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Guelph officer who died as result of on-duty injuries honoured decades later

'This hidden hero is no longer hidden,' says retired Guelph police Sgt. Doug Pflug

Police officers who died in the line of duty had their names read out for all to hear last weekend at the annual Ontario Police Memorial ceremony. Among them was the latest Guelph officer to be added to the honour roll: Const. John 'Tail Light' Teevens.

Teevens died as a result of injuries suffered in the line of duty in 1945, but until recently he hadn’t been recognized the same way his fellow fallen officers have.

“We’re just ecstatic,” said retired Guelph police Sgt. Doug Pflug of Teevens being added to the Ontario Police Memorial near Queen’s Park and being included in the honour roll. “This hidden hero is no longer hidden.”

According to news reports at the time, a 46-year-old Teevens was struck by an intoxicated driver while directing traffic on Upper Wyndham Street at about 9 p.m. on Dec. 9, 1939. He “never fully recovered” from the injuries sustained that night and died as a result of them on Jan. 27, 1945. 

The offending driver was sentenced to 15 days in county jail and had his car impounded for three months after pleading guilty to driving while intoxicated and dangerous driving prior to Teevens’ death. He was also prohibited from driving for two years.

“It’s a unique set of circumstances,” commented Matt Jotham, president of the Guelph Police Association, referring to the length of time between Teevens’ injuries and his death. “I’m pleased the foundation has honoured him.”

Pflug said he first learned of Teevens several years ago while working with others to research a book about the history of Guelph Police Service. He was surprised to learn the details of Teevens’ death and discovered the officer’s name wasn’t included on the memorial.

That’s when Pflug said he forwarded information to the former chief of police, requesting it be sent to the Ontario Police Memorial Foundation (OPMF) for consideration, but nothing came of it.

Before retiring last year, Pflug and Jotham submitted the information to the OPMF themselves.

“It’s an important part of history for the Guelph Police Association, but also Guelph Police Service,” Jotham said. 

Teevens is one of four Guelph officers on the honour roll, along with constables William M. Holloway (1922), Walter E. MacAuly (1964) and Jennifer Kovach (2013).

A photo and plaque of the latter three are hung up at Guelph police headquarters, with the anniversary of their death recognized by the service annually.

“Const. Teevens deserves the same recognition,” said Jotham, explaining he will work with the service to make it happen.