Saturday, January 3, we woke to very rainy conditions with the forecast calling for the rain to turn to ice. We turned on the Weather Channel and pondered the weather going north because we had a party to attend in Big Rapids, Michigan, and I was determined to get there.
My brother-in-law, Gary Cole, Sr. – married to my eldest sister, Sandy – was a police officer for 41 years in various communities in Michigan and has finally retired. My sister had planned a big celebration for him in the ballroom of the Holiday Inn Big Rapids. I had been looking forward to the shin-dig for weeks and had even bought a new dress, so wasn’t going to allow a little bit of freezing rain and snow deter me from getting there!
Mark made the decision to avoid the major highways, figuring if he was going to slide off the road he would rather do it at 40 MPH into a cornfield rather than at 60 with semi-trucks and guard rails. The drive wasn’t bad for the first third, the precipitation being rain. But the farther north we got, the rain changed to ice and eventually it turned over to snow. The last 30 miles or so, along Highway 131, was pretty harrowing! We saw plenty of vehicles off the road in ditches. You can bet I did plenty of praying and Mark was a champ behind the wheel! It was a huge relief to arrive safely at our destination in Big Rapids.
Since the drive took us much longer than initially planned, there was no time to enjoy the pool or spa at the hotel. Our room was lovely – the entire hotel was very nicely appointed – and we had to change into our fancy party clothes post-haste.
Photo credit, Jen Hannum, Stargazer photography.
One thing the Billings clan knows how to do it throw a party. My sister, Sandy, had worked hard for months to make sure all the details for Gary’s celebration were just perfect. They did have one small glitch – their D.J. canceled at the last moment due to the weather, but undaunted, my nephew was able to secure another D.J. at the eleventh hour. We all had a wonderful time and it was an honor to be there to celebrate a man who has given so much to his country and his community.
Gary served in the U.S. Navy and served in Vietnam. He went to the police academy for the City of Detroit and was a Detroit policeman for 3 years before being laid off. He then moved north and served in Skidway Lake, Westbranch, Osceola County, and Reed City. He was also the Weigh Master in Osceola County. He was a very well-respected officer and you can bet nobody messed with him!
There were plenty of people who gave honor to Gary’s service, and told many tales on him. I wish all of you could have the chance to sit down with Gary and listen to his stories! He is very funny when he recounts some of his encounters with criminals and various law-breakers. Between him and Sandy, I keep saying they should write a book! They both are hilarious story tellers. Gary’s oldest son, Gary Jr., is also a police officer (Mio area, Oscoda County), and his youngest son, Adam, works in the Reed City jail, so when you get the three of them together, you can bet you will be regaled with tails of their adventures!
(Sorry about the glare off the glass, it was not the best lighting for photography in the ballroom. 🙂 )
My brother-in-law is not one to let the grass grow under his feet, so his full retirement didn’t last for long. He was asked to return to the Osceola Weigh Master office as a part time enforcer.
I just wanted to use this platform to honor a man who gave so much to serve his country and community – and to honor all our law enforcement officers. I have several members of my family who work in law enforcement, and they all sacrifice so much to keep us safe in our day-to-day lives!
May God bless them all – each and every one!