Veteran Harrison police officer loses cancer battle

Veteran Harrison police officer loses cancer battle
Harrison Police Officer at work , about to go out on patrol, just days after his cancer diagnosis in September 2017.

BROOKVILLE, IND. (FOX19) - A veteran local law enforcement officer who dedicated his life to protecting and serving the community he loved has lost his battle with cancer.

Harrison Police Officer Marvin Gambill, 57, died just after 5:30 a.m. Friday at home on his southeastern Indiana horse farm.

“He went peacefully in his sleep. That’s all that mattered. He’s not in pain anymore,” said his wife, Donna, who was at his side.

Services will be open to the public Wednesday in Harrison, she said.

Visitation is scheduled 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Jackman Hensley Funeral Home, 215 Broadway St.

The funeral will follow.

Officer Gambill will be remembered with full police honors including a 21-gun salute, color guard and the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office Pipe and Drum Corps, according to his wife.

The mayor of Harrison has ordered flags flown at half-mast at the city buildings.

"Please keep his family and friends in your thoughts and prayers,” Harrison Police Lieutenant Robert Seiter said Friday.

The city of Harrison holds a moment of silence for Officer Marvin Gambill at Greater Harrison Day of Service on Saturday, one day after he succumbed to a year-long cancer battle.
The city of Harrison holds a moment of silence for Officer Marvin Gambill at Greater Harrison Day of Service on Saturday, one day after he succumbed to a year-long cancer battle.

Officer Gambill was diagnosed just over a year ago with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer that already had spread to his liver.

The terminal disease forced Officer Gambill to retire in December 2017, one month shy of his 30th anniversary with the Harrison Police Department.

He spent his finals days surrounded by family and friends at home, his horses and a new puppy, Hank.

He discontinued chemotherapy late last month after a valiant battle he touchingly chronicled on his Facebook page.

"It is with a heavy heart that I make this announcement. Marvin's health is declining to the point where he will no longer be receiving chemo and radiation treatments," his wife posted on Facebook late last month.

"This decision was not easy to make but the pain is getting to be too much so we have called in hospice. He will be spending his days at home with his new puppy."

Marvin Gambill at home with Hank, his new puppy, after discontinuing chemotherapy in August 2018. (Photo: Facebook)
Marvin Gambill at home with Hank, his new puppy, after discontinuing chemotherapy in August 2018. (Photo: Facebook)

The longtime couple married days with his diagnosis and marked their first wedding anniversary Monday.

He never thought he would get married again.

“This is my second marriage. I was a confirmed bachelor and said there was no way,” he said in a Sept. 2017 interview with FOX19 NOW. "But when somebody tells you you have Stage 4 inoperable cancer, it kind of changes things a little bit.

“She called me Saturday afternoon and she says ‘you want to get married? I have a preacher coming to the house at 4:30 p.m.’”

“I said ‘OK, are you serious?’”

Doctors initially gave Gambill a grim diagnosis with just months to live, but he vowed to keep patrolling Harrison as long as he could.

“I love it here. It’s just what a little small town is supposed to be,” he said in an interview with FOX19 NOW back in September 2017.

“If I said I wasn’t afraid, I’d be lying to you, but I am more angry than afraid. I am angry because there are things that I want to get done that I’m not going to get done. I just want to hold on and make sure that my family is taken care of.”

He immediately began chemotherapy, choosing to be optimistic.

“As I entered the field of battle, I was and am afraid,” he wrote in a Facebook post about a month after his diagnosis. “Afraid of the unknown, afraid of letting my loved ones down, and just plain afraid. But armed with my single most potent weapon, LOVE I go forward.”

When Officer Gambill retired, Harrison City Council, the mayor and his co-workers honored him in a retirement ceremony with a plaque and three standing ovations.

“Serving the people of Harrison,” he said that night, “has been the greatest honor of my life. I can't tell you how, how heartfelt I mean that.”

The law enforcement community continued to rally around Officer Gambill and two Hamilton County deputies diagnosed about the same time with Stage 4 cancers, Michael Ware and Tony Kelly.

But the men were all smiles as they met and shook hands as the sold-out crowd of more than 1,000 people attended a benefit for them in December.

Hamilton County Deputy Sheriff Mike Ware (L), Harrison Police Officer Marvin Gambill (C) and Hamilton County Deputy Sheriff Tony Kelly (R) on Dec. 9, 2017. (Photo: FOX19 NOW/Jennifer Edwards Baker)
Hamilton County Deputy Sheriff Mike Ware (L), Harrison Police Officer Marvin Gambill (C) and Hamilton County Deputy Sheriff Tony Kelly (R) on Dec. 9, 2017. (Photo: FOX19 NOW/Jennifer Edwards Baker)

Proceeds raised at "Benefit for Blue Against Cancer" were divided among them to help with their mounting medical costs.

The outpouring of support, hugs, smiles and laughter openly touched all three men and their families. It brought them much comfort and camaraderie at what can be an overwhelming and distressing time.

At one point, Officer Gambill became overcome with emotion and wept as he watched the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office Pipe & Drum Corps play in a ceremony that kicked off the fundraiser.

"We have a history of doing for other people our whole lives," Gambill said in an interview with FOX19 NOW at the event.

"Now people are doing for us. I don't know about the other guys, but it's a little uncomfortable for me. It's put me a little outside my comfort zone. It's very much appreciated, but a different feeling altogether."

The Indian Hill Rangers Hockey Tournament also was held over the past year to raise money to help pay medical expenses for the three men and a Terrace Park volunteer firefighter, Graham Harden.

A Go Fund Me account remains up to help Officer Gambill's family pay for his medical expenses and other related costs.

So far, $6,000 has been raised toward a $10,000 goal.

Sometimes we go out on a story and meet someone who totally opens his heart and soul to us. It's truly a gift when that...

Posted by Jennifer Edwards Baker on Friday, September 14, 2018

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