Call sign “Hancock 9” of the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office has been retired. The position will be refilled, but the radio marker identifying Deputy Luke Gross will never be known by another in the county, according to Hancock County Sheriff Scott Kane.
Gross passed away Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021 after being struck by a vehicle as he picked up debris from a previous single-vehicle crash in Trenton.
A week later, on Sept. 30, law enforcement agents from all over Maine converged on the Cross Insurance Center, in Bangor, to recognize the character, the professional, and the family man who meant so much to so many.
Standing before a couple of hundred agents in uniform, as well as Gross’ family, friends, and supporters, Gross’ cousin Larry Clement read a quote: “Every person from our past lives as a shadow in your mind. Good or bad, the outcome may write the story of your life, and shape the person you are today.”
Gross was the only child of a single mother. Their roots were in Bucksport. But soon they would welcome a step-father into the fold and move to Ellsworth. His mother died unexpectedly while Luke was still young, and Luke would realize afterwards that his step dad wasn’t the family he needed. As the ambulance took his mother from the house to the hospital, an Ellsworth police officer sat with Luke for the long wait before family arrived for him. The interaction between boy and officer would be the first spark of interest in law enforcement.
“Luke never forgot that feeling, in his darkest moment, of an officer of the law providing comfort, calmness and security in such an uncertain time,” said Clement.
Luke bounced around, living with family in the Bucks Mills section of Bucksport, then Penobscot, and then back to Bucksport.
The boy grew up playing with four older male cousins and would smartly say “save the best for last.” They went rough-shod over the neighborhood with bikes and big wheels, climbed haystacks, swam in a brook, built forts in the woods, and concocted many other adventures.
“As he learned more about who he wanted to become, what the difficult conditions were that he had been experiencing, he once again found solace and respite and renewal in Bucks Mills with his mother’s family,” said Pastor Peter Remick.
As an adult, Gross maintained that kid at heart sentiment. He thrived as a DARE officer, teaching the Drug Abuse Resistance Education in schools and influencing upper grades. He lay on the floor and colored with Kindergartners. He was also the rock for many adults, providing stability to victims in their worst moments.
Hancock Deputy Robert Morang told Gross’ children, Alissa and Ryan: “He did not become a hero last week. Your dad has been a hero for a very long time. One of the reasons he is a hero is because ever day he gave a piece of himself to everyone he came in contact with.”
Like most officers, Gross saw sights that nightmares are made of. Yet, he maintained a positive outlook on life and was always quick with a joke.
“He thought his jokes were a 10,” said Kane. “I usually thought they were a two, simply because I’d never heard a one before.”
To not celebrate Luke Gross’ life and honor his gifts would be shallow for he is in the tears of the audience members, said Remick.
As his daughter would say from the podium, Gross will be watching from above.
He and his call number will be the shadow for the next person.
Reach Sarah Thompson at email@example.com