Says he’ll focus on family and community –
By Patricia Beech –
Each day, when retired state highway patrolman Donnie Edgington climbed into his cruiser he would recite a prayer.
“God, please place someone in my path today so that I can make a difference in their life.”
It was more than just a simple prayer of supplication, it was also a reflection of his dogged determination to help others.
“My job really gave me the opportunity to have a positive impact on the people I met,” he says. “I loved the thought that everyday I could do something good in the world.”
With nearly three decades of service under his belt, Edgington was still excited to go to work every day, but on March 7, 2017 his career as a patrolman came to a sudden end when his cruiser was struck by another vehicle.
The accident not only undid the effects of a previous back surgery he’d undergone more than 10 years earlier, it left Edgington in unrelenting pain.
“I didn’t know pain like that existed,” he says, adding, “I kept telling myself I was going to make it back, but I needed surgery, and it became clear that I would never be able to come back to work.”
It was a devastating blow for Edgington who had dreamed of being a trooper since he was a child.
“When I was 10 years old it was really something to watch patrolmen and their big, fast cars going through town,” he says. “People showed them so much respect – they were larger than life, and I really looked up to them.”
In 1989, his childhood dream became a reality, and for the next 28 years, six months, and 28 days he traveled the roadways of Adams, Brown, and Scioto Counties, sometimes searching for speeding cars, but always on the lookout for those in need of help.
“One day while I was patrolling, I met a couple who were traveling from West Virginia to Cincinnati,” he says. “I stopped them for speeding, but during the course of the stop I learned they were taking their sick child to the University of Cincinnati hospital. I ended up praying with them for the return of their child’s health, then I sent them on their way without a ticket.”
He says there were times when he had to be stern, but adds that he always tried to be fair and project a positive image on behalf of the state patrol.
“I have to be honest with you, the bread-and-butter of the Highway Patrol is stopping Grandma and Grandpa to write them a ticket and take their money and that didn’t always agree with me,” he says. “That wasn’t what I was about.”
Investigating crashes and figuring out why and how they happened was a integral part of Edgington’s work, but he says what he was most concerned with was his interaction with others.
“As a patrolmen, the only time you have interaction with someone is when you’re telling them that they’re doing something wrong, and they take exception to that,” he says. “But at the same time you have the opportunity to take hold of someone who you know is going in the wrong direction in life, and help that person to change course. That’s what I loved about my job, that’s what I’ll miss the most.”
He admits the job would have been much more difficult without the support of his family, especially his “high school sweetheart” and wife of 35 years, Stephanie.
“I know she always worried about the dangers that came with my job, but at the same time, she was always very understanding because she knew it was what I wanted to do.”
While he is uncertain what he’ll do during retirement, he says, “Doing nothing is not an option.”
“I want to do something that is helpful to society, and especially to the people of Adams County,” he says. “But more importantly, I would like to spend more time with my family on the big days – Christmas, Thanksgiving, and birthdays – when you’re working on holiday weekends and you see other families driving up and down the road going places, you realize how much you miss it, but it’s what you sign up for.”