A bridge located on Highway 11 in Orillia was officially dedicated Tuesday in memory of OPP Constable Willis Jacob, almost 61 years after he died in the line of duty.
Jacob was killed Oct. 3, 1958. At the time, he was working out of a newly formed traffic unit headquartered in Barrie and was patrolling Highway 11.
A vehicle, driven by Gravenhurst's Stan Simpson, was travelling southbound on the divided portion of the highway when it lost control and struck a road sign before sliding toward the undivided portion of the highway.
The vehicle, which did not have its headlights activated, crossed into the northbound lane. After narrowly missing two northbound cars, the vehicle rammed into the OPP cruiser head-on. Both drivers were killed instantly.
By all accounts, it was a horrific crash.
A Toronto Star article described it this way: “According to witnesses, Simpson was driving without lights as (his car) swerved out of its lane. The broken highway direction sign was found near where Simpson’s car came to rest. The impact hurled both cars (to) opposite sides of the road. So badly demolished were they that rescue workers encountered considerable difficulty extracting the bodies. Police and onlookers said they had (never) seen two vehicles so completely destroyed. ‘They couldn’t have been worse damaged if a train had hit them,’ one onlooker said.”
On Tuesday, Jacob was "remembered as a dedicated officer who took great pride in his policing career,” said OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique.
The officer was just 34 at the time of his death. He was married and his wife was expecting their first child.
Among the family members at Tuesday’s ceremony at OPP Headquarters in Orillia was that child who is now 60 years old.
Carrique said the OPP was “truly honoured” that his family members were on hand for the unveiling of the bridge dedication.
It is the 61st bridge to be dedicated in memory of fallen officers since 2005.
"Provincial Constable Willis J. Jacob lost his life in the line of duty nearly 61 years ago, and today he still holds a place of honour in our hearts,” said Carrique.
“With this bridge dedication, we recognize the service of this dedicated officer who made the ultimate sacrifice in the pursuit of protecting our families and loved ones."
Carrique said Jacob made a “profound sacrifice. He was a hero not for how he died, but for how he lived his life each and every day.”
The sign has already been placed on the bridge “near where he made the ultimate sacrifice.” The sign is “a constant reminder and, more importantly, a celebration of his life and a remembrance of his service.”
The commissioner thanked officials at the Orillia OPP detachment for stick-handling this dedication and lauded retired Orillia police officer Neil Hurtubise for suggesting that Jacob’s death be remembered.
“He will not be forgotten and will always be part of the proud history of the OPP,” said Carrique.
Orillia Mayor Steve Clarke, Simcoe North MP Bruce Stanton and Simcoe North MPP Jill Dunlop all spoke at the event that was also attended by Oro-Medonte Mayor Harry Hughes and Severn Township Mayor Mike Burkett among many other dignitaries and guests.