Despite a cancer diagnosis, the removal of a brain tumor and six weeks of chemotherapy, Officer Richard Rothwell never considered leaving the Nassau County police force. Similarly, Det. William Maldonado, who died of his illness, was known for his commitment to the Suffolk County Police Department.
Both men were commended for their unwavering dedication with Theodore Roosevelt Association Police Valor awards on Thursday.
“I’m truly honored to receive this award,” said Rothwell. “It’s been a tremendous battle and having all my friends, family and the entire department behind me has truly been an honor.”
For 24 years, the Theodore Roosevelt Association has honored police officers who have overcome a major physical challenge — much like President Theodore Roosevelt triumphed over his childhood asthma.
Dozens of police officers and high-ranking law enforcement officials attended the morning ceremony at the Sagamore Hill National Historic Site in Oyster Bay.
Rothwell joined the police department in 2004 and was diagnosed with cancer in early 2016. After a yearlong battle, the Nassau County officer returned to work full time at the department’s police academy. His wife and two children were present to see him accept the award.
“I’m very proud of my husband,” said Breanne Rothwell, 38, of Massapequa. “He has always taken on every challenge that is given to him,” she said, adding that her husband incorporated running, yoga and meditation into his recovery process.
Nassau Commissioner Patrick Ryder said of Rothwell’s determination: “He couldn’t drive a police car and that’s why we assigned him to the police academy, and the next thing we know, he’s out there with a hedge trimmer, taking care of the bushes.”
Presenters were as generous in doling out accolades for Maldonado, who joined the police department in 1987. Notably, despite serious health issues, Maldonado worked with the Major Case Unit investigating the disappearance of five young men, whose remains were recovered. He was among those on the team credited with the 2017 arrest of several suspected MS-13 gang members related to the death of two teenage girls from Brentwood.
“His great passion for policing also resulted in an unmatched dedication of duty,” said Suffolk Chief Stuart Cameron. “There is no place Willie would rather be than at work, locking up bad guys.”
Maldonado died of colon cancer in April.