Hundreds Gather To Pay Last Respects to Heroic Sheriff's Deputy
Aug. 05, 1985
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) _ Friends and colleagues paid last respects Monday to a sheriff's deputy who drowned trying to save a child during the devastating Cheyenne flood, remembering Robert Van Alyne as a man who instinctively put others before himself.
''Some would say he was acting in the line of duty. But he was acting out of the kind of man he was. This was his nature, his character, his life,'' the Rev. Robert Ware told about 600 people who packed First Presbyterian Church.
''He is honored by his family, by his city, by this state,'' Ware said. ''He died so young, only 33. But what a record of self-giving.''
Van Alyne had rescued two people from a van as floodwaters roared through Dry Creek in eastern Cheyenne during a vicious storm Thursday evening.
He had returned to the van and was making his way back through the water with 6-year-old Christy Hernandez when something went wrong, authorities said.
A rope he had tied around himself and attached to a fixed object came untied somehow and the deputy and little girl were swept away.
They were among the 12 victims of one of the worst storms ever to strike Wyoming's capital.
Van Alyne had worked for seven years for the Cheyenne Police Department before moving to the Laramie County Sheriff's Department in April 1984.
While a member of the police department he was awarded a certificate in 1976 for saving the life of a man who threatened to jump from the roof of a hotel.
As a member of the Wyoming Army National Guard, he was awarded a Humanitarian Service Medal in 1979 for his work during a tornado that ripped through north Cheyenne. He was awarded the Army Commendations Medal with Oak Leaf cluster for heroism in helping out when Mount St. Helens exploded in 1980.
Sheriff's Capt. Walt Vanatta said Van Alyne also earned medals for service in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.
Monday's funeral featured a 21-gun salute outside the church where a subdued crowd watched as the American flag atop of Van Alyne's coffin was presented to his 8-year-old son Bobby, who was fighting back tears.
Van Alyne's body is to buried at Arlington National Cemetery.