Livermore police bid a somber farewell to one of their own last week during a memorial procession and service for Officer Maximiliano "Max" Messina, who died on Sept. 10 after battling pancreatic cancer. He was 47.
Messina, who was remembered as a dedicated police officer and loving family man, had worked in law enforcement for more than 21 years, including the past 7-1/2 years with Livermore Police Department.
"Max was an incredible teammate who was always willing to help and had to be one of the most friendly people around," Sgt. Steve Goard told the Weekly in the days after the Sept. 24 funeral service.
"When you were around him, he could make anyone smile or laugh. He has given so many of us such great stories to tell from his career. We will always cherish those stories. We lovingly referred to Max as a big teddy bear because he knew exactly how to take care of others," Goard added.
Messina was a married father of two young boys; his wife, Mardene Lashley works as an officer with the Pleasanton Police Department.
Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Messina immigrated to the U.S. at 8 years old with his parents and older sister. The family settled in San Juan Capistrano, where he spent his formative years that included needing to learn the English language. In high school, Messina was a nationally ranked athlete in shot put while also playing football and competing in the deadlift.
Messina relocated to Northern California when he began working in San Francisco with the Department of Justice in immigration enforcement. He became a deputy-sheriff with the Alameda County Sheriff's Office in 1999, meeting his future wife the next year while they were both deputies.
He moved on to the Pleasanton Police Department and then Oakdale Police Department before joining Livermore PD in 2013. In Oakdale, Messina held various assignments including school resource officer, detective, gang expert and firearms instructor. He continued with gang enforcement and firearms instruction, among other roles, with Livermore PD.
"Max worked for me for some time, and I was always amazed at the number of community members who reached out to us to express their gratitude for Max and the job he did for them," Goard said. "As a supervisor, I could rely on Max to handle some of the most complex neighborhood complaints because I knew he would go out of his way to try to make everyone satisfied and was determined to find long-term solutions for people."
Messina battled an aggressive form of pancreatic cancer that was diagnosed just four months ago. His fellow officers rallied around to support Messina during his cancer bout, including coordinating a meal train for the family during his chemotherapy, according to Officer Taylor Burruss.
"He made a difference in people's lives," Burruss told the Weekly.
Messina is survived by his wife Mardene Lashley, their sons Cole and Aiden, his parents Emilce and Jorge Messina, and his older sister Laura Messina. In addition to spending time with his family, Messina's favorite activities included fishing, camping and riding in his Jeep.
"We cannot say this enough, but Max was a family man. He loved his family so much," Goard said. "He absolutely doted on his two amazing boys and his loving wife -- see the love pouring out from his soul whenever his cherished boys came up. His family can forever stand proud, with their heads held high to the man in their life. Max put up a courageous fight to the end and will never ever be forgotten."