Tree Re dedication: Johnny Bamsch’s wife and the daughter who never knew him feel special love and constant attention from their HPD Family

Tom Kennedy

One word predominated the late-morning ceremony at the North Command substation on Jan. 30, which marked the 42nd anniversary of the line-of-duty death of a North Patrol officer, Johnny T. Bamsch.

Stories were told of the officer as well as anecdotes about the tree planted on-site to memorialize his life. For HPD officers are well known everywhere for never forgetting the 113 fellow officers who gave the ultimate to keep the people they serve safer.

Bamsch’s daughter never knew him in person. The mother/wife was only about two months pregnant with her on the day her father was murdered by a suspect.

At the tree “re-dedication,” many took turns voicing their feelings about Officer Bamsch and the anniversary event.

They kept using that one word: Family.

Bamsch was shot to death on Jan. 30, 1975 while he and his partner were in pursuit of suspects who had robbed a convenience store near Norview and Yale. His killer continues to serve a life sentence.

The officer, a graduate of HPD Academy Class No. 55, was memorialized with the planting of a live oak tree on the site of the North Shepherd substation, which was then known as Station 1. In the 1990s the roadway near the station was reconfigured and the tree was successfully moved to a nearby location.

Then, as now, it was really and truly a family project.

Retired Officer and Honor Guard chieftain David Freytag, who shepherded the tree rededication, recalled how Johnny’s father, Roy, kept a 100-foot water hose connected to a hydrant on the side of the station so he could regularly water the tree. He and the officer’s mother would regularly stop by the station to provide donuts from a nearby Shipley’s for Johnny’s fellow patrol officers. As new officers were assigned to the station, they got to know the Bamsch branch of the HPD family.

The family expanded with the August 1975 birth of Mandy Bamsch. She and her mother Cindy were regulars. Then and now the mother and daughter live in different locations but reside in the same neighborhood of the old Station 1. Officers from that station officers would often encounter these special “family members” on the streets and at the grocery store. They also regularly drove by to make sure everyone was safe.

Cindy Bamsch and Mandy Bamsch Derryberry currently live in different nearby locations, still only a short distance from the original substation, whose location was changed to a newer building at 9455 West Montgomery. It was at this location that the rededication of the new tree took place.

Under this approximately 10-foot-high live oak is the same dedication plaque that was placed under the original tree. The event was highlighted by a proclamation by Mayor Sylvester Turner, who proclaimed Jan. 30, 2017 “Officer Johnny Bamsch Day” in Houston.

The cost of the new tree was footed by the Houston Police Officers Union, whose 2nd vice president, Joe Gamaldi, sincerely voiced the heartfelt honor and privilege felt by Union members to participate in recognizing family members.

“This,” Gamaldi said, acknowledging the new tree,” is the living embodiment of gone-but-not-forgotten.”

He assured the Bamsch family, Capt. Larry Baimbridge, members of the HPD Honor Guard and several dozen uniformed officers that absolutely no HPD family member will ever be forgotten. He gave special credit to the captain for taking time to arrange the special ceremony.

Capt. Baimbridge echoed the words that underscored the fact that Officer Bamsch’s sacrifice will never be forgotten. So did Executive Assistant Chief Michael Dirden, who expressed gratitude to Cindy Bamsch and the family for remaining “a loving family” that has stayed engaged with their HPD family after enduring the same sacrifice as too many families of law enforcement officers have over the years.

Dirden spoke on behalf of Police Chief Art Acevedo, who later joined the Bamsch family and Baimbridge and the North Command for a barbecue luncheon.

Cindy Bamsch, a retired school teacher, was married to her husband the officer for just five and a half years before Johnny died in the line of duty. She worked with the officer’s parents in the undying efforts to speak out against any possible parole for the individual convicted of killing Bamsch. That individual, Richard Delain Kyles, was 18 at the time of his deadly crime. So far he has lived 42 years longer than the officer he killed.

Over those years Cindy, her only daughter Mandy and the three children of Zack and Mandy Derryberry have attended not only the dedication and rededication of the Johnny Bamsch tree but also that of the Houston Police Memorial and many of the subsequent Police Week memorial ceremonies.

They are always recognized by the numerous officers (family members).

Mandy told the Badge & Gun that even though she never saw her father alive, she feels the family has helped her get through many years.

“I definitely feel like I know him,” she said, “obviously through my mother and grandparents but also because the police department has treated us like family from the very beginning and the 100 Club too, for that matter.

“They have included us in the tree dedications, all three tree dedications. We’re honored that they included us in the dedication of the Police Memorial. They were very kind to include us in that.”

Over these past years, she explained, she has taken her three children – Taylor (12), Ellis (9) and Ryder (6) – to play around the Police Memorial on Memorial Drive. Mandy said she and the family visit with the HPD officers guarding the monument and was pleased with the number of them who remember him and his sacrifice. “It’s surprising at the number of old-timers who remember my dad,” she said.

Cindy Bamsch remembered her husband as a man who had a deep love for animals, as someone who always brought stray dogs home with him and inevitably found new masters for each of them. “Every stray dog he saw while on duty he’d stop and to feed it and pick it up,” Cindy recalled. “We ended up giving them away. There were two that we kept.”

He picked up this love of pets from his father and mother. Freytag recalled that when officers visited Mr. and Mrs. Bamsch they “would have to make friends” with their pet dachshund before they could enter the house. The couple and the wife constantly entertained HPD officers who would “check in on them” and share a visit.

“I bought a Mr. Coffee,” Cindy said through a smile at the recollection of Mandy’s infant years. “They (officers) would come over and I would pour them a cup. They’d take over the baby-walking duty.”

Mandy and her three kids got the animal-love gene. They, too, love to take care of strays. Ellis Derryberry made it a point to reveal that the family has had up to five pets at a time – a fish, a hamster, a Ginny pig and two dogs.

Now Officer Bamsch’s family certainly shares not only a love for animals but a deep love and commitment to their family – the HPD family.