BETHLEHEM, Pa. — Mark Renninger grew up 250 paces from the Boys & Girls Club of Bethlehem. When he heard the lawn mower start up, he would come running — and insist on doing the club’s lawn himself.
Renninger, one of four police officers gunned down in a Washington state ambush, was remembered Friday as a dedicated volunteer and public servant at a funeral service in his eastern Pennsylvania hometown.
“Very often I would be behind the club or in front of the club cutting grass and … before I got two swipes done, Mark was there. And he said, ’Gary, let me do that,”’ Gary Martell, executive director of the boys and girls club, told hundreds of friends, family members and police officers gathered at Lehigh University’s Stabler Arena.
“Mark was a young man of great substance and someone we all knew that worked at the club that Mark was going places and he was going to be something,” he said.
Renninger, 39, a police sergeant in Lakewood, Wash., was gunned down with three colleagues inside a coffee shop Nov. 29. The killer, ex-convict Maurice Clemmons, was later shot to death by a Seattle police officer. The slain officers were remembered jointly at a memorial service Tuesday in Tacoma attended by 20,000.
A former Army Ranger and nationally known SWAT trainer, Renninger was a “fast-tracker” in the military, rising from private to sergeant first class in just seven years, Army Chief Warrant Officer Mario Contreras told mourners Friday.
“In corporate America, that’s like going from the mail room to vice president in seven years,” said Contreras, pausing at times to compose himself as he eulogized his friend.
Renninger’s military career took him to Fort Lewis, Wash. He remained in Washington after leaving the military in the mid-1990s, joining the Tukwila and then the Lakewood police departments.
Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan called Renninger a hero and denounced the “cowardly events of 12 days ago” as “not some random act, but an attack on our society itself because its victims were targeted for no reason other than the fact that they were working for the good of all of us.”
Roman Catholic Bishop of Allentown John Barres offered prayers for Renninger and soloists sang “Amazing Grace” and “Ave Maria.” A slide show, set to Toby Keith’s “American Soldier,” portrayed Renninger in all his roles: husband, father, military man, police officer, SWAT instructor.
At the conclusion of the service, officers from dozens of police departments across the nation slowly filed past Renninger’s flag-draped casket, saluting. Then they joined a procession to nearby Holy Savior Cemetery for the burial.
Renninger leaves behind a wife and three children, as well as his mother, four brothers and a sister. One brother, former Easton, Pa., police officer Matt Renninger, accidentally shot and killed a fellow officer inside the police station in 2005.
On the opposite end of the state Friday, more than 500 mourners filled a Pittsburgh church for the funeral of Penn Hills police officer Michael Crenshaw, who was shot and killed in the line of duty Sunday night.