While driving on Interstate 91 north from Hartford to the Massachusetts border, you may have noticed a sign designating that stretch of the highway as the “Richard P. Horan Memorial Highway.” Just who was Richard P. Horan? FBI Special Agent Richard P. Horan, born in Hartford on April 19, 1922, may have turned 89 this week had he not been gunned down one day before his 35th birthday on April 18, 1957 in Suffield, CT - 54 years ago this week - by one of Connecticut’s most notorious criminals: Francis Kolakowski.
Special Agent Horan was born and raised in Hartford, CT. He attended Western State College in Colorado initially before finishing his bachelor’s degree at Trinity College in Hartford. Horan joined the FBI in 1948. He joined other law enforcement officers in Suffield on April 18, 1957, after learning that the notorious criminal, Francis Kolakowski, was reportedly hiding in his sister’s house there.
Francis Kolakowski had been arrested for the murder of his wife, but he had escaped from custody. After escaping from jail, Kolakowski became the prime suspect in a payroll robbery of $66,573 in Windsor on April 11, 1957. The FBI learned that Kolakowski was hiding in his sister’s house in Suffield. While other agents guarded potential escape routes, Special Agent Horan and others forced open the cellar bulkhead door, entered the cellar, and began to ascend to the first floor. Suddenly, Kolakowski confronted him and shot him fatally on the staircase. Before he could be subdued by other agents, Kolakowski committed suicide.
Special Agent Horan left behind a wife, Helen (Callahan) Horan, and a son, Richard. Horan is one of 135 law enforcement personnel from the Nutmeg State whose name is inscribed upon the Connecticut Law Enforcement Memorial in Meriden, CT.* A write-up of his life and service can also be found on the FBI Hall of Honor site.**
Another segment of I-91 is named for a fallen member of the law enforcement community; that officer was Higganum resident and Middletown policeman, Sgt. George Ross Dingwall, who tragically died while pursuing thieves on Route 9 south near Centerbrook in January of 2000. The segment of I-91 from the Meriden border north to the Cromwell-Middletown area is named after Sgt. Dingwall. Overall, there are 16 other roads or road segments in Connecticut named for fallen law enforcement personnel.
An examination of the naming of state roads helps give us an insight into Connecticut history and causes us to remember people who in some way contributed significantly to the state. See if you can answer the following historical trivia questions about Connecticut roads:
- Who is the only woman to have a Connecticut road named after her?
- What famous Democrat has two roads named after him?
- A section of I-91 from the Hudson St. to the Conland Highway is named for Ensign Ulmont I. Whitehead? What was his claim to fame?
- By far, which war has the greatest association with CT highway names?
- One person honored with a road name in CT is the only person so honored who never set foot in the state. Who was he? (Hint: He was a Ukrainian nationalist and poet.)
(Answers in notes below.)
Notes, Sources, Links:
- *Connecticut Law Emforcement Memorial website: http://www.ctneverforget.org/
- ** http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/history/hallhonor/horan
- A NY Times article from November 8, 1981, claims that the over $60,000 stolen in Windsor was found buried in the ground near a highway in the fall of 1981.
- Ella T. Grasso; Wilbur Cross; navigator on the ill-fated USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor; Revolutionary War (Ha! You thought WWII, didn’t you?); Taras Shevchenko (nearby in N. Britain/Newington—connects Rt 72 to 175).