SALEM — Hundreds gathered on Salem Common Thursday morning to honor veteran Salem police Officer Dana Mazola as his body moved through Salem’s streets one last time.
Mazola, 56, was killed in a car crash on Jefferson Avenue late last Thursday, June 25. He was off duty at the time, but had more than 30 years of service with the police department and was nearing retirement.
The procession was a public one, bookended by more personal ceremonies Wednesday night and later Thursday afternoon. It started at the O’Donnell Funeral Home off of Washington Square East, one of the four streets enclosing Salem Common. It proceeded down Washington Square South, where a NEMLEC convoy saluted Mazola as he passed.
The procession then continued past the Salem Witch Museum onto Washington Square North, turning onto Salem Common yards away from the Washington arch. It was then met by the city’s Color Guard and eight pallbearers from the police department.
The Rev. Robert Murray, pastor of Mary Queen of the Apostles Parish on Hawthorne Boulevard, led the service.
“All the things I heard about him the last two days was, ‘this was such a good man,’” Murray said. “We ought to thank God that we have good people like this man in our lives, this man who served (and) loved his family, friends, and also served his city the way he did.”
Mayor Kim Driscoll was the first to offer remarks. She opened by offering Mazola’s family “the love and condolences of the people of Salem.”
“Our hearts ache, both in the police department and our city as a whole,” Driscoll said. “We’re filled with sorrow that he was taken from us, but more importantly from you, in the twilight of a long and successful career in law enforcement.”
The ceremony was attended by hundreds of police, as well as a field of public spectators. Several city councilors were in attendance, as was state Rep. Paul Tucker, who wore a full Salem police uniform from his previously long career within and eventually leading the Salem police department as chief.
“Just look around at this amazing turnout,” Driscoll said. “It isn’t only a tribute to Dana’s service to Salem as a police officer. It’s an acknowledgment of the kind and big-hearted individual he was, a true testament to the positive and lasting impacts he had.”
Police Chief Mary Butler said Mazola was “a great officer, the one you wanted showing up to respond to a time of need and a time of crisis.”
“He was caring with an incredibly smart wit,” Butler said. “He was able to put you at ease and make you feel like a friend, and I think that’s why so many of us are here today. He wasn’t just a friend — he was a good friend.”
Butler noted that Mazola died within a month of retirement. That was also noted by Lawrence Puleo, a past Salem police officer who retired last year. Puleo framed his remarks in the form of journal entries, including an entry from July 1990, where he said he “made a new friend today.”
“His name is Dana Mazola. He seems like a pretty good guy,” Puleo read. “He’s kind of quiet but funny. He’s nervous about messing up on the street, just like I was a few years back. But I think he’s going to be a good cop.”
After 30 years, Puleo said, it was clear that Mazola “turned out to be a great cop.”
“June 25, 2020. I lost a brother today,” Puleo read, describing the pain he felt upon hearing the news about Mazola before fast-forwarding again. “July 2, 2020. Today, I will bury my friend. ... I will say goodbye to the man who would piss me off one minute and have me wanting to hug him the next.”
The ceremony also heard from Mazola’s twin daughters, Amanda and Savannah Mazola.
“A man with such pure intention and roles shouldn’t have his life taken away,” Savannah Mazola said. “What matters is even if we didn’t get him for as long as we wanted, he gave us everything we’d need — and more.”
The event ended with the playing of “Imagine” by John Lennon as the song of reflection.
“You’ll always be our favorite person, a light in a dark room,” Savannah Mazola said. “You had a heart of gold and will always be the perfect friend.”