Tuesday, August 22, 2017 Elyria 73°
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Cops and Courts

Family, Elyria Police Department, community gather to remember Kerstetter

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It happens every year. March 15 comes and the officers of the Elyria Police Department put on their dress uniforms and gather just outside the Elyria police station for a memorial service to honor one of their own, Sgt. James Kerstetter.

During the short service Sunday, the biggest thing on everyone's mind was time.

"It's hard to believe it's been five years since Jimmy was taken from us," said Police Chief Duane Whitely.

Time is measured in events - often family events - and for the family that makes up EPD, no event is more sacred than the laying of a wreath on the rock bearing Kerstetter's name on the road renamed Kerstetter Way on the day Kerstetter lost his life in the line of duty.

The Elyria Police Honor Guard brings out the American and state flags to the sound of bagpipes. A prayer is given to ask for safe travels for all officers doing their jobs and one officer is selected to lament on what it has meant to loss a friend in such a tragic way. In the time since the night Kerstetter was shot and killed on the city's south side, Elyria police have not lost another officer to violence.

Kerstetter was the first in 67 years for the department.

But that doesn't mean they have forgotten the tragedy or diminished its significance in their lives. If anything, with each passing year the drive to properly memorize Kerstetter grows stronger.

"We do this every year to tell his family that the members of the Police Department will always be there for them and we will never forget," Whitely said. "There are 12 officers on the Elyria Police Department that were not here when Jimmy was here, so we do this so they know we will never forget."

Patrolman Garrett Longacre said he is often called on to train new recruits and in doing so he makes sure each listens to the final words of Kerstetter, heard over the police radio dispatches telling his fellow officers he had been shot. Longacre tells them of the kind of officer Kerstetter was - dedicated, tough and fair - but he also wants them to know the job comes with a great deal of sacrifice - missed time with family, long hours and sometime unappreciative words.

But if they approach it like Kerstetter did, it is a job worth having.

"Jimmy approached this job like it was his calling," Longacre said.

Each year, the memorial ceremony is attended by members of the Kerstetter family.

They knew the officer best and are honored the Police Department continues to be a part of their extended family.

Even if they do not speak publically, which was the case this year, his daughters, wife, parents and sisters are often in attendance.

When asked earlier Sunday at the Elyria Township home of Carol and James Kerstetter why the family continued to frequent the tributes and if they would prefer for the memorials to stop - a 5K race also is held in Kerstetter's honor each July near his birthday - Carol Kerstetter was quick to say no.

"I don't want him forgotten," said the officer's mother. "He was a good kid, a great guy, loved his family and had lots of friends. So if that's what you measure a person's worth by, then our Jimmy was worth everything."

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.

 



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