CLAYSVILLE (KDKA) — In Claysville, the tolling of bells carries an underlying sound of sadness on a gray day.
East Washington Borough Police Officer John David Dryer was killed during a traffic stop along Interstate 70.
“A major part of our life has been ripped away early this morning and we won’t see him recover from that,” Gary Smith, Officer Dryer’s cousin, said.
Dryer grew up in Avella and lived on a small farm in Claysville near his former wife, Becky, and 17-year-old son, Ben.
“He’s gonna grow up without his dad, but he’s not going to grow up without a family and we are a tight family,” Smith said.
The 46-year-old part-time officer joined the East Washington police force in August 2010, but he already spent most of his life protecting all creatures great and small.
Officer Dryer was also Dr. Dryer – a veterinarian at Chestnut Veterinary Clinic. A woman answering the door there was in tears, unable to speak.
“If I had one negative thing to say about my cousin, it would be that he was hard to get a hold of,” Smith said.
Dryer went to Allegheny College and on to Ohio State University. Along the way, he’d been a volunteer firefighter, an emergency medical technician and worked as a deputy warden in wildlife conservation for the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
“He went on his own to one of the Pennsylvania police academies at California University,” Smith said. “He graduated top of his class.”
The law enforcement family is in mourning.
“Our hearts go out to the East Washington Police Department,” State Trooper Joseph Christy said. “We work closely with those guys.”
The flag in East Washington is at half-staff as all others in the state on orders from the governor in honor of a man whose greatest gift was giving back.
“I think that anyone who knew him was fortunate to do so and we will try to carry pieces of him with us throughout the rest of our lives,” Smith said.
Dryer’s wake will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday; 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday at the William G. Neal Funeral Home at 925 Allison Avenue, Washington, Pa.
Funeral services for Dryer will be held at 2 p.m. Friday at Immaculate Conception Church. He will be buried in West Middletown Cemetery.