Working midnight shifts in the days before he died of a heart attack, Deputy Frank Bordonaro handled some very stressful calls -- a fire where he may have saved the life of a homeowner and a farm-vehicle accident that took the life of a 22-year-old man.
People don't realize it, but stress and motor-vehicle accidents claim the lives of more police officers than crimes of violence, said Gary Pullen, of the Badge of Honor Association.
Bordonaro was honored today by the Badge of Honor Association in a sign dedication outside the Sheriff's Office headquarters on Park Road, Batavia.
A few tears were shed as Bordonaro's two sons, Bryce and Chase, stood solemnly with their heads bowed and unveiled the sign dedicated to their father. Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of his death. Bordonaro died unexpectedly of a heart attack after handling several high-stress calls.
On July 5, Bordonaro responded to a house fire on North Road in Le Roy. He saved one of homeowners from reentering the fire to rescue his dog. On July 6, he responded to a farm accident involving a pea combine and a car. Carmelo Rivera, 22, of Holley, was pronounced dead at the scene after he crossed the center line on Route 19 near Bissell Road in Bergen and struck a pea combine head on. Bordonaro completed both the investigations himself and worked his last shift on July 7, a night of heavy rains.
Bordonaro's family, officers from throughout the county, state troopers and members of the community attended the ceremony to remember a heroic comrade. The Genesee County Sheriff's Office and the Badge of Honor Association worked together to plan the sign dedication and memorial site.
The association, a group of volunteers, many of whom are police officers, travel all over the state to put up memorial signs for officers who die in the line of duty. According to President Justin Collins, they have dedicated 150 signs in Upstate and Western New York.
Next to the sign, a tree and flowers were planted. Bubba's Landscaping donated all the work and materials.
A tree was chosen to be planted for several reasons. The roots on the tree symbolize Bordonaro's roots as an officer. The trunk stands for the foundation and strength of the Genesee County Sheriff's Office. The leaves are living proof that Bordonaro's roots will carry on.
Sheriff Gary Maha remembered Bordonaro as a hard worker who was dedicated to serving the community. He served at the Sheriff's Office for 19 years. According to Maha, he put the safety of other officers before his own and would always be the first one to knock down the door and enter a dangerous situation.
"He was there to back up his guys," Maha said. "He was a mentor for many of the young officers and you could depend on Frank."
Bordonaro's wife, Robin, is grateful for the tribute the Badge of Honor Association and Sheriff's Office dedicated to her husband. She knows her husband will never be forgotten and his memory will last among the department.
"The whole Sheriff's Department has been amazing to us and has treated us like family this whole time," Robin Bordonaro said. "They are our extended family and it's a brotherhood and we're still a part of it and they still will always be a part of us."
Robin Bordonaro urges people to consider the extensive amount of stress officers have to endure and the toll it takes on their health. Her husband had investigated several high-stress calls including a house fire and fatal motor-vehicle accident days before he took a heart attack and died. According to reports from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, the risk for cardiovascular disease is higher among law enforcement officers than for the rest of the population.
"I wish more people would realize throughout the county agencies that a line-of-duty death is more than just being shot and killed on the job," Frank's widow said. "The stresses of the job can cause heart attacks and take them away from their families and the county doesn't want to realize that. They are fighting us on that and it's a shame."
In addition to the sign dedication, the Badge of Honor Association is setting up a Go Fund Me page to raise money for the Bordonaro family.
Photos by Howard Owens.