WB police fill in for fallen officer at daddy-daughter dance
WEST BLOOMFIELD — Dressed to the nines, three West Bloomfield police officers escorted the daughters of fallen Officer Patrick O’Rourke to the daddy-daughter dance at Andrew G. Schmidt Middle School in Fenton Feb. 1.
“It was a good time, and it was emotional at the same time,” said Officer Joe Miller. “It was definitely something I wouldn’t have turned down in a heartbeat.”
Miller accompanied 7-year-old Andrea and is a member of the honor guard. Eileen, 11, asked Officer Art Smith, and Mary, 9, was escorted by Officer Derek Case.
“I told the girls they could ask anybody they wanted. … And even some of their friends’ dads offered to take them,” Amy O’Rourke said.
But it wasn’t family members or friends’ dads whom the girls chose as their dates. Eileen wanting to take Smith made sense, Amy O’Rourke said, as the two have nicknames for each other. Mary has grown fond of and latched onto Case, who visits the family frequently, she added.
Andrea asked Miller, or as she calls him, “Big Joe with white gloves,” to attend the dance after the anniversary memorial Mass Sept. 9, 2013. She has had an appreciation for Miller since Patrick O’Rourke’s funeral.
“From the time of getting there … to pictures, we just had a good time,” Miller said. “I think dinner was probably one of the funner times, because we were laughing, and just seeing her kind of light up, even if it was just for a couple hours. She … wanted to introduce me as her fill-in daddy. It was just a nice time.”
Prior to Patrick O’Rourke’s funeral, Miller had not met Amy O’Rourke or the kids, but he said he felt like he knew them because Patrick O’Rourke and Miller bonded over family and God. Once Miller met Amy O’Rourke, he said they connected because of Amy O’Rourke’s appreciation for the honor guard and for Miller staying with Patrick O’Rourke in the hospital until he passed.
“Being able just to show an ounce of love to that family as far as what Pat showed me if I was struggling ... it was very humbling,” Miller said. “This little girl didn’t know me until after her dad was killed, and now we’re best friends.”
Miller said even if he had to use vacation time, he was going to make sure he took Andrea to the dance.
“If I’m able to put a smile on the kids’ faces, especially Andrea’s that night, that’s what it’s all about,” Miller added.
Since Patrick O’Rourke’s death, a handful of officers visit the Tyrone Township family and attend the girls’ events in “jean shorts and T-shirts,” Amy O’Rourke said.
“I’m grateful. All of these guys, I really consider my heroes. They were there for us from the very beginning,” Amy O’Rourke said. “This big blue family is just ginormous, and I can’t get over it. It’s very comforting.”