Hundreds of runners will hit the streets of Waterbury this weekend to honor a hometown hero.
Christopher Corbett, the city’s deputy police chief, died tragically last June and his family, friends and coworkers hope to keep his legacy alive through the Chris Corbett Memorial 5K.
A successful scholar-athlete in both high school and college, Corbett could have chosen to protect and serve anywhere, but his heart was always at home.
“Right when we met him one of the first things he always talked about was his desire to be a police officer, and not just a police officer anywhere, but a police officer in Waterbury, Connecticut,” recalled TJ Oneglia, a race committee member and Corbett’s college roommate at Holy Cross College in Worcester, Massachusetts. Oneglia and Corbett also ran on the track team together.
“He was a great runner, one of the toughest guys I ever met,” Oneglia said. “He was just consistent, steady and out there every day pounding the pavement.”
After earning his master’s degree in criminal justice from Boston University, Corbett achieved his dream of becoming a Waterbury police officer in 1997. Coworkers say his dedication to his hometown made him a standout cop who always went above and beyond the call of duty.
“He knew the neighborhoods intimately, he knew the players in the city, he had a great relationship with his peers,” Deputy Chief William Covel said. “Just a very giving, caring, loyal employee of the city.”
The sudden loss in June, when Corbett took his own life, sent shockwaves through the community and the police department.
“Clearly it was a huge loss for us,” Covel said. “We’re trying to rebuild, and the road race is a significant way for us to keep Chris’s memory alive.”
Corbett was a proud product of Waterbury’s Catholic school system. He graduated from Blessed Sacrament Grammar School and Holy Cross High School, where he served as captain of the cross-country and track teams.
Fittingly, Holy Cross High School will be the start and end point of Sunday’s 5K road race. Proceeds from the event will support the Christopher D. Corbett Memorial Fund, Inc. to provide scholarships to Waterbury-area parochial students interested in pursuing careers in criminal justice.
It’s a new tradition the race committee hopes will endure, along with the memory of a native son – doing something he loved to do, in the place he loved the most.
“This race is going to be an excellent thing for the city,” Covel said. “It’s going to provide an inaugural event so we can remember Chris and keep his memory strong and vibrant going forward.”
The race will happen rain or shine. More than 700 runners have preregistered. For details and to register, visit the website for the Chris Corbett 5K.