SHEFFIELD — Officer James Kerstetter’s tragic death left a void in the lives of his family and friends that many in the community are trying to fill with gestures of respect.
Those in the firefighter community — an extended family Kerstetter belonged to because his father, James Kerstetter Sr., once served as the Elyria Township fire chief — are no different.
Since Monday night, firefighters in Elyria and beyond have extended helping hands to the Kerstetter family.
On Friday, Wellington Fire Chief Bob Walker did the only thing he could think of doing.
In a quick ceremony at the family’s home, Walker presented James Kerstetter’s wife, Tammy, and daughters Misty, Shelby and Bailey a commemorative coin on behalf of the North Central Fire Department District and Lorain County Fire Chiefs Association. The coin was made to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the Wellington Fire Department.
“I know his father and his family were very proud of what he did, and this is just our little way of showing respect for his sacrifice and this tragic loss,” Walker said. “I know there are no words I can say to make them feel better.”
The gesture was especially poignant for James Kerstetter Sr. When he served as chief and while on duty with the Elyria Township Fire Department, many of his fellow firefighters knew and loved his son, he said.
Since his shooting death Monday night, the Kerstetter family has received many such gifts. Food, flowers, baskets of fruit and anything people can think of giving have been taken to either the Kerstetter home in Sheffield or his parents’ Elyria Township home.
Businesses are donating to various services this weekend, and many in the community are finding ways to honor the fallen officer through fundraisers.
“Just the other day, a neighbor came to the door with a card full of money for the girls,” said Kerstetter’s mother, Carol Kerstetter. “She didn’t know what to do but said she at least wanted to take up a collection for the girls. She just wanted them to have something.”
The family members have been thrust into an unwanted spotlight but are learning to deal with it, they said.
“It’s been really hard, but with all the things people have done and said, it has made it 10 times easier to talk to everyone,” Shelby said.
Kerstetter’s best friend for the last 23 years said Kerstetter wouldn’t know what to do with all the attention. He was, Paul Brimlow said, a very humble man.
“He was the life of the party for his family, but he didn’t want the spotlight anywhere else,” said Brimlow, who was with the family Friday. “He just wanted to be with his family. That’s the guy he was to us.”
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.