ALPENA - When Gloria Egelski drives around Alpena this time of year, the glow of blue lights gives her a warm feeling. She sees them sparkling on Christmas trees, illuminating front porches or standing alone in a window as a quiet sentry of peace.
For the last 14 years, the Alpena woman has been a driving force behind Project Blue Light, a ceremony that honors slain law enforcement officers.
"It's like, 'oh wow,'" Egelski said. "They're honoring my son and the other officers. They pay attention to our ceremony and what it's for."
News Photo by Betsy Lehndorff
Gloria Egelski turns on some blue lights Monday as she stands in front of a memorial display of her late son and another trooper at the Alpena Post of the Michigan State Police. She launched the annual Project Blue Light Ceremony in 2000.
Egelski's son, Michigan State Police Trooper Byron Egelski, was killed in an automobile collision in Marysville July 11, 1994, while he and his partner were headed to an emergency. His patrol car was broadsided by a high school senior who was behind the wheel of a Corvette, she said Monday.
Byron Egelski was born and raised in Ossineke and was with the Port Huron post at the time of his death.
"I always think that he's proud," Egelski said. "He was a proud officer. That was his life."
At the time of the tragedy, Egelski was living in Philadelphia and soon became a part of a group called COPs - Concerns of Police Survivors founded in 1984.
When she moved back to Alpena in 2000, she partnered with MICOPS, the Michigan branch of the national organization and founded the blue light program here as well as one four years later in Roscommon.
Egelski said she isn't doing it all by herself, however. Former MSP Alpena Post Commander Lt. Jeff Anthony and one of her son's friends lent their help, and today multiple law enforcement agencies and firefighters spend a year meeting once a month to put the event together.
Egelski said more than 250 people are expected to attend and the ceremony will include a candle lighting, a tree lighting and bagpipes.
This year's event will honor three Michigan law enforcement officers and two firefighters killed in 2013, and salute 11 others with ties to Alpena killed since 1887.
The ceremony is always slated for December to coincide with holiday celebrations, she said.
"It's grown from a little ceremony outside to 250 people at the APlex," she said.
She said in recent years the event has become so popular that area merchants have been selling out of strings of blue lights, light bulbs, glow sticks and blue LED light devices early.
Betsy Lehndorff can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5693. Follow Betsy on Twitter @bl_alpenanews.