October 1, 2014

Elyria
Partly cloudy
62°F
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James Kerstetter remembered

ELYRIA — Dark skies swirled overhead Friday, but the rain held off — clearly a sign the late Sgt. James Kerstetter was looking out for everyone, according to his sister, Kathy Kerstetter.

“Jimmy wasn’t going to let it rain on us,” she said.

Kathy Kerstetter joined a large group behind the Elyria Police Department to pay tribute to her brother, who was killed March 15, 2010.

Kerstetter answered a call that night about a man exposing himself to a 10-year-old girl, and he was gunned down after confronting the suspect in the suspect’s home.

On Friday, Elyria police officers and officers from departments across Lorain County gathered to pay their respects to Kerstetter, whom they hailed as a hero.

“Jimmy was one person, as a boss, that I never had to worry about,” Lt. William Pelko said to the crowd. “He always did the job. He always did the right thing, and he went above and beyond his duties.”

The ceremony began with remarks from police Chaplain Chris Hinckley and the placement of a memorial wreath in front of Kerstetter’s rock near the police station. Kerstetter’s daughters, Misty, Shelby and Bailey, looked on tearfully.

Elyria Mayor Holly Brinda also spoke. Brinda said that although Kerstetter is gone, his spirit is alive in the city.

“It’s amazing to me that, at the mention of his name, so many people tell me not only that they knew Officer Kerstetter but considered him a friend,” she said.

She also commended the officers who put their lives on the line every day.

“When one of our heroes is taken from us, the sense of loss is immeasurable,” she said.

Kerstetter, whom officers called “Sponge” because he “soaked up” overtime hours, also was dedicated to his family, according to Pelko. Kerstetter attended classes at Lorain County Community College to lead by example and show the importance of education to his children.

“He was dedicated to his family, and he always talked about his daughters … He had a plan for you guys, whether you know it or not. He just wanted you guys to be successful,” he said to Kerstetter’s daughters.

Pelko praised the three girls, who have had to spend the last three years without their father.

Misty attends The Ohio State University, Shelby is a senior at Brookside High School in Sheffield and Bailey attends Sheffield Middle School, according to Kathy Kerstetter.

Kathy Kerstetter said the family was happy that so many people from the community came out to show their support.

“It was very nice, a great turn-out,” she said. “We deeply appreciate everything the community has done.”

Elyria Police Chief Duane Whitely said he expected to see a lot of fellow police officers, but he didn’t expect the outpouring of support from the community.

Whitely said Kerstetter was a joker who always had a smile on his face, and he loved his job.

A scholarship fund has been set up in Kerstetter’s honor. Anyone making a $5 donation to the fund will receive three Kerstetter wristbands. Donations may be made to Jimmy’s Scholarship Foundation, and payment can be sent to Lorain County Community College, 1005 N. Abbe Road, Elyria, OH 44035.

Checks should be made out to the LCCC Foundation with “Kerstetter” written in the memo section of the check.

Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or cmiller@chroniclet.com.