Remembering Fallen Conservation Officers

On May 16, 2022, many gathered at Kentucky Depart​ment of Fish and Wildlife Resources headquarters to honor the 10 Kentucky conservation officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty since 1918.

The Seven Fallen Officers
Located on the campus of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, the centerpiece of the keyhole-shaped memorial designed by Kentucky Fish and Wildlife graphic artist Obie Williams and constructed by Searcy Monument Company of Carrollton is a bronze statue of a saluting officer by Indiana sculptor David Kocka. Benches placed around the statue represent the state’s nine law enforcement districts.

Images of conservation officers Elijah Roberts, James R. Claxton, John C. Martin, Tabor, Robert C. Banker, Douglas W. Bryant, and Bernard D. Ratliff are etched on stone tablets atop stone pedestals lining either side of a brick pathway leading to the statue. The Kentucky Conservation Officers’ Association (KCOA) led the drive for the memorial and financed its construction through sponsorships and other fundraising activities.

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Conservation Sgt. Scott Herndon chaired the group’s memorial committee and said Saturday there are plans to establish a Kentucky Fallen Officers Memorial Scholarship Fund.

“This memorial honors the six officers who gave the ultimate sacrifice,” Herndon said, “but also the conservation officers who worked before us and those who are going to work here in the future.”

Saturday’s ceremony featured the Louisville Police Pipes and Drums, a rifle salute by representatives of the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Honor Guard, the playing of taps by Anderson County Middle School student Noah Medley and flag presentations to family members or representatives of the fallen officers. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife conservation officers and Kentucky State Police assembled in rows, shoulder to shoulder behind the families during the ceremony. The six officers now forever memorialized serve to remind the public of the dangers Kentucky conservation officers face every day, said Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Gregory Johnson.

“They make all of our lives better by protecting our fish and wildlife resources that richen the landscape and the quality of our life in this great Commonwealth,” he said. “This memorial should always remind us of those who picked up the standard from their fallen comrades and carried on those tasks."

“Our fish and wildlife family recognizes the impossibility of ever repaying our debt to these six men. As humans, we strive to express our gratitude to them.” Following the ceremony, Sherry Bryant clutched the flag given to her and made her way to the pedestal honoring her late husband.

Douglas Bryant was killed in May 2003 when his patrol truck was intentionally struck by the car of a man he was pursuing on Interstate 71/75 in Fort Mitchell. “The people that will come through here now will ensure these officers will not be forgotten,” she said. “You continue through life and you move on, but something nobody will ever take away is the memories. They’ll live forever.”

Denver Tabor was active with the Boy Scouts, cared for the elderly and was quick to help the less fortunate. More than once the Kentucky conservation officer surprised his wife, Linda, by coming home with a stranger in need of a home-cooked meal or a hot shower.

Stacy Tabor Hardin grew to know her father from such stories. “Mom has told me that he was the kind of person that if he gave a ticket sometimes people would thank him before it was over,” she said. Denver Tabor gave his life in 1973 trying to rescue a boy who had tumbled overboard from a boat on the Ohio River, and is one of six Kentucky conservation officers killed in the line of duty since ​1918. A new memorial honoring their sacrifice was dedicated in Frankfort Saturday afternoon, May 17. “To know that this will be here forever and appreciated by future generations is so humbling,” Linda Tabor said. “Denver would be so thankful, and proud.”

On May 9, 2019, The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, Kentucky Conservation Officers Association and state officials gathered at the Fallen Officers Memorial in Frankfort to honor the officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice. During the ceremony and with family present, Officer Bernard D. Ratliff was added to the Fallen Officers Memorial.​