Hershey’s Giant Center was the scene on Friday of a celebration of the life of the late Lebanon police Lt. William D. Lebo, who was shot and killed in the line of duty on March 31 while responding to a residential break-in.
The 63-year-old, 40-year veteran was just a month from retirement, and was the first city officer to die in the line of duty since 1903.
A hearse bearing the officer’s body was accompanied by a procession of police vehicles on the trip from a Lebanon funeral home to the arena. Crowds lined Route 422 along the 15-mile route.
An estimated 600 police officers from across the state and beyond also turned out to honor their fallen brother. They snapped to attention and saluted as the casket, led by a drum and bagpipe corp, proceeded slowly to the stage at one end of the darkened hall.
After several scripture readings and hymns, the arena that often holds 10,000 people for concerts and sporting events grew dead silent as Lora Lebo took the spotlighted stage and eulogized her husband, with Lebanon Officer Eric Sims at her side.
“Because he was so good at compartmentalizing work and home,” she began, “Eric and I decided to speak together to bring both sides of Bill fully to you.”
She recalled how she first met her husband on a Saturday night in 1984 when she dropped in on her 7th-grade best friend, who was dating Bill’s brother. Bill was there, playing poker.
“Life moved on,” she said. Bill married his first wife, and had a daughter, Corrine, who would later come to live with Bill and Lora.
After Bill and his first wife parted, “for the next five years Bill and I would run into each other from time to time,” Lora said.
Finally, “in February 2008, 24 years after first meeting, we went on our first date.”
Pointing to her neck, she said “on that date, he gave me this necklace and asked me to marry him. He said he wanted to lock me down before I found somebody else.”
Lora was still living in New Jersey, but the two started looking for a house in Lebanon.
It turns out that Bill Lebo the cop didn’t always completely “compartmentalize” work and his personal life. “When we were picking our wedding date,” she said, “Bill said we had to accommodate his platoon so they could all be there.”
“Sundays were sacred in our house,” Lora added. “They consisted of slow jazz, adult beverages, good food, relaxed attire, and golf.”
And barbecue. “Sometimes we’d invite good friends over for Bill’s barbecue.”
Lora recalled giving her husband a smoker as a gift. “The smoker made him very happy on those days,” she said. “He was a master with that smoker.”
“I was blessed to have 14 years of wonder,” said Lora. “He was my everything.”
Sims, whom Lora described as “our adopted cop son,” painted a picture of Bill Lebo as a serious, but practical and community-oriented, police officer with a larger-than-life personality.
Pointing to Lebo’s picture on the stage, Sims said, “You see his picture here? He never went out without his hat, cocked to one side. Nothing infuriated him more than seeing an officer on the street without his hat.”
He continued, “He told us, ‘When you’re out on the street you should be wearing your hat, because that is how someone recognizes you as an officer if they need help.'”
“He lectured on the importance of driving slowly with the windows down, no music, so you can listen for trouble,” Sims said.
“He also believed we should stop frequently with the residents, so they were friendly and comfortable with the police force.”
According to Sims, Lebo could also “be quite eccentric at times.”
Even though he loved classic cars, “he used every mode [of transportation] possible to get to work, except for his vehicle,” Sims said. “He took a pogo stick, he used a mini-Segway, he took his bicycle, and he even used his mother-in-law’s scooter.”
Lebo was also known to wear a distinctive argyle scarf on cold weather calls.
Calling Lebo “old school,” Sims said “I was glad to be able to learn from him, to work for him, and to call him my friend.”
“He truly loved to serve the last 40 years,” said Sims, ending on a call to the assembled troopers to “keep your guard up.”
Music throughout the service was provided by Lebo’s colleague, Sgt. Steve Bord, who lead the crowd in hymns, including a powerful rendition of “Amazing Grace” and WellSpan employee Gloria Tice on the organ piano, who was asked to perform at the ceremony through a church connection with Sims.
A number of local dignitaries were in attendance, including all three Lebanon County commissioners, state Rep. Frank Ryan, state Rep. Russ Diamond, state Sen. Chris Gebhard, and Rep. Dan Meuser. Lebanon videographer Erik Soulliard took photos on behalf of the family throughout the service, which was arranged by Christman’s Funeral Home funeral director Greg Vaitl, seen throughout the ceremony helping ensure Lebo’s casket was handled with the utmost respect and care.
The service was also live-streamed and recorded for posterity, it can be viewed in full here.
After the 90-minute indoor ceremony concluded, the services continued outside, where hundreds of officers formed up in front of the building as the hearse pulled up.
A drum and bagpipe corps, composed of police officers from departments as far away as Bellmawr, New Jersey, played as the flag-draped casket was removed and placed on a pedestal before Lebo’s family members.
A police honor guard slowly removed the American flag and folded it with precision.
Lebanon police Chief Todd Breiner then knelt before Lora Lebo and presented it to her as officers stood at attention.
A state police helicopter flyover and the simple command “Dismissed” ended the proceedings minutes later.
A reception for family and friends was held following the service.
Photos of Procession
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