By Randy Arrington
STANLEY, Feb. 26 — What often matters more in life is not what we have accomplished during our days, but the manner in which we have done those things that allows us to sleep well at night and reflect on a life well lived.
Speaker after speaker on Saturday afternoon at Ed Good Park’s Pioneer Bank Performance Center told tales of how Dominic “Nick” Winum lived his life. From giving the mayor a warning after catching him in his unlicensed ’69 Camero to how he played down the fact that he made the biggest drug bust in the Town of Stanley’s history.
“Nick would hate this,” Stanley Police Chief Ryan “Beaver” Dean said, noting the nearly 400 in attendance and the long list of speakers who had come to honor the fallen police officer who often dodged the spotlight.
“I remember when we tried to give him recognition for that bust, his response was ‘Why would you give me an award for doing my job. I do my job every day.’,” Chief Dean recalled. “The thing that I hate the most is that he can’t influence our younger generation.”
Many stories have been told about Officer Winum’s dedication to mentoring local youth. As a testament to his work with children and his family’s compassion for the assailant’s family after Nick’s fatal shooting, the Where Angels Play Foundation has agreed to build a playground in the Town of Stanley in Winum’s honor.
“My children like to pretend to be superheroes,” Congressman Ben Cline told the crowd. “I tell them the real heroes are our police officers and firefighters…Nick Winum was a true hero, and his memory lives on today.”
Congressman Cline noted Winum’s beginnings as a tomato farmer along Virginia’s Eastern Shore before serving a decade with the Virginia State Police. He explained how Winum’s commitment to public service was sharpened by his decision to become a police officer in Stanley, where he could have an even greater impact on a small community.
“His dedication to the department will be remembered through the retiring of his badge, the naming of the new police building and the new park that is to come,” Cline told the crowd. “To his fellow officers in law enforcement who are here today, let me say thank you, and may Nick’s commitment to service remain one worth immulating.”
Virginia Senator Mark Obenshain and Speaker of the House Todd Gilbert teamed up to present Nick’s widow, Kara, with a framed copy of the resolution the Virginia General Assembly passed honoring his life. Senator Obenshain recalled the memorial service that took place last year at the Luray High School football field in order to accommodate the large crowd that attended.
“That was one of the hardest things to attend, but it was also one of the most inspiring,” Obenshain said. “I was inspired by Nick, I was inspired by his wife, I was inspired by his children, I was inspired by his spirit…I have nothing but admiration for the Winum family and the strength they have shown, and the love that the people of Page County have shown to the Winum family.”
Recalling the same event, Speaker Gilbert stated he was “able to witness one of the most amazing things of my life…the strength of the Winum family.”
Virginia’s Secretary of Public Safety Robert Mosier recalled memories of the thousands who lined the roads as Nick’s body was being brought back from the state medical examiner’s office in Manassas to Page County. Secretary Mosier was in Fauquier County at the time.
“It makes the family know and his brothers and sisters in law enforcement know we were all in this together,” Mosier said. “We all started out that Friday a routine day, and then things changed…we’ve had so many of these tragedies, and I tell people to remember not how they died, but how they lived.”
Nearly every speaker on Saturday did just that.
“We are here to celebrate Nick’s life. What most people know is that he did his job and did his job well; what most people don’t know is how he did his job. Nick had a way of talking that put people at ease,” Mayor Michael Knight said. “Most will remember Nick as a police officer that lost his life in the line of duty, but I will remember Nick most for being my friend.”
Saturday’s Celebration of Life marked one of the larger gatherings in Stanley with hundreds in attendance showcasing the community support that had been there for the past year.
“I’ve seen this community come together like I haven’t seen before,” local pastor Andy Seastrom said. “For 365 days I’ve seen the Winum family demonstrate strength, dignity, class, integrity and inspiration.”
“The support the community has shown the Stanley Police Department, our families…there’s no way I could put it in words…” Chief Dean told the large crowd.
Chief Dean choked up during the ceremony when he was about to call out Nick’s badge number — 202 — while reading a proclamation passed by the Stanley Council. The Stanley Police Department will never issue badge number 202 again, its new police headquarters behind town hall will be called the Winum Building, and Feb. 26 will always be known as Nick Winum Day in the Town of Stanley.
Town manager and fire chief Terry Pettit came up to the podium to help Chief Dean present a shadow box to his wife Kara with Nick’s final possessions, police items he had on him when he was killed shortly after 3 p.m. on Feb. 26, 2021. Those items included his firearm, his badge, his arm patch and his pin.
The DC Police Pipes and Drums played “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes prior to the final speaker — Kara Winum.
“Nick loved our little town,” Kara told the crowd. “When I sent a picture of the new police department to my sister I texted ‘Small town USA’ and she responded ‘Small town with a huge heart.’ Nick knew he was exactly where the Lord needed him to be.”
The widow of the fallen officer acknowledges the difficulty in deciding to become a law enforcement officer under the current environment, but she has words of encouragement for those along the thin blue line — follow the guiding principles that Nick followed, which included faith, a desire to help others and knowing that good must fight evil.
“I hope you clearly see your sense of purpose like Nick did,” Kara told the dozens of law enforcement officers who attended the service. “I will continue to pray for you and your families daily.”
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