The community room at Wesley Village was bursting at the seams last week with police officers, educators, politicians, military servicemen and friends of Wilmore police chief Steve Boven — all of whom had grown to adore him over his two decades of service and came out to wish him the best in his retirement.
The farewell reception was hosted by the city of Wilmore, and droves of people came from all over the county to share their stories and honor the lawman.
Hailing from Michigan, Boven joined the Wilmore Police Department in October 1990 and became chief in ’95. During his time in the Bluegrass, he served the Kentucky D.A.R.E. association as an instructor, president and chaplain, and also earned a master-of-divinity degree. But most importantly, he became a pillar of the community.
“Role model,” “spiritual leader” and “brother” were only a few, but the most often-used, of the seemingly endless barrage of kind words describing the former police chief.
The room was filled with laughter last Thursday, Feb. 9, as one by one people came forward with well wishes for the future and anecdotes from the past 21 years. But there was also a hint of somberness for “the hole that will be left in the heart of Wilmore” when Boven departs.
“It won’t be the same without him,” said Daryl Diddle, pastor of Wilmore Free Methodist Church. “He’s meant a lot to this community and me.”
Boven and Diddle attended Asbury Theological Seminary in the late ’90s together, where they fast became friends, he said.
To some, Boven was more than a friend; he was family.
“I’m here to represent the Headley family and Cobham family,” Adina Cobham-Headley said. “Steve and I met in the early ’90s when I was a counselor at Wilmore Elementary School, and from then until now, we have been very good friends. In fact, my mother adopted him, so he’s more than a friend to us; he’s a brother.”
Boven had proven to be “an extraordinary, all around, multidimensional, multicultural and multigenerational police officer,” she said.
But more than anything, Cobham-Headley said, he was a role model for her sons and their friends.
“I did not want my sons to grow up being afraid of policemen or the law,” she said. “I wanted them to have a real appreciation for the law, the community and community service. And that’s why I appreciate and love Steve.”
Long-time resident of Wilmore Rodger Woolum also stood up and told a story of a time when his mother’s health condition was failing. She needed help and dialed 911.
Boven responded to the call not sure of what to expect, Woolum said. He met with the elderly widow Woolum and talked with her and helped her around the house.
Just as he was getting ready to leave, he asked, “Mrs. Woolum, is there anything else I can do for you?”
“Well, I’d like a bowl of oats,” she said.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve fixed oats,” Boven responded. “But if you talk me through it, I’m sure I can do it.”
At this point in the storytelling, the room and Woolum broke into laughter.
“I just want everyone to know that the chief of police fixed my mom a bowl of oats,” Woolum said. “It just goes to show his caring and generosity. And it meant so much to me and my family.”
At the end of his story, Woolum presented Boven with a can of oats.
There were also several other gifts given during the reception, each one with a story and special meaning for him to take to Michigan.
Three members of the 138th Field Artillery Brigade of the Kentucky National Guard presented him with a coin from their command staff, an honor usually reserved for those only in the service.