Charles B. Stafford. Courtesy of Miami Springs Police Departme

Forever Remembering a Hero Miami Springs Officer Charles B. Stafford was killed 30 years ago – ‘We are paying tribute to a person who so much deserves to be remembered’

Office Charles B. Stafford, a Miami Springs police officer who was killed while on duty 30 years ago.

Golf courses can serve many unique purposes.

The beauty of a course includes fun, challenge, camaraderie, pleasure and usually, at no extra charge, a beautiful vista to gaze upon. OK, admittedly, we left out one other main attribute a course often offers – frustration.

Miami Springs Golf Course & Country Club supplies all of those listed above, but recently also something much, much more important.

Particularly on one day of the year. A day of reflection; a day of honor.

You see, every year Miami Springs reserves one special day dedicated to one special person.

In this case, that person would be Charles B. Stafford, a Miami Springs police officer who was killed while on duty 30 years ago.

Golf and a golf course can’t change or heal a tragedy, but they can serve as a gathering point for remembering and honoring. And to many that’s what they are searching for.

“We are paying tribute to a person who so much deserves to be remembered,” Lt. Claire Gurney of the Miami Springs Police Department said of Stafford. Then, almost pleading, added, “We must do that. We need to do that.”

And she was talking about a person she had never even met.

Some 30 years ago, on June 11, Miami Springs police officer Stafford was shot and killed as he stopped the driver of a stolen car. Stafford, at age 28 and married with two children, was buried four days later, a day before Father’s Day.

Claire Gurney readily admits she does not know much about golf, but she puts on an extrmely worthwhile tournament.

To this day, Stafford has been the only Miami Springs police officer to be killed in the line of duty.
Gurney, age 57, made it her responsibility to find a proper way to honor Stafford.

Fittingly, a bronze plaque honoring Stafford was already on display at the police station. The plaque reads: “In memory of Officer Charles B. Stafford who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving his community in the line of duty.”

The individual who killed Stafford was eventually caught and found guilty of murder and is in jail today, and he cannot be released until age 70 at the earliest.

The golf tournament honoring Stafford did not start until 2007 and it was at Gurney’s behest that the event came into being. And now Gurney is insistent it will never go out of being.

How did the Miami Springs Golf Course enter into the remembrance picture?

The answer is simple and logical.

Miami Springs is a tight-knit community of approximately 15,000 people and one of the focal points of that close community is the golf course.

“We have a great city with great support,” Gurney said.

Gurney knew the course would be a perfect venue.

So, for the past 14 years, people have shown up. They sit, they talk, they play golf and hit balls, but most importantly they honor “Bubba,” which was Stafford’s nickname. Gurney, despite never meeting Stafford, knew from talk at the police station, “He was a big hulk of a man.”

So, on this past June 11 and on the 30th anniversary of Stafford’s death, that community came together for the annual gathering in his honor at the Charles B. Stafford Memorial Golf Tournament. Yes, there was sadness, but more importantly there were memories and with those memories came some smiles.

At the tournament, there were nearly 150 in attendance and some 40 of them were police officers and firefighters.

George Heider has played in all 14 tournaments honoring Charles Stafford.

“They came from Coral Gables, Miami Beach, wherever,” Gurney said. “It was nice to see.”

Stafford was not necessarily a huge fan of golf, but he was a huge fan of the caring community he lived in and that honors him every year.

At this point, after 14 years, Gurney certainly knows how to put together a golf tournament. However, with a laugh, she admits, “I pretty much know nothing about the game itself. “

The game sometimes – by Gurney’s own admission – baffles her, and considering her golf background she has every right to be baffled.

“At one point I was a bartender,” she said of her days before becoming a police officer. “The owner of the bar was an avid golfer and he gave me an old set of clubs. First time I tried to hit a ball I either topped it or missed it completely.”

Then she took lessons.

“I’m left-handed but the teacher switched me to playing right-handed. Didn’t really matter, though. I was lousy either way. “

“Finally,” she said with a laugh, “my husband bought me a set of clubs.”

She quickly pointed out, “That was when we were married. He’s my ex-husband now.”

George Heider, 59, has made a conscious decision to play in all 14 of the Stafford Memorial Tournaments.


“First, it’s for a great cause,” he said. “Secondly, growing up here, some Springs police officers … you could say they helped me out. They headed me in the right direction.

“I appreciated that.”

And appreciation is what this singular day at Miami Springs Golf Course is all about.

Appreciating a fellow human being.

Particularly one named Charles B. Stafford.

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