By Anne Marie Kilday
EAST ALDINE – As the community gathered Oct. 30 to celebrate the colorful Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) on the grounds of the East Aldine Town Center, Annette and Ron Bennett dutifully and cheerfully oversaw the treat bags for children and handed out wrist bands that kids could use to get their goodies.
The two frequent volunteers at community events also remembered their late son, Harris County Sheriff’s Office Dep. Shane Bennett, who was killed when he and other deputies responded to a “home invasion” alert in 2002. He was 29.
At the Town Center festival, the deputy’s photograph was included on an ofrenda (altar) honoring officers killed in the line of duty.
Nearly 20 years after their son’s death, the parents said they “have been blessed” by remaining close to their 21-year-old granddaughter and her mother.
The Bennetts said their faith helped them recover from the loss of their son.
“When our son passed away, instead of turning our back on that agency, we decided to become a part of that (sheriff’s office) agency in any way we can,” Ron Bennett said.
Annette Bennett serves as vice president of the Houston chapter of Concerns of Police Survivors, known as COPS. Ron Bennett is president of the District 2 Citizens’ Police Academy Alumni Association.
“The community and agency unity they are building here is great,” Ron said. “In the past year, I think the county has really stepped up in trying to get the community more involved with the agency. Instead of animosity towards the Sheriff’s Office, they want to be part of the community.”
Working close to the booth staffed by the Sheriff’s Office, the couple clearly enjoyed bantering with deputies on duty and listening to the loud Latino music.
As deputies patrolled the festival on horseback, in jeeps, and all-terrain vehicles, Bennett said kids were clearly delighted to see law enforcement officers in a friendly setting.
“It’s really ‘community policing’,” Annette said, referring to the approach of law enforcement officers meeting with community members routinely instead of only when residents call 911.
The couple said they felt that their son “would be right here with us” at the community gathering.
Though Dia de Los Muertos has traditionally been a Latino or Hispanic commemoration, Ron said they felt honored their non-Hispanic son was included on the altar for fallen officers.
“Grief is peaks and valleys,” Ron said.
“And hopefully, you eventually take those peaks and valleys and turn them into waves,” Annette said.