San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon speaks during the memorial service for San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Deputy Lawrence “Larry” Falce at Immanuel Baptist Church in Highland, Ca., January 9, 2018. Well off-duty, Falce, a 36-year veteran of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department was assaulted following a minor traffic crash in San Bernardino and later died from his injuries. (John Valenzuela/The Sun/SCNG
By Brian Rokos | firstname.lastname@example.org | The Press-Enterprise
Published: January 9, 2018 at 1:07 pm | Updated: January 10, 2018 at 2:19 pm
Marjorie Falce-Jorgensen gazed upon an audience of 1,000 mourners and spoke about heroes and villains and family.
Her brother, Larry Falce, was being remembered at Immanuel Baptist Church in Highland on Tuesday, Jan. 9, for his humble dedication and sacrifice as a San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputy for 36 years, his love of God, animals and flannel shirts.
Falce, 70, died Jan. 2, two days after being slugged in the face by a driver after an off-duty traffic collision in San Bernardino. Falce fell, hitting his head on the pavement. He never regained consciousness.
Tuesday’s ceremonies included tributes at Riverside National Cemetery, where the Army veteran was buried. The ceremonies did not include the trappings usually associated with police funerals, such as an American flag hoisted by a fire truck, throngs of police attending from out of the area and mourners lining the procession route, because Falce’s injuries took place off duty.
‘YOU WERE MY HERO’
But the expressions of admiration and grief were no less heartfelt.
“To me, you were not just a big brother, you were my hero,” Falce-Jorgensen said at the church, her voice breaking with emotion. “The world is not going to be the same without you, but I have no doubt heaven has another angel and you are looking out for each and every one of us because that is what you did while you were here with us on earth.”
Falce-Jorgensen thanked the Sheriff’s Department — “It embodies the true meaning of family,” she said — and others, including the good Samaritans whose descriptions of the other driver and his vehicle led to the capture of Alonzo Loren Smith. Smith has pleaded not guilty to one count of murder and is due back in court Thursday, Jan. 11.
Falce-Jorgensen acknowledged that she wants to see Smith jailed for “a very, very long time” but cautioned others to temper their emotions.
“Anger, hatred, blame and regret is not the answer,” she said. “Instead, let’s cherish every day because tomorrow is not guaranteed. Let’s choose our words wisely, for we cannot take them back. Let’s not dwell on the past. Let’s appreciate those that have touched our lives, and obviously everyone in this room is here because of my brother.”
Falce’s daughter April Hocutt followed Falce-Jorgensen to the podium. She said her father “didn’t see skin color, shape or size” and remarked, as did her aunt, on how she was uplifted by learning how many lives her father had touched.
“Our family has been able to see the beauty in all of this pain,” Hocutt said.
‘A PASSION FOR HELPING’
Falce graduated from Aquinas High in San Bernardino and served two tours of Vietnam as a soldier. He became a San Bernardino County sheriff’s reserve deputy in 1974, volunteering with the Mountain Search and Rescue unit.
Sheriff John McMahon noted the approximately two dozen search-and-rescue team members in the audience wearing their bright orange uniforms. Falce, after becoming a deputy, served as a search-and-rescue coordinator.
“Larry loved his search-and-rescue family,” the sheriff said.
McMahon said Falce was an excellent patrol deputy who leaves behind a legacy of sacrifice and dedication. He received awards for saving lives, deputy of the year and meritorious service.
Falce was a deputy for 36 years — 32 at the Central Patrol Station in San Bernardino — and was the oldest deputy in department history. He would gain the respect of law-abiding citizens — and even hardened criminals — by how he treated others.
Falce once pulled over a man and learned that he had just lost the job he used to support his family. Falce bought diapers and food for the family with his own money and dropped them off anonymously.
“He had a passion for helping others … as evidenced by the fact that he continued to work the Central Patrol Station at the age of 70. I don’t believe anyone had any idea on when he was planning on retiring. Sadly, though, Larry wasn’t given that chance,” McMahon said. “To Larry’s family, I hope you know you have thousands of extended family members to support you.”
The church ceremony continued with a video tribute that included images of Falce as a child, a father and a deputy. Falce was usually dressed in a flannel shirt when not in uniform.
The ceremony ended with an honor guard escorting Falce’s casket from the chapel as “Amazing Grace” played.
Outside, a thick rainbow hung low in the sky.
“Did you see the rainbow? Was that amazing?” sheriff’s Chaplain Douglas Duke remarked later to mourners at Riverside National Cemetery.
There, honor guards from the Sheriff’s Department, San Manuel Indian Nation and Fontana and Corona police departments escorted the casket.
A rifle volley was shot and Taps was played before the flag was folded 13 times and presented to Falce’s sister, Falce-Jorgensen.
In prayers at the ceremony, Duke noted Falce’s faith.
“Thank you for his commitment to you,” Duke said, referring to God. “Thank you for his commitment to this country.”