A portable Liberty Bell monument honoring fallen Henderson County Sheriff’s deputies Tony Ogburn and Paul Habelt was delivered to Cooper Funeral Home in Athens Monday night.

Ogburn, 61, and Habelt, 63, were shot and killed in the line of duty near Payne Springs on May 17. A third deputy, Kevin Harris, 40, was shot and wounded.

The monument includes a life-sized polished bronze bell, flanked by two large tablets bearing the Ten Commandments. Its sideboards are adorned by wreaths and placards dedicating the display to Habelt, Ogburn and the Henderson County Sheriff’s Department.

The bell is modeled after the true Liberty Bell, the historic bronze bell that hung over Philadelphia’s Independence Hall in 1752. The bell is one of 70 identical replicas cast in 1976 at the request of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

The replica lent to Athens belongs to the Associated Conservatives of Texas, who purchased it from the Fort Worth Vietnam Veterans. The bell is taken on the road to honor fallen peace officers across the country.

“This is the world’s only exact replica moveable and ringable bell,” Associated Conservatives director David Hall said. “It stays pretty busy. We honored four soldiers last week.

“I was really stunned when Athens lost two deputies.”

The Liberty Bell measures three feet in height and 12 feet in lip circumference and weighs more than a ton. Hall says it’s made of the same metals as the original and rings in the same tone.

“The sound we hear Wednesday will be the same sound our forefathers heard,” he said. He said he plans to ring the bell prior to both deputies’ funeral services.

Cooper Funeral Home owner Pete Cooper said he first heard about the Liberty Bell from Hall.

“This guy (Hall) called us out of the clear blue,” he said. “He asked us if it would be something we would be interested in.”

The bell was first rung at 11 a.m. Tuesday by officers from the Tyler Police Department. It was rung twice in honor of the fallen deputies.

At noon, the rope was again pulled twice, first by Star Harbor Police Chief Wade Norris and then by Tyler Police Lt. Diannia Jackson. The ringing was witnessed by a small crowd of Tyler police officers, who stood at attention until the bell’s thrum subsided.

“It’s a chance for us to honor our fallen brothers,” Jackson said afterward. “We’re here to be of assistance to the family and friends of the fallen officers...and to help them in any manner that we can.”

Cooper Funeral Home owner Pete Cooper said the bell would continue to be rung twice for the fallen deputies every hour on the hour. The ringing will extend from at least 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. through Thursday, he said.

“Anyone can go out and ring it,” Cooper said. “The proper way to do it is to ring it and say a prayer (for the fallen deputies).”

Cooper said he hopes to make the bell available at both funeral services, as well as at the visitations at the funeral home and First Baptist Church.

When not at services or visitations, the monument will remain in front of the funeral home.

Funeral services for Paul Habelt will be held today at 2 p.m. at Athens First Baptist Church. Burial with honors will be in Old Goshen Cemetery.

Funeral services for Tony Ogburn will be held Thursday at 3 p.m. at First Baptist Church. Burial with honors will be in Oaklawn Memorial Park.

The May 17 incident marked the first time a Henderson County deputy had been killed in the line of duty since 1956.


On the Net: www.proclaimliberty.us


e-mail dgordon@athensreview.com

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