The bocce tournament was well underway when retired LAPD detective Michael Pavelka turned toward the hill to orient himself.
Standing next to the clubhouse at Lakeside Golf Club, he looked out past the clubhouse gate and past Warner Bros. He craned his neck toward Forest Lawn Cemetery, which he visits on holidays and on his son’s birthday.
He never really connects with his son there.
“I feel Matthew nearby, every day, at home,” Michael Pavelka said.
On Nov. 15, 2003, Burbank Police Officer Matthew Pavelka was gunned down while on patrol. The 26-year-old rookie had been on the job for 10 months when he responded to a call for backup that ended his watch.
He is the only officer ever killed on duty in the Burbank Police Department’s 93-year history.
Former Burbank Mayor Michael Hastings remembers setting up an outpost that night at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center, helping Burbank officers coordinate with each other while staying updated on the wounded officer’s progress.
“When they pronounced Matt dead, that was probably the most emotional day in my life,” Hastings said. “Tears were shed everywhere.”
Hastings’ experience that night, and the weeks that followed, led to the creation of the Burbank Police Foundation. It contributes to the Downed Officers Fund, helps pay for the Police Department’s canine and mounted units and it funds a scholarship in Matthew Pavelka’s name.
Sunday’s tournament raised enough money to fund the scholarship for two more years. It provides $1,000 to a student in each of the six high schools in Burbank. Michael Pavelka’s wife, Sue, is on the committee that selects the winners from high-performing students pursuing vocational careers.
“This is a really nice honor for Matthew,” Michael Pavelka said. “What these kids have accomplished … they’re going to be the leaders of a great tomorrow.”
The Lakeside lawn held a tough competition for the 10 teams, all of which had varying degrees of experience with the game.
“What’s a pollino?” someone asked, referring to the white ball that forms the center of the playing field.
“It’s a breakfast sandwich,” said Tony Palamara.
“An Italian dessert,” said Mike Thomas.
“We call it the little ball,” Brian Pendarus replied.
Mike Thomas and Jamie Keyser Thomas ended up in second place, beaten by the masterful lawn-bowlery of Jack O’Neil and Jonathan Hastings.
“I was playing with my brother-in-law and a friend, so it was fun taking them down 12 to 4,” Keyser Thomas said.
It was as fitting a tribute as one can plan for a man who held humor and personality in equally large amounts.
To contribute toward the scholarship, checks may be made to the BPF Pavelka Fund c/o Burbank Police Department, 200 N. Third St., Burbank, CA 91502.