AME reflects on 'Lannon's Way'
Heather Nyberg's first-grade class at Anna Maria Elementary School has been cultivating butterflies - anxiously awaiting their hatch, which happened just before the school's memorial celebration for School Resource Officer Pete Lannon. Lannon's wife Deborah said at the school event that she had a hunch her late husband had "a little something to do with that." The students released the butterflies into the school's patriotic garden during the Oct. 18 memorial celebration. Islander Photos: Diana Bogan
The late Pete Lannon's family members gathered along the newly named "Lannon's Way" at Anna Maria Elementary School in celebration of Pete's life and his contribution to the Island school where he served seven years as the school resource officer before losing his battle with cancer June 1. A key feature of Lannon's Way is this bell crafted from an empty dive tank. Lannon was an avid diver and enjoyed making bells from the empty tanks. His oldest son, Pete Jr., completed this bell to hang at the school. Pictured from left are Pete's family: wife Deborah, son Mathew, daughter Jessi, Pete Jr. and daughter-in-law Christy.
|Remembering a fellow officer|
Holmes Beach Police Chief Jay Romine spoke to Anna Maria Elementary School students Oct. 18 about how he met Officer Pete Lannon and how he became part of the Holmes Beach Police Department and Island community. "No one could have predicted the impact he had on all of us," said Romine. Also gathered at the school's memorial celebration were Lannon's family, friends, and co-workers.
Anna Maria Elementary School Principal Tom Levengood is all smiles as he gets a first look at the street sign built in remembrance of Holmes Beach Police Officer Pete Lannon. The sign serves as a reminder of the character building traits Lannon taught during his time as school resource officer. Levengood said the naming of the path suggests we should all continue to live life "Lannon's way," because it's the right way.
|Lannon rembrance bench|
Celebrating Officer Lannon's fondness for super hero Superman, Levengood created this bench to offer comfort at the crosswalk for future crossing guards. Islander Photo: Joanie Mills
When Pete Lannon was hired as a Holmes Beach police officer seven years ago, it wasn’t Chief Jay Romine’s intention for him to spend most of his time at the Island school.
When he was hired as a community resource officer, Romine said he told the new officer, “If you can, spend some time at the school, too.”
Lannon quickly became a beloved member not only of the Island community at large, but especially of the Anna Maria Elementary School community. In fact, if you were looking for Lannon, AME is likely where you would have found him.
Prior to his diagnosis of pancreatic cancer a year ago, Lannon served as the school’s crossing guard and taught character education and drug awareness programs to students. He also offered guidance to those who asked, and ran occasional workshops for parents on child safety issues.
Lannon lost his battle with cancer on June 1 and since school was not in session at the time, several members of the community, HBPD and AME staff gathered to plan a memorial tribute to aid the healing process for the many students Lannon taught. The celebration was held Thursday, Oct. 18, with students and friends gathered in front of the school.
At the celebration, six stations, starting from the school crosswalk, up the bus loop and ending at the school’s patriotic garden, were dedicated with symbols memorializing the beliefs Lannon upheld.
At the crosswalk, a bench was installed that AME Principal Tom Levengood created with a Superman emblem, Lannon’s hero since childhood. AME guidance counselor Cindi Harrison said the bench represents inner-strength.
At the corner of the bus loop sidewalk, a street sign stands designating the walkway up to the school as “Lannon’s Way.” The sign represents making the right choices and following Lannon’s example. There are seven small pillars lined up under the sign, each one representing a year of Lannon’s service to the community.
Walkers next pass a bell representing truth. The bell was a project Lannon left unfinished, but Pete Jr. finished it as a memorial for the school. During the celebration, AME teachers rang the bell as they passed by with their students along Lannon’s Way.
Not far from the bell is a red cypress tree, which students will decorate for the holidays. Lannon was a fan of Christmas and particularly loved seeing blue lights lit within the community as a tribute to the officers who work year-round.
Adjacent to the tree is a trellis that will eventually be covered with blue, yellow and red blooming flowers.
And the final tribute installed was another creation by Levengood - a stained-glass stepping stone pad that resembles a giant Etch-A-Sketch. Lannon was a “master” Etch-A-Sketch artist, creating intricate, keepsake designs on the toy screen.
Romine noted that he never could have anticipated the impact Lannon would have on the community when he hired him. He loved kids and loved being at the school, Romine told the gathering at AME.
On behalf of the HBPD, Romine said, “We appreciate all that’s been done to recognize Pete. We love [this school] and are working on getting someone - not to replace Pete - but to try and pick up where he left off.”