Procession, memorial service marks 1-year since death of Steamboat Detective Sgt. Jeff Wilson (with video)
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Tears fell from eyes, and attendees removed their face masks to wipe their noses Saturday as Steamboat Springs Police Department Cmdr. Jerry Stabile pulled out his radio to hear the broadcast from Routt County Communications.
“Routt County Sam 62,” a dispatcher said over the radio.
“Routt County Sam 62,” the dispatcher said again.
“No answer Routt County Sam 62. Sam 62 out of service. Detective Sgt. Jeff Wilson gone but not forgotten,“ the call ended.
The tradition, known as the last radio call, is performed at memorial services for fallen emergency responders. The “S” in “Sam,” stands for Sergeant, the 6 is the code for Steamboat Springs and the 2 represents the late responder’s badge number.
In this case, the ceremony was performed for the late Detective Sgt. Jeff Wilson, who died of cancer one year ago.
While Wilson’s memorial service Saturday focused on his public service, his friends and family also wanted to emphasize that Wilson was a father, husband, brother and friend.
“We miss our brother, our friend, our father and our husband,” said Josh Carrell, a former Steamboat Springs Police Department officer who now works in the 7th Judicial District Attorney’s Office in Montrose County.
Wilson got his start in law enforcement with the Hutchinson, Kansas, Police Department in October 1998. He then spent 10 years with the Hesston Police Department before moving to Steamboat in November 2011. He was a patrol officer before being promoted to patrol sergeant in 2013. In 2018, he became the department’s first detective sergeant and worked several high-profile cases.
In addition to his work as an investigator, Wilson was responsible for coordinating rapid response training sessions across Routt County and the surrounding area to ensure that first responders, including police, fire and medical personnel, were prepared for the worst-case scenario of an active shooter.
Carrell encouraged the crowd of about 100 attendees at Steamboat Christian Center to follow Wilson’s example and “appreciate every day that we have.”
“Jeff wasn’t afraid of death, and he was never one to say he wish he would’ve done more,” Carrell told the crowd. “As we continue in life, let’s remember the life of Jeff and remember the hope that Jeff had.”
Friends who met Wilson while he worked in Kansas also attended the ceremony and discussed his legacy as a police officer in Hesston. They said he was a leader who always set an example for others in the department and was an officer who always encouraged others to strive for greater success.
Doug Schroeder, chief of the Hesston Police Department, told the crowd that he and Wilson met when they were 18 years old and attending criminal justice classes at Hesston College. Schroeder was offered a position years later to serve as chief but didn’t originally want the position because of external stressors in his life at the time.
“Jeff said that he’d like to come wok for me, and that pretty much sealed the deal,” Schroeder said. “To have my friend back there, knowing what he could do and knowing how he loved people and how he treated people was definitely something I wanted to be a part of.”
Wilson was Hesston’s first hire in 2001. Four years later, a fellow officer and the former chief were both shot in the line of duty.
While Wilson was grieving over those deaths, his first response was to sign up for the emergency team and assist those that had been hurt.
“That takes a lot of courage and a lot of heart,“ Schroeder said. “I’m a much better man, both personally and professionally, because of Jeff.“
Steamboat Police Chief Cory Christensen said Wilson perfectly filled his role as the department’s first detective sergeant.
“He excelled in his job, and he excelled in his commitment,” Christensen told the crowd. “He really built that position, and we’re very proud of what he did.”
A resident of Clark, Wilson also had volunteered for the North Routt Fire Rescue District.
“That’s just the kind of person Jeff was, when he wasn’t doing police work, he was working hard for his friends in North Routt,” Christensen said.
Wilson grew up in Kansas, but when he moved to Routt County, “he fell in love with having everything he loved be within five minutes,” Stabile said. Wilson enjoyed ice fishing, skiing, snowmobiling and other outdoor activities, in addition to his work with law enforcement and fire rescue.
“Although his time on Earth was short, Jeff made significant impact,” Christensen said.
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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