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‘I’m almost speechless’

Former Lyon Co. sheriff honored with award on 89th birthday

Photo by Sam Thiel Lyon County sheriff Eric Wallen presents former officer Leon VanDenBroeke with an award recognizing his service as well as patches from their department as Director of Public Safety Jim Marshall looks on in a ceremony at Hill Street Place on Wednesday.

Leon VanDenBroeke was anticipating a small gathering with a couple of his children to celebrate his 89th birthday Wednesday at Hill Street Place in Marshall. But then a couple lawmen also showed up.

Lyon County sheriff Eric Wallen and Director of Public Safety Jim Marshall presented former Lyon County Sheriff VanDenBroeke with an award recognizing his service as well as some patches from their departments.

“I’m almost speechless. I’m very overwhelmed at this,” VanDenBroeke said. “I absolutely never expected anything. I knew I was going to have some special visitors, but I’m totally overwhelmed, I really am.”

VanDenBroeke worked on a farm for many years before becoming a truck driver. He then joined the Marshall Police force as a part-time reserve officer before being hired full time in July of 1970. In 1978, VanDenBroeke ran for Lyon County sheriff and was elected that fall. He started his term in January of 1979. He would serve as the Lyon County sheriff for four years before retiring from law enforcement in 1983.

Wallen started things off by giving a few words, wishing VanDenBroeke a happy birthday and expressing his thanks for his years of service.

“We were asked to come and wish former officer Leon VanDenBroeke a happy 89th birthday. We also wanted to take a minute and express our appreciation to his service to many years of law enforcement,” Wallen said. “On behalf of the sheriff’s office and with help of his family, we have a certificate of appreciation for years of service as sheriff and one of our shoulder patches.”

Marshall also showed his gratitude toward VanDenBroeke for his time on the force and gave him a challenge coin along with a patch.

“I just want to thank Leon for his many years of service to our community and to the city of Marshall as well. I would also like to present him with a patch that we wear on our shoulder and a challenge coin,” Marshall said. “The coin really highlights some of the traits we look for in our officers; it talks about integrity, honesty, sincerity and kindness. I think these are things Leon has demonstrated over many years and I’m very appreciative of his years of service.”

VanDenBroeke’s son, Leon Jr., added that it’s truly special to be able to honor their father this way and celebrate a milestone in the process.

“It’s beyond words. There’s only three of us kids here today, he’s got nine kids, and 89 years is a pretty good milestone,” he said. “You don’t know how many more birthdays you get, so to be able to recognize him like this with the current sheriff is pretty cool.”

Leon Sr. said he is extremely grateful for all that Wallen and Marshall do for the city and the county and knows what they have to go through on a daily basis.

“I just can’t thank you guys enough. I know what you go through, I’ve been there and done that and I’ve got a lot of appreciation for you and I always will have,” he said. “I’ll treasure these as long as I live, believe me.”

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