A section of Highway 132, or Yosemite Boulevard, was named the “Modesto Police Officer Leo Volk Jr. / Police Sergeant Steve May Memorial Highway” during a special ceremony held Sunday morning.
A ceremony unveiled a memorial sign along Yosemite Boulevard just west of Claus/Garner roads.
Both men, who died 36 years apart as the result of their duties with Modesto Police Department, had connections to Ceres.
Modesto Police Officer Leo Volk, who was a Ceres native, died at age 24 in a May 21, 1973 police pursuit of a suspect. The driver Volk was chasing was never apprehended. Rescue personnel were unable to get to the dying officer for 40 minutes until they were able to cut into his wrecked patrol car.
“It’s like it was yesterday,” said his widow, Janet Hopper Volk, of his death and crash near Conejo Avenue on Yosemite Boulevard in Modesto. At the time, their only child, a son, was two.
Janet Volk said she and Leo, also called Bobby, were high school sweethearts while attending Ceres High School and married two years after graduation in 1967. While in high school Leo was determined to go into law enforcement and had worked as a security guard at a local hospital.
“He was a good student, he was the class clown,” said Janet.
Leo’s sister, Roberta Volk Robinson of Ceres, said the pain of losing her brother has not subsided but said the outpouring and support from the community has been “fantastic.”
Steve May worked as a Ceres Police officer before going to work for the Modesto Police Department in 1979. He was involved in a July 29, 2002 crash at South Santa Cruz and Mono Drive while in pursuit of a felon who earlier in the day had assaulted a Stanislaus County Sheriff’s deputy. The crash left May with a fractured skull and fractures to his face, jaw, clavicle, right forearm, and left leg; and in a coma that lasted for seven years until he died on July 23, 2009. He had 23 years with the department and died at the age of 53.
Speaking at the ceremony was state Assemblymen Adam Gray who helped get the state to name the highway section after Volk and May with the help of Assemblyman Heath Flora.
Also attending were May’s widow, Diana and their two children.
The section bearing their names is limited to Yosemite Boulevard within the Modesto city limits and includes L, Ninth and D streets.