“Life is what happens when you had other plans.” Not sure to whom that statement is attributed, but it surely applies and is most notable when life-changing events occur. My son-in-law died just over a week ago. Officer Jerry Whitson was the kind of man every father would wish for his daughter. Kind, loving, attentive, open, communicative, and always thinking of and doing for others before himself.
Jerry battled cancer for more than a year until it finally got the best of him. He died on January 20th after 57 years of a life well lived. I grieve with my daughter, grand-children, and Jerry’s family and friends at his premature passing, but we also joined in a celebration of his life. This man knew that he was going to the “promised land,” words made famous by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. just over 50 years ago in one of his memorable speeches.
In his 30 years of service in the San Antonio Police Department, Officer Jerry Whitson was the finest example of “a man of God on patrol.” He saw his role as more than “just a job.” This was a “calling”—a “call to justice.” Jerry exemplified the standards of the first public law enforcement officials, about which I wrote in a previous blog (see British “Bobbies” and American Police).
It is so often true that we don’t know how many lives were blessed and touched by someone until after their death. This was true for Jerry Whitson. So many persons attended the visitation the evening before his funeral that my daughter greeted persons who had been touched by Jerry’s life for nearly 3 hours, as the line extended up the long aisle of the spacious funeral home chapel. Jerry’s fellow patrol officers stood solemnly beside his open casket the whole time, doing a moving “changing of the guard” with an honorary salute every 15 minutes. Their response to my thanks and commendation for taking the time to do this was simply “Jerry woulda done it for me!”
The same sentiment and tribute to this departed brother patrolman was displayed the next day following Jerry’s funeral—appropriately termed “A Celebration of Life” in loving memory of Jerry Whitson. More than a dozen motorcycle patrolmen riding two abreast led the 2-3 mile-long motorcade for the one-hour-plus ride to Jerry’s final resting place in the Texas Hill Country. Officer Jerry Whitson, who had been selected to provide police patrol in Washington, DC during the Inauguration of President Barak Obama was now honored with one of his own.
I miss Jerry. I grieve for my daughter and grand-children who lost a great husband and father too soon in life. But we celebrate the life of this great “man of God on patrol.”