CHARLESTOWN — As a child, Sgt. Ben Bertram lived and played in the Glendale neighborhood of Charlestown. As an adult, he served the city for nine years as a police officer before he was killed in the line of duty.
Now, a new park just around the corner from where he grew up is named in his honor.
On Saturday, community members gathered to remember the fallen police officer as the Ben Bertram Memorial Park was officially dedicated at a ceremony. The space at Lafawn Drive, which recently opened to the public, is the first of multiple "pocket parks" planned for Charlestown neighborhoods.
Bertram, who served with the Charlestown Police Department, was killed in a Dec. 12 crash during a high-speed pursuit of a car theft suspect through Clark and Scott counties.
The park, which was completed in late 2018, includes A shelter house, picnic tables, swings and other play equipment.
Bertram's mother, Diane Bertram, shared memories of watching her son grow up in the neighborhood. He and his sister would play morning to night riding bikes, playing tag and rollerblading.
She expressed her gratitude that Bertram's name is associated with "something so wonderful."
"I know he would absolutely love this," she said. "And actually, I feel him here today. He’s right here with us, with everybody, just having a ball — just having fun."
Bertram's sister, Lindsey Bertram-Wolff, said she and her brother would have loved the park if it was around when they were growing up. They would often ride bikes with their friends to what they called the "dirt trails" in the neighborhood.
"It was on the little curve of Locust Street, and it was a wooded area with train tracks back behind," she said. "So we'd go back there and we would cut trails in so we could ride our bikes around and make tree forts and go play on the scary railroad tracks and dare each other to walk on them. We'd always have such a good time playing pretend until mom would come and scream for us to come and get dinner."
The two of them would often reflect fondly on their childhood memories, Bertram-Wolff said. She called the neighborhood their own "little Mayberry."
"My parents didn't know they were raising a hero, but they did," she said. "Right here."
Charlestown Mayor Bob Hall directly addressed the Bertram family in his speech. He thanked them for the son that they raised who "ultimately gave to our community and gave his life for us."
"I think what's made Ben special is the hundreds of comments that you've had and we've had of all the everyday little things that he just constantly did for people as an officer and a person," he said.
Charlestown Chief of Police Keith McDonald said the department has received a tremendous outpouring of support after Bertram's death. He considers the dedication of the park to be a fitting tribute.
"So often through tragedy, good things occur after the hurt and the pain and trials and tribulations that have to go through," he said. "But we always try to look for that silver lining, and I can’t think of a better way than a park space to always remember Ben for generations to come, that families can come in and have a great time."
McDonald said when he passes by the new park, there is always someone there, and he often sees parents and grandparents pushing kids on the swings. As the community remembers Bertram, he is happy that other families will create their own memories in the park.
"To me, I think that's taking a tragic situation and just bringing it full circle," he said. "It's for generations to come, and we're excited about it."