BUTLER, N.J. — Security was very tight at St. Anthony’s Church last month when First Lady Michelle Obama attended a wake for the father of her security guard.
Plans of her May 29 visit were so guarded that the church community knew only the morning of the wake that she was coming, according to Alan Thomas, OFM, who worked with state police, Butler police, and Mrs. Obama’s Secret Service team to secure the church.
Mrs. Obama came to pay her respects to Preston Fairlamb, 64, the father of one of her security guards, Jay. Fairlamb was a former state trooper who died in a motorcycle accident that also injured his wife.
Alan said he was somewhat caught off guard, as he was the only staff member at the parish when police unexpectedly descended on the church. Michael Jones, OFM, pastor at St. Anthony’s, was out of state at a family graduation when Mrs. Obama visited. Though relatively new to the parish, Alan did a wonderful job in making the appropriate arrangements.
“Security was super-tight,” he said. “The state police knew about Mrs. Obama’s visit in advance but didn’t tell anyone. That morning, they were all over the place. Two state police officers were at each door, all around the outside of the building.”
Mrs. Obama had four U.S. Secret Service agents and two photographers with her, said Alan, adding that she spent approximately 30 minutes with the family.
She was among the thousands who attended the wake that lasted for five hours, according to Alan, who led the funeral service the next day. “We were very impressed with the first lady’s concern for Jay and his family. She arrived, visited with the family, and left without disturbing the sacredness of the situation.”
While the logistics the wake may have seemed like pressure, Alan said nonetheless it was exciting to have the first lady at St. Anthony Parish.