Highway in Niles dedicated to fallen trooper

Published 2:24 pm Friday, May 20, 2016

Steve DeVries was 5 years old when his father, Steven, a Michigan State Police Trooper, was shot and killed by a bank robber he had pulled over on US-12 Highway in Niles on Oct. 12, 1972.

Although Steve says he does not remember the officers coming to the door, he remembers riding on a little toy horse and hearing the news on the radio.

“Any time you get something that is a big event like that, a major trauma, it puts an indelible stamp on you so you remember,” he said. “I can remember hearing about it and one of the pastors talking about it to make sure I understood. It’s something you don’t forget.”

On Thursday, Steve was one of more than 100 people who attended a ceremony for the official unveiling of a section of US-12 named in honor of his father.

The “Trooper Steven B. DeVries Memorial Highway” is located on US-12 between the intersections of M-60 and U.S. 31 in Niles.

The fallen trooper’s youngest son, Lance, who was less than 1-year-old when his dad was shot, played a key role in securing the honor for his father.

He said he and other family members reached out to local legislators in an effort to make it happen. Last year, State Rep. Dave Pagel sponsored a bill to name the highway after Steven. It was signed into law by the governor in October 2015.

“I think it is a big deal that people will drive by and know somebody gave the ultimate sacrifice on this spot to protect the lives of others,” Lance said. “It is a good reminder for people as they drive by.”

Steven’s widow, Dena Enders, said she still thinks about her late husband and the events leading up to that day, especially as the month of October approaches. She said her husband had just gotten home from a hunting trip and accidently cut his hand while skinning an animal. Right before Steven was to go back to work, Enders said she tried to convince him to stay home because of his injury.

“He’d say, ‘It’s fine, it’s fine, I have to get back in the saddle?” Enders said.

Steven was shot and killed by the bank robber on his first day back to work from the hunting trip.

Enders said the dedication of a portion of US-12 to her late husband is a great honor, especially at a time when there is so much disrespect for law enforcement across the country.

“They are out there for everybody’s good and to protect us,” she said. “To have that sign up there and know that he is not forgotten is tremendous. It doesn’t matter if you knew him or not. You will drive by and know that he did that for us.”

The ceremony took place on the grounds of Summit Church near US-12 in Niles. It was attended by several members of the Michigan State Police, officers from other law enforcement agencies, representatives from local political office holders and many others.