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5K race commemorates deputy

Anna Ridings had the same fears as all wives of police officers.

She used to worry that if something bad happened to her husband, Dean Ridings, it would be while he was on duty patrolling Spotsylvania County’s roads, not while on boat patrol on Lake Anna.

But that’s what happened. Her 52-year-old husband died in June 2010 after a boating accident on the lake. He was the first Spotsylvania sheriff’s deputy to die on duty in more than 20 years.

On Saturday, the Spotsylvania Sheriff’s Office hosted the second annual memorial 5-kilometer race in honor of Ridings. The race doubles as the Law Enforcement Torch Run for the Special Olympics.

About 135 runners and walkers took part in the race, even though it was overcast and raining.

“This means—it’s hard for me to put into words what it means because I get so emotional,” Anna Ridings said shortly after the race started. “The love and support has been tremendous.”

The sheriff’s office, she said, is like extended family, especially since her two sons, Nick and Gordon Ridings, are on the force. Both ran in Saturday’s race.

Sheriff Roger Harris said the memorial is special to him.

“Of all the events the sheriff’s office has, this one really touches my heart because of Dean,” he said.

Melanie Bibens, a crime analyst with the sheriff’s office who helped orchestrate the race, said everyone misses Dean Ridings and they wanted to do something special.

“We didn’t want a ceremony,” she said. “We wanted a celebration.”

Dean Ridings was in the Marine Corps from 1976 to 1983. After that, he worked for the FBI in Quantico.

He became a patrol deputy for the sheriff’s office in 2004.

Anna Ridings stopped him from becoming a Maryland State Trooper shortly before the couple married more than 30 years ago, but gave in when he wanted to join the sheriff’s office. She said he wanted to work with his sons.

She said her husband enjoyed the Lake Anna patrols, which he did once a month. Sometimes he even volunteered to fill in for other deputies.

Anna Ridings still remembers the last time he left for duty.

“It was a Saturday morning,” she said. “He kissed me goodbye and said, ‘I’ll see you in a few hours.’ And that was the last time I saw him.”

According to reports at the time, a large wake, or wakes, hit the 19-foot patrol boat Dean Ridings was in. The force ejected the boat operator, Deputy William Schroeder Jr., while the jolt caused Ridings to hit his head, which knocked him unconscious.

Boaters helped Schroeder back to the boat, and he took Ridings to shore, where there were ambulances. Ridings was rushed to Mary Washington Hospital, but died about two hours after the incident.

He was the first Spotsylvania sheriff’s deputy to die in the line of duty since 1988, when 46-year-old Richard Lee Samuels died after suffering a heart attack chasing a prisoner who had broken free from the courthouse.

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436