Massachusetts State Police wives aim to cover the state in blue ribbons

Blue Ribbon Massachusetts

Being married to a state trooper can bring a roller coaster of emotions, local resident Barbara Johnson knows.  Mrs. Johnson couldn’t be prouder of her husband, state police Capt. Robert A. Johnson, who is stationed at the Holden barracks.  But she said he’s been punched, shot at, almost stabbed as well as hit by a car and dragged down Route 146 against traffic.  “Yet he continues to put on his uniform and could not imagine not showing up,” she wrote in an email.  Mrs. Johnson and other wives of law enforcement officers are trying to spread a show of support for their spouses with events across the state to tie blue ribbons in prominent locations.  They were in Northbridge Monday night, with about 75 Pop Warner football players and cheerleaders to do the hands-on work, to cover the town in blue.  Recent attention to shootings and other tragedies involving law enforcement officers across the country was part of the catalyst for the movement to show support.  “Media runs with the negatives,” Mrs. Johnson said.  “The wives wanted to put out a positive message because that is more widespread than the negative you see.”  Mrs. Johnson said she and other members of a Facebook group called MSP Wives wanted to let law enforcement officers know “they’re appreciated, respected and they have the community standing behind them.”  She said, “Our hope is that as officers drive through town and see the ribbons, they’re reminded of the community support.”  The MSP Wives’ Cover Our State in Blue Ribbons campaign is among some 26 states where the effort has gone viral.  The MSP Wives group was started by Kimberly Watson of Townsend, whose husband is a state police captain in Framingham and a former local police officer in Townsend.  She could not attend the event but spoke to a reporter by telephone afterward.  Mrs. Watson said the group began in March, after Trooper Thomas L. Clardy, 44, of Hudson, died after his unmarked cruiser was struck in the breakdown lane of the Massachusetts Turnpike in Charlton by a car driven by David Njuguna, 30, of Webster, while Trooper Clardy was conducting a traffic stop.  “Everybody had this horrible feeling when the phone rang every day,” she said.  The wives group, which includes at least one husband, was formed to support Trooper Clardy’s family as well as each other.  With 158 new state troopers recently graduating from the academy, Mrs. Watson said there was a whole new group of spouses to take under their wing.  “A lot of these wives had no clue what they’re walking into,” she said.  “It’s not a normal lifestyle.”  Mrs. Watson learned about a blue-ribbon effort in New York City and she jumped on board to cover all of Massachusetts’ 351 cities and towns in blue.  The wives contribute and make the materials themselves, raising money from selling homemade blue-on-black ribbons with blue roses to wear or keep.  She said her group asks first to work on the blue ribbons with local police because “we’re all one big family.”  “They were really, really supportive,” Mrs. Johnson said of the Northbridge selectmen’s reaction to the proposal for blue ribbons.  “They were kind of dumbstruck.  They didn’t know why it was not more widespread.”  According to Mrs. Johnson, a few towns have turned down the MSP Wives’ request to tie blue ribbons around various public sites.  At 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, the MSP Wives will be at the Auburn Police Department; on Wednesday they’ll be in South Deerfield; at 11 a.m. on Sunday they’ll be at the Sterling Police Department; and at 6 p.m. Sept. 7 they’ll be at the Ashburnham Police Department. Shaunna Wildman of Northbridge, whose husband Gregg Wildman is an Auburn police sergeant, was among those helping the young football players tie blue ribbons at Memorial Town Hall, along the bridge over the Mumford River and at the nonprofit human service agency Alternatives Inc.  Sgt. Wildman and Framingham Police Chief Kenneth Ferguson, also a Northbridge resident, coach 10-, 11- and 12-year-olds on the Pop Warner Blackstone Valley Patriots.  Mrs. Wildman said her husband worked with Auburn Police Officer Ronald Tarentino Jr., 42, who died in May after being shot by Jorge A. Zambrano during a traffic stop.  “He worked with Ronnie, so this is really special,” she said.  “I didn’t understand what the state police do when there’s a tragedy.  They were right there.”  Pop Warner President Kate Tracy said the coaches called off practice Monday so the players and cheerleaders could help tie the ribbons around town.  “I thought what a wonderful way to give back,” Ms. Tracy said.  “They need to understand what’s going on in our world.”  Twelve-year-old Josh Malkasian was among those climbing up pillars and fences to deck the town in blue.  “We’re trying to show our respect for the police,” he said.  In addition to decorating the town, the MSP Wives and their helpers distributed to local police what Mrs. Johnson called survival kits filled with candies.  Attached to each brown paper bag was a list of what law enforcement officers need to get through a day:

“Lifesaver – Because of how many times you’ve been one; Starburst – For that burst of energy you need; Kisses – To show our love for you; Gum – To help everyone stick together; Tootsie Roll – To help you roll with the punches; Peppermint Patty – To help you keep your cool; DumDum – Because you deal with a lot of them; Pay Day – Because you’re not doing it for the money; Snickers – To help you keep your sense of humor; Mounds – for the mounds of courage you show.”

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