‘What a loss of life,’ crowds gather along funeral route
By Michelle L. Quinn Post-Tribune correspondent July 14, 2014 8:00PM
Gary Patrolman Jeffery Westerfield's funeral contingent will pass under this American flag hoisted by the Gary Fire Department at 44th Avenue and Broadway. | Carole Carlson/Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 15, 2014 4:20PM
At 2:30 p.m. Monday, the heavens started crying.
Rainclouds toyed with mourners all day as they waited for the funeral procession to make its way down Broadway from the Genesis Center, where slain Ofc. Jeff Westerfield’s life was celebrated before being laid to rest at Chapel Lawn Cemetery in Schererville. They finally let loose as Westerfield’s body reached the Merrillville Municipal complex, but not before an hour’s worth of law enforcement agency vehicles paved the way.
And through it, people remained undaunted.
Friends Barb Gallo, of DeMotte, and Julie Rajsich, of Crown Point, finished each other’s sentences as the cavalcade drove by Asparagus restaurant in Merrillville.
“What a loss of life,” Rasjich said.
Gallo said the two traveled from South County to pay tribute.
“Here was someone who was shot by someone they swore to protect,” she said. “The heavens are crying today.”
Theresa Parker and Sunny Brodniak, who work at May Trucking in Gary, got caught in the detour that was Broadway for most of the afternoon. They never left their spot even as it rained.
“I’m new to the area, but I’ve never seen a turnout this big for a fallen officer before,” Parker said as she and Brodniak pointed out to each other the various departments represented. “The weather’s certainly fitting.”
Earlier in the morning, Patriot Guard members Dale “Doc” Ready, Jim Huskisson and Bill Almada stood watch over the shrine at 1301 Broadway, the site of the old Gary Police Station in which Westerfield was sworn 19 years ago next month. A Gary Police car marked the now-vacant lot, surrounded by several American flags.
The Patriot Guard was there most of Sunday night and was running around Monday morning, accounting for every detail.
“I think it’s harder on the kids than anything,” Patriot Guard Senior Rider Dale “Doc” Ready said. “We told them when it’s all over and they feel alone not to hesitate to call us.”
People in Gary started arriving at the 1301 Broadway site around noon, including Lorraine Clark, who brought her great grandchildren to witness the procession.
“I wanted to show my respect and show them how they honor the police,” Clark said. “(The city) wasn’t like this when my children grew up.”
Down at 44th Avenue, the giant American flag hoisted by two Gary fire trucks struck quite an impressive vision. Geraldine Black and her granddaughters, Lieko Barber, 10; and Ariel Barber, 8, took pictures of the sight.
“We’re going to see a lot of police cars, and I think it represents gratefulness,” Ariel said as Black smiled at how wise an observation the little girl made.
Over on 77th and Cline Avenue in Schererville, about 50 people came out to pay their respects. Construction workers crafting the town’s first roundabout stopped their work and removed their hardhats as the procession whizzed by.
Stacey Brown, of Schererville, watched the final leg of the processional with the 50 or so other people.
“It was a fitting tribute for an officer who sacrificed his life protecting the community he lived in. It was also a way to say thank you to the hundreds, if not thousands, of police in the procession who go to work and put their lives on the line every day. What kind of world would we be living in without people like that?”