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Officer recalled as 'beautiful soul'

The St. Petersburg native was working in Gainesville when a car hit and killed him.

By MELANIE AVE
Published April 6, 2007


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Corey Dahlem was a hard-core Florida State University Seminoles fan.

Yet Monday night, the St. Petersburg native and Gainesville police lieutenant smiled and shook hands with University of Florida students as they celebrated the basketball team's second straight national title.

"He liked young people," said Lt. Keith Kameg.

Mr. Dahlem, 45, died Wednesday April 4, 2007, the day before his birthday, after a being hit by a drunken driver Monday night at a street celebration after the team's victory, authorities said.

As they tried to put aside their anger about his death, his friends and family remembered Mr. Dahlem as a family man who loved the outdoors and music - and his FSU Seminoles.

"It's just so unfair," said his father, retired St. Petersburg schoolteacher Ted Dahlem, 76.

"For me, it would be easier if it had been gunfight, a car chase, something part of his job so to speak," said his sister, Heather Brady of St. Pete Beach.

Mr. Dahlem, a 22-year veteran of the Gainesville Police Department, was struck by a black Toyota as he and other officers had nearly finished clearing the streets of about 25,000 revelers near the campus.

Mr. Dahlem and another officer were crossing a barricaded University Avenue when Austin John Wright, 21, of Atlantic Beach headed toward them at more than 30 mph, said Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Mike Burroughs.

Burroughs said breath tests showed Wright's blood-alcohol level was almost three times the point where the law presumes impairment.

Mr. Dahlem died at Shands at the University of Florida at Gainesville hospital of head and chest injuries.

Wright remained in the Alachua County Jail Thursday in lieu of $500,000 bail. His charges include driving under the influence manslaughter.

Mr. Dahlem was remembered fondly in Gainesville and St. Petersburg, where he grew up one of four children in the Old Northeast neighborhood.

As a child, he pulled potatoes from his father's garden, fished in the bay and played acoustic guitar. He played football for St. Petersburg High School.

"I never heard anyone say a bad thing about Corey," said childhood friend Frank Shaver, 46, of St. Petersburg. "He was just one of those guys who'd do anything for you."

After high school, Mr. Dahlem went to St. Petersburg College and then FSU, where he met his future wife, Sally.

He loved taking pictures of his son, Brandon, a 21-year-old University of South Florida student, at track meets, and his daughter, Katie, a student at Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville.

In 1985, Mr. Dahlem joined the Gainesville Police Department as a patrol officer. He received numerous commendations through the years.

Longtime friend Bob Carpentieri got together with Mr. Dahlem and other Florida State fans to talk Seminole sports in what they called their "Seminole Klatch."

"If you're lucky in your life, you meet a handful of genuinely beautiful souls, and he was one of them," Carpentieri said. " I don't think he had a malevolent bone in his body."

Other surviving family members include a sister, Shawn Billings, and a brother, Zip Dahlem, both of St. Petersburg.

A visitation will be Saturday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Trinity United Methodist Church in Gainesville. Funeral services will be 11 a.m. Monday at Trinity Methodist, with graveside services immediately following at Forest Meadows Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the "Corey Dahlem for Brandon & Katherine College Education Fund" at 1st Credit Union of Gainesville, 412 E University Ave., Gainesville, FL 32601.

Associated Press and Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Melanie Ave can be reached at (727) 893-8813 or mave@sptimes.com.

[Last modified April 5, 2007, 23:18:15]


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