WASHINGTON — Thor has a new workplace thanks to yet another act of generosity by a Washington family.
A monetary donation from Keith Zimmerman in honor of his late parents paid for the purchase of a new Ford Explorer being used by Washington police officer Dan Foster and his K-9 partner Thor.
The new vehicle — minus trade-in of the Ford Crown Victoria used by Foster and Thor the past five years — cost $27,924 from low bidder Uftring Ford of East Peoria.
Cost of the installation of new and salvaged equipment into the Ford Explorer by Washington-based Ragan Communications was $9,914. Zimmerman also paid for that.
The Ford Explorer, with its full markings, went into service last week. The vehicle's benefactors are honored with the words, "In memory of Pauline & Elmer Zimmerman" on each side of the black SUV.
"My parents weren't rich people. My father was a supervisor at Caterpillar and my mother was a paralegal. But they were pet lovers and always looking for ways to help people," said Keith Zimmerman, 72, an internationally known saxophonist and saxophone instructor at Bradley University who also gives private saxophone lessons.
Pauline Zimmerman died March 1, 2012, at age 89.
A few months later, Keith Zimmerman and his father began talking to Washington Mayor Gary Manier, then-Washington Police Chief Jim Kuchenbecker and then-Washington Assistant Chief Don Volk about what it would take to establish a K-9 unit for the police department.
The result of the discussions was a $50,000 donation in honor of Pauline Zimmerman to purchase a K-9 vehicle and dog, training for Foster and the dog, a kennel for the dog, and the dog's upkeep.
Foster and Thor hit the streets in March 2013. Eight months later, an EF-4 tornado roared through Washington and demolished a home on Fayette Court where Keith Zimmerman and his father lived.
Elmer Zimmerman was severely injured, but lived to move into a rebuilt home at the same address on Fayette Court with his son in October 2014.
He died Feb. 29, 2016, at age 98.
Manier called the Zimmermans' donations for the K-9 a blessing for the community. Current police Chief Mike McCoy echoed the sentiments.
"This latest donation continues the Zimmermans' legacy in Washington," McCoy said.
The legacy includes other forms of public service.
Earl Zimmerman, Keith Zimmerman's uncle, served as Washington mayor in the 1950's. Keith Zimmerman's grandfather A.A. "Andy" Zimmerman was a Washington alderman in the 1940's.
Elmer Zimmerman's grandfather John Zimmerman also was a Washington alderman.
After Keith Zimmerman learned earlier this year that the Washington Police Department's K-9 vehicle needed to be replaced, he decided to make a donation on behalf of his parents.
"I'm happy to help our police department, which does a great job and is so professional," he said.
Foster is thrilled about his new K-9 vehicle, which has many physical and technological improvements from the former K-9 vehicle. Thor appears to be thrilled about his new vehicle, too.
"The old Crown Victoria had two-wheel drive. Our new Explorer has four-wheel drive, so we can travel more safety when it's snowing," Foster said. "The Explorer also has a seat in back for someone who's in custody."
Thor took up the entire back seat in the Crown Victoria. He now has more room in back and some company -- albeit separated by a metal partition -- when someone is being taken to jail.
Thor is a 6 1/2-year-old Dutch Shepherd from the Netherlands who weighs 83 pounds. Most of his police work is sniffing out drugs. He also tracks and searches in buildings.
The dog has lived with the Foster family since his arrival in Washington from overseas. Foster said Thor is well behaved around his family's two children (ages 5 and 3), but definitely is in work mode when he's on patrol.
"I think our K-9 program in Washington has been a success," said Foster, who has been a police officer in Washington since 2010.
"Besides what Thor has done on patrol, he's a fantastic, family-friend public relations tool for our department. Everybody loves dogs," Foster said.
"I was in an accident en route to a call a few years ago and both Thor and I had to get checked out medically, as required. People on Facebook were asking more about how Thor was doing than me. But that was okay."
Steve Stein can be reached at (248) 224-2616 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.