Old friendship and vintage shop combine to restore stolen insignia
A Sedgwick County sheriff’s badge stolen nearly five decades ago is back in the hands of its owner, Bill Demain of Peabody, and the man that returned it to him, Shane Marler, finds it hard to believe what transpired to make it happen.
“It’s one of those crazy life stories that if you told someone, they wouldn’t believe you,” Marler said. “We’re talking Powerball numbers here; the od=ds are astronomical.”
Demain grew up on a farm in western Kansas, and entered the Marine Corps just prior to the start of the Korean War. When he got out of the service, he went to work as a Wichita police officer.
In about 1970, Demain had two jobs, working for Dole Foods and Sedgwick County Sheriff’s department. He had a camper on his pickup where he kept some of his work-related items and clothing, including an off-duty sheriff’s badge he carried for identification when he wasn’t working as a deputy.
“One day I went to get something out of the back of my truck, and the walk-in door on the back of my camper was open and swinging wide,” Demain said.
His badge was gone.
“This individual who took it had to know me and had to know I was in law enforcement,” he said. “If the guy wasn’t in such a hurry, he could’ve had him a nice pistol, too. I never thought I’d see that badge again.”
Demain moved on from Sedgwick County to law enforcement stints in Oklahoma and Colorado, leaving behind any chance of recovering the badge.
However, 20 years before its disappearance, fate had already set a reunion in motion by bringing Demain into contact with a young man from Peabody.
“Harold Dyck and I became friends in 1949 or 50, just before we went into the service in the Korean conflict,” Demain said.
Decades later, it was that continuing friendship and Dyck’s encouragement that convinced Bill and Ruth Demain to move Peabody, within easy reach of family in central Kansas.
“We had three kids in this area and a bunch of grandkids,” Demain said.
Marler, marketing director for Peabody Health and Rehab, met Demain when he came to the facility for therapy.
“I talked to him while he was here at PHR, and once a week we delivered meals on wheels to them,” Marler said. “Over the course of a year I talked with him about his law enforcement work.”
Meanwhile, Marler’s wife, Morgan, an avid collector of vintage items for her downtown shop, Flint Hills Gypsies, had a surprise for him when he stopped in for a visit about six months ago.
“She had found this badge in a box,” he said. “She said, ‘Hey, take a look at this, isn’t that your guy?’”
The star-shaped badge was missing a blue Kansas state seal that originally adorned its center, but what was engraved on it was revealing.
“I was probably as excited as he was when I found it,” Marler said. “It had his exact initial and last name on it. There’s only one Bill Demain, and if you know him you know exactly what I mean.”
Marler pocketed the badge, and was ready to spring the surprise of a lifetime on Demain’s next therapy visit.
“Shane Marler came up to me and said, ‘I’ve got something for you,’” Demain said. “By golly, there it was, my badge with my name on it, a badge I hadn’t seen since at least 1970.”
Marler was startled when Demain then offered to pay him for it.
“I said, ‘Bill, I can’t sell it to you, it’s got your name on it,” he said.
The badge is gone again, but this time it’s because Demain’s son is getting it restored to its original condition. Demain remains grateful for the bizarre turn of events that brought it back.
“It meant a lot to me,” he said, “not for any reason except the obvious, that I never figured I’d see it again.”
“It’s kind of crazy that it’s been floating around for more than 40 years and it ends up right back where it belongs,” Marler said. “Sometimes life works out that way, and it’s good it does.”