FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) - It's been nearly 25 years since Master Sergeant Kenneth Hayden died from cancer. This past week, Hayden's name was finally added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington D.C.
"The cause of death was actually cancer," Joan Hayden, Kenneth's wife, said. "In most people's eyes, they don't make the correlation that's a line of duty death. This is where Mayo Clinic was so important. They determined the cancer was formed as a direct result of the bullet wound that had happened many years prior."
Joan and Kenneth were married for 22 years before he passed away.
"When he died in 1989, none of us even considered taking this route," Joan said. "We didn't know what was available."
Over the past 18 months, Joan worked on proving the cause of her husband's death happened while in the line of duty. With the Mayo Clinic's findings, Hayden's name was added to the memorial in the nation's capital, and in the future, will be added to the Fort Wayne Police Department's memorial.
"We certainly, as the Fort Wayne Police Department, and as the city of Fort Wayne, recognized his death as a line of duty death," said FWPD Chief Rusty York.
York and Kenneth were friends in grade school. The two men attended Catholic Central High School together. That's where Kenneth met Joan.
"I'm just so happy for his family that they were able to get this recognition after all these years," York said.
York attended the ceremony in Washington with the Hayden family. Joan, along with she and Kenneth's four sons, and some grandchildren, made the trip.
The family left a photo of Kenneth in is FWPD uniform at the memorial wall where Hayden's name is. A candle was also placed at the wall.
"I felt it was really that the community, for my sons, that the community recognized their dad as a hero."
"That's what I would expect her to say," BJ Hayden, one of the couple's sons, said. "I think it was just as much about her, as it was for us. Being out there with her, it meant a lot to us."
BJ said he was always pleading with his father to let him join him at work.
"I still to this day run into people who knew him and say what an excellent officer he was and what an excellent person he was," Chris Hayden, the couple's oldest son, said.
Chris was six when his father was accidentally shot in 1974.
"He loved what he did, and he was my hero," Chris said. "I looked forward to those evenings when he would come home and talk about work and what he dealt with. To have him recognized for doing that everyday, for my safety and our safety, it was important to me that he be recognized for that.
Part of the ceremony in the nation's capital included a candle light vigil where more than 25 thousand people were in attendance to honor fallen officers.
"It was a little big of grieving all over again," Chris said. "But more pride in the fact that he was recognized for his contributions to the city of Fort Wayne and to our family."
The family also was able to spend some alone time at the wall where Kenneth will forever be remembered.
"Being down there alone with my mom and three brothers and son, who went along, that was a very special time," Chris said.
"You could tell it was a huge deal," Mike Hayden, the couple's youngest son, said.
Mike was nine when his father passed away.
"We went right over to the wall and saw his name," Mike said. "We did a little etching in the paper, that was awesome. I'll never forget that."
The three brothers said they all planned to return to the memorial, and for the service, in the future. They wanted to continue to pay respects to their father and to other officers who are killed in the line of duty.
For a father of four boys, Kenneth would, at times, have to do some policing at home. Joan said her husband was heavily involved in the four sons' lives. A big part of it was basketball.
"He was never bitter after the accident, or after he realized he had cancer," Joan said. "Even when he knew he wasn't going to live, his spirits were very high. He still visited his friends from the force after retiring."
The family said its looking forward to Kenneth being honored by FWPD because it's his own community and neighbors way to show their support.
"As I got older, I met other officers who would tell me he was a terrific cop," Mike said. "They had nothing but good things to say. They would stand up and shake my hand most of the time because it was an honor to meet his youngest son."
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