Franklin’s finest

Published 9:36 am Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Richie Artis, left, is given the Franklin Police oath from Mayor Raystine Johnson-Ashburn during Monday’s City Council meeting while Police Chief Phil Hardison looks on. -- FRANK DAVIS/TIDEWATER NEWS

FRANKLIN—Richie Artis’ dream came true Monday night.

In a uniform made to fit his 13-year-old frame and with a smile that didn’t fade, Richie became an honorary member of the Franklin Police Department with Mayor Raystine Johnson-Ashburn swearing him in during the City Council meeting.

Richie was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer in 2002. He underwent two surgeries that year, one to remove a grapefruit-sized tumor pressing on his spinal cord and another to place a shunt to remove fluid from his brain, said his mother Letrice Felton.

Also the son of Clayton Mitchell and stepson of Raymond Felton, Richie had to relearn actions, like walking and holding a cup. The disease and surgery also affected his eyesight and hearing.

“He had to start over like a newborn,” Letrice Felton said.

Richie had a third surgery on Dec. 31 at the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters in Norfolk to replace the shunt in his head because it had worn out.

“Doctors said it was the first time they had seen a patient where the tubing had worn out before the patient,” Raymond Felton said. “Richie said ‘don’t cry for me. I’m going to be all right. I’m going to take care of all of y’all.’”

Police Chief Phil Hardison told council he met Richie about a month ago while patrolling on Oak Street. Hardison said the J.P. King Jr. Middle School student told him he wanted to be a police officer to “make his mom proud.”

Hardison took Richie to the police station to find him some souvenirs. On the way there Richie told Hardison he couldn’t be a police officer because of the brain cancer and the recent surgery.

Council unanimously endorsed Hardison’s recommendation to make Richie an honorary police officer. Hardison then read him the law enforcement code of ethics while other officers stood beside him.

“I was holding back my tears,” said Letrice Felton. “It makes me feel good, joyful. I’m happy for him. It’s like his dream came true.”

A few members of the audience were in tears by the end of the presentation.

Franklin Police officers visit Richie often. They take him to lunch. Last Wednesday, members brought the SWAT truck to his home on Holland Circle and let him take a tour.

“They love him to death,” Letrice Felton said.

Richie’s cancer is in remission, but he continues to go to the hospital once a year for checkups. He goes with his brother, Andrew Evans, 18, who had the same condition.