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Ceremony marks dedication of Ralph Painter Memorial Highway

Ceremony marks dedication of Ralph Painter Memorial Highway

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RAINIER — It has been 10 months since Rainier Police Chief Ralph Painter died in the line of duty, but it doesn't seem that long for friends and family.

"I'm just hanging in there," said Amy Painter, his wife. "It's hard."

However, the support from the community in the aftermath of his Jan. 5 death has helped, she said.

On Monday morning the community showed its support again. About 100 people attended a ceremony at Rainier's Riverfront Park dedicating an 18-mile segment of Highway 30 from Rainier to St. Helens as Ralph Painter Memorial Highway.

The Oregon Legislature honored Painter by renaming the highway and installing signs about the designation near the two cities.

"I can't believe it has been 10 months," Rainier Mayor Jerry Cole said. "We've all felt the pain of losing our chief. ... The wounds may heal, but the scars will be there forever, and we'll always remember Ralph Painter."

Painter, 55, was shot after struggling with a suspicious man outside a West Rainier car stereo store. Daniel A. Butts, 21, Kalama is accused of commandeering Painter's gun and shooting the chief. Butts, who has been charged with aggravated murder, is undergoing evaluation to determine whether he's mentally fit to stand trial.

Monday, people spoke of how Painter lived, rather than the tragic way he died.

"You don't know the impact you make until something like that happens," said Longview police Sgt. Doug Kazensky, who responded to the call with Painter.

Residents from Rainier and the surrounding areas, as well as city officials from Longview, Kelso and Clatskanie and members from each city's police department attended the gathering.

"It was nice to see so many law enforcement attend with the community. It's just a testament to how appreciated he was," Kazenksy said.

"Ralph took great pains to make sure everyone was taken care of," said Oregon State Rep. Brad Witt, D-Clatskanie, who co-sponsored the legislation to designate the highway in honor of Painter. "He was a light on a dark night and a great man."

Most who spoke during Monday's ceremony remembered Painter's eagerness to help, tell a joke and to give back.

"He was a normal, everyday person like we are and touched a lot of lives," Amy Painter said. "For everyone driving by the signs, I want you to think about making someone else's day. Tell a joke or make them smile. It's what he would've done."


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