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'We are all hurting’ Chester officer, firefighter honored on anniversary of death

Submitted by Carbondale Times on

Pete Spitler
editor@heraldtrib.com

In an emotional and moving tribute, Chester police officer and volunteer firefighter James I. Brockmeyer was honored on Oct. 28 with the dedication of the Chester Memorial Park and “James I. Brockmeyer Memorial Highway.”

Brockmeyer died Oct. 28, 2016 from critical injuries sustained after his squad car crashed during a vehicle pursuit of a suspect on Palestine Road north of the Gravel Creek Bridge on Chester’s north side.

He was 22 years old and only 10 months into his career at the Chester Police Department.

“The loss one year ago was shocking and heartbreaking to all of us,” said Chester Police Chief Ryan Coffey. “Before you know it, our duties, our obligations to serve and protect came calling, requiring us to return to regular business — to perform as we had before, with the same high standards as have always been expected of us.

“In other words, this group had to bend from the heartache, but was quickly expected to return to its original form.”

Several hundred people attended the ceremony, held at the corner park at State and Opdyke streets. That intersection now marks the start of the memorial highway that follows State Route 3 and ends at Water Street by the Marys River Bridge.

“It’s hard to predict the future, and the healing process continues,” Coffey said. “But one thing I can guarantee is we will never forget this loss.

“As a department, I have confidence that this group will persevere. This group has shown amazing resilience this year and I’m proud of each and every one of them.”

During his time at the podium, Chester Fire Chief Marty Bert said Brockmeyer’s career at the Chester Fire Department began in the CFD’s Explorers program, which serves as a youth introduction to firefighting.

“They can do all the things we can do, except they can’t respond to calls,” Bert said.

Brockmeyer rose through the ranks at the CFD, being voted onto the regular roster at No. 20. He had been promoted to No. 17 a month before the accident.

Bert said Brockmeyer was proud of being a part of both the police and fire departments.

Brockmeyer’s sister, Megan, with assistance from their parents Don and Dixie, read the Survivor’s Prayer. The family was later presented a posthumous Medal of Honor by CPD Sgt. Bobby Helmers.

“James paid the ultimate sacrifice on October 28, 2016,” Coffey said. “This sacrifice and his distinction as a selfless servant of the public, and the very qualities and measures of a high level of performance, which qualifies Officer Brockmeyer for this award.”

Coffey also addressed the Brockmeyer family and said they are in his heart and the hearts of those in attendance for the service.

“I hope this memorial provides you with a sense of comfort,” Coffey said. “Knowing that James’s service and sacrifice is and always will be remembered.”

Chester Mayor Tom Page thanked those who donated goods and services for the memorial park. Construction labor was donated by Red Dot Construction, with Rob Roy Nursery (plants), Mid-America Sod Company (sod) and Ty Malley (sprinkler system). Others stepped forward, as well.

Caps for Brockmeyer, a plastic caps collection drive conducted last fall by the Chester Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts and Venture Crew, collected enough caps for five memorial benches (with a 200-pound donation by Girls Scout Cadet Troop 8128 of Pinckneyville).

Two of those benches are at the park, with the remaining three donated to the CPD, CFD and Chester City Hall.

Another memorial bench was built by Triple R Metal Works and Fabrication of Ellis Grove, with the help of Lorin Mott, Rich Inman and Todd Berry. Jason Sprengel, of Sprengel’s Innovative Kustoms, designed and painted the backrest.

The Chester High School Swing Choir, under the direction of Steve Colonel, sung the national anthem and performed “Angels Among Us” to close the ceremony.

“No doubt, we are all hurting, but it seems in the most trying times, this community consistently comes together,” Coffey said. “We put our differences aside and we show our community pride and our love for fellow man.

“That makes this hurt just a little easier, and I thank you all for that.”

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