Grottoes remembers fallen Bridgewater officers on one-year mark

Published: Feb. 1, 2023 at 11:55 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 1, 2023 at 11:57 PM EST
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GROTTOES, Va. (WHSV) - The town of Grottoes is not one to be forgotten in the midst of the Bridgewater College tragedy.

Over the last year, the community has grieved the loss of John Painter and J.J. Jefferson, as Painter served as the Chief of Police in the town for 18 years.

“The community has mourned and is still mourning the loss of John. He was a phenomenal pillar in our community, he was easy to talk to and just a wonderful genuine person. He treated you with respect and he got respect,” Jo Plaster, Mayor of Grottoes said.

Mayor Plaster said they want to continue Painter’s legacy in the town.

In July 2022, around Painter’s birthday, the town held its inaugural First Responder ceremony.

“This year we will continue the tradition and we are going to have that scheduled for July 29th this year,” Mayor Paster said. “It’s gonna be held at our park which was formally named Mountain View Park and it’s going to be ... it is now John E. Painter Park ... we are going to have a rededication ceremony for the sign were going to have installed there in honor of John.”

The second annual “Dynamic Duo” bike and run journey is set for March 11.

This event was started last year after the tragedy when many referred to Painter and Jefferson’s friendship as the ‘Dynamic Duo.’

Those interested will travel by foot or wheels from Grottoes to Bridgewater to remember the officers.

“We are forever going to miss him and that’s why it’s important for us to continue these events in his honor,” Mayor Plaster said.

The town is also planning a First Responders Tribute walkway in front of the Municipal Building. This will go across from the military walkway already in place.

The site will honor all first responders, but Plaster said Painter will have a special place on the walkway.

“He was a family man, he was a family friend to everybody,” Mayor Plaster said. “He led this community as a strong pillar and genuinely and he touched a lot of people’s lives.”

Those in Grottoes have come together and lifted each other’s spirits over the last year after losing one of their own.

“To be fortunate enough to have known somebody such as remarkable as he, is just an incredible experience in life itself because he truly was a hero and will forever to a hero in our citizen’s hearts,” Mayor Plaster said.