched our lives. You are truly the beneficiaries of their greatest gifts -- and they are fond memories and good names. Forever cherish and be proud of those gifts.

II. Cor. 13:11: Finally brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.

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