Fountain civilian officer Dave Langfels Sr. was "the Pied Piper of fifth-graders."
Having served as an area Drug Abuse Resistance Education officer for roughly two decades, he couldn't walk into a school without immediately attracting 10 children in tow, Fountain Police Chief Chris Heberer said. They affectionately called him "Officer Dave."
Langfels, 62, died Tuesday after a nine-year fight with cancer that left him weak, sick and, at times, bald, but that was never enough to fully remove him of his D.A.R.E. duties.
"He kept telling me he'd be back in two weeks," Heberer said after Langfels' last round of chemotherapy forced him to go on leave and enter a rehabilitation facility.
Langfels died at his home, surrounded by his immediate and law enforcement families.
"Dave is somewhere upstairs with another group of D.A.R.E. kids around him telling stories and talking about life," Heberer said.
Langfels' death came eight days ahead of a benefit to help defray medical expenses related to his battle against cancer, which required many surgeries, chemotherapy and various other treatments. He was diagnosed in 2008.
The spaghetti dinner and silent auction will still be held, Heberer said. It's scheduled for 5-7 p.m. Jan. 18 at Fountain-Fort Carson High School, 900 Jimmy Camp Road.
Tickets for the dinner can be bought at the Fountain Police Department, the school's administrative building or Fountain City Hall for the discounted price of $12 for adults and $5 for children ages 4 to 12. Adult tickets bump up to $15 at the door. Kids younger than 3 will get in free.
As testament to Langfels' support in the community, Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8 donated the food for the spaghetti dinner.
It wasn't the first time the school and the community rallied around their longtime officer and friend.
As most schools and police departments around the state were cutting D.A.R.E. programs in tough budget years, Fountain fought to keep Langfels, allowing his influence to grow.
"Talking to new school administrators it's hard to prove the effectiveness of D.A.R.E., but what I knew from attending Dave's graduations was Dave's time with the kids was very effective," Heberer said.
Langfels once told The Gazette as much, recounting how kids he once had in class as fifth-graders would keep their heads down when he'd see them at the police station arrested on drug charges. They were ashamed to face him, he said.
Other former students would proudly tell him they stayed off drugs because of his influence, he said.
"If you're there, the kids open up like crazy," Langfels said in an interview. "I know it works with some kids and it doesn't with others."
Between his time with Fountain, the El Paso County Sheriff's Office and as a police chief in a small town in Michigan, Langfels spent 44 years in law enforcement. He was hired in Fountain in September 2001 and later transitioned into a civilian position.
In his time, he won D.A.R.E. Officer of the Year for the state and served as the department's Police Athletic League Director in 2006. In 2008, he created Fountain's Neighborhood Watch Program and three years later took on the responsibility of Business Watch Coordinator. He also has served as president of the Colorado D.A.R.E. organization.
Langfels was a "Do anything for you type of guy," Fountain Lt. Jess Freeman said.
"Dave would always go out of his way to help a family in need and never expect anything in return," Sgt. Moses Cho said.
In addition to the fundraiser, donations also can be made out to "Dave Langfels Sr." and dropped off at locations where tickets are sold. A YouCaring account also was created for "Officer Dave's Medical Fund" and has raised more than $2,000.
His viewing will be from 5-8 p.m. on Jan. 19 at Dove Witt Funeral Home, 6630 S. US Hwy 85-87 in Fountain. A funeral service will be at 11 a.m. Jan. 20 at St. Dominic’s Church, 5354 US-85 in Colorado Springs.
Note: The story was updated to reflect funeral arrangements.
Contact Kaitlin Durbin: 636-0362