On May 6, 2011, Cassidy Alexander received the Richard J. Daley Medal of Honor from the Chicago Police Department in recognition of her regular donations of original pastel portraits of officers killed in the line of duty to the Chicago Police Department. The department has made a regular practice of giving these portraits directly to the family of the fallen officer. Ms. Alexander paints the portraits quickly for them to be ready to display at the funerals, and often at the wake the day before.
The award was presented during the Department’s 50th Annual Police Recognition Ceremony at the Hilton Chicago. This medal is awarded in memory of the late Mayor Richard J. Daley to an individual or organization that has contributed services and brought credit to the City of Chicago Police Department.
Ms. Alexander has been donating portraits to law enforcement departments in California for years, where she lived with her husband, David Alexander, for most of her life. The idea started long ago when her brother-in-law, a deputy sheriff in the county of Los Angeles, died. She made a portrait for his funeral which was comforting to the family. A few years later, when a local police officer was killed, she gave a portrait to the police department. It began a tradition of painting portraits of officers all over the region, not only police officers but deputy sheriffs, California Highway Patrol officers and even police dogs killed in the line of duty.
When Cassidy and her husband moved to Aurora in August of 2007 for David to take the job of deputy director of Sci-Tech Hands-On Museum, they determined that they would continue the tradition of giving in the Chicago area. “The badge, the twinkle in their eye – she gets every detail right. It’s a gift,” said officer Darlene Reed, Cassidy’s contact at the Chicago Police Department. To date, Ms. Alexander has created and donated eight framed portraits to the Chicago Police Department. (see Memorial Portraits Gallery)
Ironically, Ms. Alexander became a widow herself when her husband of nearly 36 years died in December 2010.She and her husband were true partners, supporting each other’s talents and interests. For the first time, she understood the grief of the police families from a personal point of view.
In January, Ms. Alexander was presented with the Chicago Police Honor Guard Medallion (Challenge Coin), usually presented to the widows of fallen police officers, at the memorial for Cassidy’s husband. Officer Reed, Officer Whitt Readus and Captain of the Chicago Police Honor Guard, Mike King, came out to attend the memorial service, where Capt. King surprised Alexander with the coin medal and they all offered their own tributes to Ms. Alexander’s husband, who had become a friend of the officers. David had been instrumental in contacting and arranging for the exchange of information and photographs that is necessary to produce one of the portraits.
Posthumous portraits are a regular part of Ms. Alexander’s career. She has been commissioned to create memorial walls for several police departments in California, and has an extensive collection of unsolicited thank you letters from the families of the fallen officers whose portraits she regularly creates.
“I treasure those letters..” says Cassidy. “They are the best thank you anyone could hope for. It is very gratifying to realize that your work gives comfort to someone in a lasting way.”
Her decision to donate portraits for law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty is a deliberate one – her way of giving back to the community. Cassidy believes everyone needs some way to contribute to the world, beyond the everyday work.
“Even though David, who was the love of my life and helped me so much, is gone, I will continue to give the portraits as long as I can hold a brush.”
See the full video interview of Ms. Alexander made by the Chicago Police Department and shown at the presentation of the Medal of Honor in May: