Richie Artis, left, is given the Franklin Police oath from Mayor Raystine Johnson-Ashburn during Monday’s City Council meeting while Police Chief Phil Hardison looks on. -- FRANK DAVIS/TIDEWATER NEWS

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Franklin’s finest

Published 9:36am Wednesday, August 29, 2012

FRANKLIN—Richie Artis’ dream came true Monday night.

In a uniform made to fit his 13-year-old frame and with a smile that didn’t fade, Richie became an honorary member of the Franklin Police Department with Mayor Raystine Johnson-Ashburn swearing him in during the City Council meeting.

Richie was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer in 2002. He underwent two surgeries that year, one to remove a grapefruit-sized tumor pressing on his spinal cord and another to place a shunt to remove fluid from his brain, said his mother Letrice Felton.

Also the son of Clayton Mitchell and stepson of Raymond Felton, Richie had to relearn actions, like walking and holding a cup. The disease and surgery also affected his eyesight and hearing.

“He had to start over like a newborn,” Letrice Felton said.

Richie had a third surgery on Dec. 31 at the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters in Norfolk to replace the shunt in his head because it had worn out.

“Doctors said it was the first time they had seen a patient where the tubing had worn out before the patient,” Raymond Felton said. “Richie said ‘don’t cry for me. I’m going to be all right. I’m going to take care of all of y’all.’”

Police Chief Phil Hardison told council he met Richie about a month ago while patrolling on Oak Street. Hardison said the J.P. King Jr. Middle School student told him he wanted to be a police officer to “make his mom proud.”

Hardison took Richie to the police station to find him some souvenirs. On the way there Richie told Hardison he couldn’t be a police officer because of the brain cancer and the recent surgery.

Council unanimously endorsed Hardison’s recommendation to make Richie an honorary police officer. Hardison then read him the law enforcement code of ethics while other officers stood beside him.

“I was holding back my tears,” said Letrice Felton. “It makes me feel good, joyful. I’m happy for him. It’s like his dream came true.”

A few members of the audience were in tears by the end of the presentation.

Franklin Police officers visit Richie often. They take him to lunch. Last Wednesday, members brought the SWAT truck to his home on Holland Circle and let him take a tour.

“They love him to death,” Letrice Felton said.

Richie’s cancer is in remission, but he continues to go to the hospital once a year for checkups. He goes with his brother, Andrew Evans, 18, who had the same condition.

  • johnhenry

    This article will soon disappear in the shadows but the good people like Makalani will never forget or the heart and soul of Rickie Artis.

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  • Makalani

    What a courageous young man! Thank you for further inspiring and encouraging him Chief Hardison.

    “There is no man taller in stature than one who stoops to help a child!”

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  • kp

    Simply beautiful and amazing…

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  • johnhenry

    Thanks Chief Hardison for being who and what you are to all the citizens of Franklin. May God bless this family and your family for years to come.

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  • ak

    God Bless you all. I will be praying daily for all of u. Chief Hardison I want to thank you and Franklin finest as always for all that you do for the city of Franklin VA. This is truly an awesome thing you did for this young man he is a precious child.

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  • DryRain

    Richie is an inspiration to both young and old. He has the right stuff and congratulations to Chief Hardison for being a good human being. God bless Richie and his family.

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  • handkusp45

    This is simply a wonderful thing for Chief Hardison and the rest of Franklin’s Finest to do for this young man. I pray he is cancer free through the rest of his life.

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  • SUBDOC03

    May God continue to bless Richie, his brother and family. This is a very touching story and one to share with the world. Richie saying that he will take care of everyone is so typical of the ailing. His family cannot help but feel happiness and sadness. What a great young man. Hat’s off to law enforcement for taking Richie under your wings. My prayers are with you all. – Steve

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