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Jon Charles Jeschke (WA-Fish and Wildlife)

The Loss Of
BIG JON JESCHKE
By: WDFW Sgt. Ted Holden
Fish & Wildlife Officer Jon Charles Jeschke passed away on Wednesday, May 7th, 2008, at the
University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle, Washington. Just like that, just the facts,
black and white. That was Big Jon, just the facts, almost everything black and white. The bad
guys knew him well and always knew that if they got caught there was no negotiating; it was
over. One creep made the mistake of calling Jon “Dude”. As in, “Like, dude, I didn’t do it, you
got the wrong guy.” The other Officers that were present immediately took a step back. Jon’s
response, (edited for this article) “I’m not your dude.” This is one of many “Jon-isms” that we all
often refer to. As more time goes by it is easier to smile at these “-isms” and the sadness of
hearing each one seems to diminish some.
Jon began his career with Washington State as a Forest Worker employed by DNR in 1971 while
he was still in high school. In 1978, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and was trained as a UH-1
(Huey) helicopter repairman and crew chief. He was stationed at Fort Lewis, in Tacoma, WA. In
1981, Jon separated from the Army, joined an aviation unit of the Army National Guard and
went back to the DNR, this time as a Forest Warden. In 1986, he was hired by the Department of
Fisheries as a Fisheries Patrol Officer in Long Beach. After cleaning up that area he transferred
to Chehalis in 1989. In 1994, his job title changed to Fish & Wildlife Officer and he transferred
to the Morton duty station and lived in Randle until May 7, 2008.
I got the call from WSP at 1050 on May 4th. I was at home just getting ready to head out to work.
“Sergeant Holden, this is WSP Communications. Officer Jeschke has collapsed and is being
transported to Morton General”. I told them that I was on my way. After 29 years of marriage,
my wife, who hadn’t even heard the phone conversation, took one look at me and said, “What
has happened?”
As soon as I got in the rig, I could hear other law enforcement agencies speaking in code on a
number of different frequencies: “where? “Morton”, “when? “little while ago”, “how’s it look?”
“bad”. We are a pretty tight knit enforcement community. It normally takes about 40 minutes to
get to Morton. I made it in somewhat less time. I don’t remember the drive really. I only
remember thinking, “OK; people survive heart attacks all the time, right ? He’ll probably be off
for 4-6 months and have a huge scar on his chest”. I do remember calling Officer Scott
Schroeder and asking him to head to Morton as well. I couldn’t give him any details, I just didn’t
know. He likely doesn’t remember his drive either. I also called Captain Schlenker to advise him
of the situation. Again, I couldn’t tell him much. I called WSP again and asked for any updates.
All they could tell me was that Jon had been with three USFS Officers when he collapsed.
When I arrived at the hospital in Morton I parked near the emergency entrance. I remember
seeing police vehicles scattered about, most poorly parked. As I started to get out, I looked up to
see two local emergency first responders next to the aid car in front of the emergency entrance.
They were embracing, and weeping. I knew, in my heart and in my guts, I knew that it was over.
I know that it sounds like I didn’t care, I gave up, I didn’t have hope, but my instincts just told
me that it was over. Hoping that this feeling was wrong, I steadied myself and went inside. As
you see on television, the emergency room seemed like chaos but was really extremely well
orchestrated. Medical staff was working on Jon in a small room filled with monitors, tubes,
wires, and on and on. The room had a glass wall and outside the wall; more and more grim-faced
law enforcement Officers gathered to look on.
I pulled USFS Officer Bob Tokach aside and asked him what had happened. I should note here
that Bob and Jon were the absolute best of friends; they were brother close. Bob told me that he,
Jon, another USFS Officer Ron Malamphy, and USFS Officer trainee Jeff McIntosh (yes, Lt.
McIntosh’s son) were talking with Jon in a parking lot in Randle. Jon was seated in his patrol rig
and suddenly collapsed. The three of them yarded Jon out of the vehicle and immediately started
CPR on him. They, of course, called 911 and deployed a shock pack as they worked their hearts
out on Jon and waited for the aid car. Though Jon never regained consciousness, Bob, Ron, and
Jeff worked relentlessly and never gave up. They really are the heroes through this ordeal. Were
it not for their diligence and commitment, I am convinced that Jon would have never, ever, made
it as long as he did. Their work made it possible for hospital staff in Morton and Seattle to utilize
the best medical procedures and equipment available on Jon, they gave him the chance, they are
heroes.
As more people arrived, the medical staff prepared Jon for Heart Flight to Seattle. Officers from
every agency came up to me and asked what they could do. I didn’t know what to tell them. I felt
that as the Sergeant, I was supposed to be in charge. I just didn’t know. I felt helpless. This
scenario repeated itself over and over in the coming weeks. I can’t tell you exactly how long we
were in Morton as it is still all a bit hazy. The next thing I do remember is helping load Jon into
the aid car for the short ride to the airstrip. There we had one heck of a time fitting Jon’s tall
frame into the helicopter. After some bending and re-arranging of stuff, he was in and off and
gone. After the ship lifted off and disappeared, I remember it being very quiet and still. In that
moment, I recall saying goodbye to Jon.
Now what do I do, I asked myself. Officer Schroeder was seeing that Jon’s vehicle and
equipment were all secured. I grabbed a biohazard bag and collected some uniform items from
the emergency room floor, threw them into my toolbox and headed for home. From that minute
through the next two weeks, I put logged over 1,000 minutes on my cell phone. I called my wife
and filled her in. I called the other Detachment Officers and Captain Schlenker and told them
what had happened. Officers Martin, Schroeder, Conklin and I agreed to meet at my residence
and travel to Seattle together. Officer Lantiegne came a little later and met us at the hospital.
We were met at the hospital by Jon’s girlfriend, Cenci Miner, her son, Charlie, and now
daughter- in-law, Katie. Cenci has been a WSP Communications Officer many years and her
son, Charlie, is a Washington State Trooper. Bob and Ron and their wives were also there when
we arrived. Jon’s sister Terry and her husband, Grady, flew in from Kentucky the next day. I
arranged for the Washington Game Warden Association to host their stay in Washington and set
up motel arrangements for them. I suggested to Chief Bjork that he ask a Captain to pick them up
at the airport. The Chief chose to meet them and transport them personally, a wonderful gesture.
We remained on vigil by Jon’s bed until he passed away quietly 3 days later. At one point, early
on, one of the many calls I received was from Mike Neil, a retired Fish & Wildlife Officer and
Police Chaplain. I hadn’t talked with Mike for probably well over 10 years and had no idea how
he had learned about the incident or gotten my cell number.. When I told him how grave the
situation was, he said that he would be there right away. Mike arrived a short time later and was
there with us until the end. At the time I didn’t realize how much it meant to have Mike there
with us. For me, personally, it was very comforting to have him present. He gave a wonderful
blessing right after Jon slipped away. I don’t remember much of the blessing, just that I liked it a
lot and that there was one particular part that stayed with me and likely always will. He said that
no one comes into this world without God’s permission, and no one leaves without His
permission. I’m not a huge God person, but, wow, that makes sense. The family asked Mike to
be involved in the Memorial service.
During that time at the hospital I tried to keep all of the key people advised of the situation.
Everyone wanted to know what he or she could do to help and, again, I didn’t know what to tell
them. I finally resorted to just saying “please just keep Jon in your prayers”. This seemed to put
people at ease, as though finally, there was something they could do to help. After the first two
days, I formed a list of people that I knew had close relationships with Jon. I started making
these calls and gently telling folks that if they wanted to say goodbye to Jon, they should come to
the hospital right away. Some people chose to come right away and others wished to remember
Jon as a healthy strapping man, grinning and laughing. Several people expressed guilt and
concern about choosing not to come. I tried to assure them that everyone was different and that
certainly no one would judge them. I sincerely hope that no one continues to carry any guilt
about this type of decision. As I said, everyone is different and handles things in a deeply
personal way. No one has a right to judge.
Jon told me once that one of his greatest fears was dying alone. This was most certainly not the
case. There was standing room only with family members, Officers, and spouses present.
The Memorial
Within a few minutes of Jon’s death, I was suddenly feeling intense pressure to plan a Memorial.
I have been to a number of Police Memorials that were huge, huge events. I had no idea of where
or how to start. I only knew that I was the Sergeant, Jon’s sister was leaving town almost
immediately and, as expected, Cenci was overwhelmed and having a tough time. I was it. I knew
that Mike Neil had worked on a couple of these events so I went to him for advice. Mike told me
that he would look into it.
Mike called within a couple of hours and gave me the name and phone number of a woman that
he said had experience with Memorials. I was exhausted, hungry, and didn’t want to think about
it for a while. I went to dinner with my wife. Over the next ½ hour, this woman called me, twice.
Finally, I gave in and picked up on her. This phone call was my, was our, saving grace.
Gayle Frink-Schulz is the Executive Director of the 10-99 Foundation. This quote from the
website says it all:
“Every day the men and women of law enforcement face impending danger as they are sworn to
protect our families, often putting themselves and their own families in jeopardy. In the United
States, 140-170 police officers are killed in the line of duty each year. Washington State
averages two-law enforcement deaths per year, and as of today, over 275 officers have been
killed in our state alone.
Most citizens are made aware of this grim reality only in fleeting headlines. Funds set up to help
the families of slain police officers may appear briefly on television screens only to disappear as
quickly as the next sound bite. What does not disappear, however, is the effect of these deaths on
the families of the fallen officers. While all families must cope with death, families of law
enforcement officers spend every day of their lives knowing they could receive the worst possible
news at any time. When tragedy does strike, frequently families of officers are subjected to harsh
public attitudes, ranging from indifference to hostility, instead of the universal respect and honor
that these heroes are truly due.
The 10-99 Foundation exists to provide assistance to the surviving families of law enforcement
officers killed in the line of duty in Washington. It is vital that survivors have a support network
with an understanding of the unique components to the traumas of a line of duty death. With the
assistance of the 10-99 Foundation, survivors recognize they are not alone and that their loved
one’s death was not in vain.”
A very important disclaimer note is necessary at this point. Jon’s death was an “on duty death”
rather than a “line of duty death”. This distinction has important ramifications that I won’t go
into here other than to say that an “on duty death” does not qualify for official support from the
10-99 Foundation. In light of this fact, Gayle assisted us on her personal time rather than as the
Executive Director of the Foundation.
Gayle Frink-Schulz is a mover and a shaker. She was instrumental in the creation of the
Washington State Law Enforcement Memorial. She lost her Trooper husband to a “line of duty”
death a number of years ago. She was by my side from the day after this phone call until helping
clean up the church after the Memorial. She is an angel.
Gayle, Mike Neil, and I met for lunch the day after Jon passed away. We discussed the fact that
this was an “on duty death”. I learned that “on duty death” Memorials are typically not as formal
and extravagant as “line of duty death” Memorials. This took some pressure off because it
suddenly was not the national event that I had envisioned. Gayle gave me a list of things to
consider and think about. The first order was coming up with a time and place. Mike had a
contact at a very large Life Center Church in Tacoma. After a number of calls back and forth we
had the time and place set.
A number of key players emerged almost immediately. Over the following week, a series of
planning meetings followed on almost a daily basis. Bob’s wife, Carolyn, jumped in with
decorating inside the church. Between Carolyn, Cenci, Gayle, and my wife, Pat, they put
together a wonderful tribute to Jon for the Memorial. Fish & Wildlife Sergeant Ted Jackson
played a huge role and took on everything that was to occur outside of the church. Coordination
of all law enforcement agencies was a major component and big responsibility. Ted successfully
organized and staged all law enforcement for the procession, saw them through Tacoma traffic
and got them into the church. The Freedom Riders motorcycle group formed the missing man
formation with their bikes as part of the procession. Ted also organized lead ushers and greeters.
Another key player that we could have never done this without was Trooper Brian Dorsey, WSP
Honor Guard. His experience was invaluable in setting up the urn watch ceremony and the bell
ceremony. I made all of the calls to Officers asking if they would like to participate and, if they
agreed, told them to show up at a time and place for Trooper Dorsey to train them. Fish &
Wildlife Lieutenant Dennis Nicks was there every step of the way as well. Dennis worked as the
liaison between Jon’s sister Terry, her husband, Grady, and WDFW. This involved shuttling
them between the airport, motel, and Memorial and seeing to all of their needs. The Washington
Game Warden Association hosted them during their stay in Washington. Fish & Wildlife
Officer Bruce Richards did a fantastic job putting together a DVD for the Memorial that
revolved around an old, old song about a coal miner named “Big Jon”.
Fish & Wildlife Sergeant Webb was tasked with the difficult job of arranging for the “last call”
CD for the ceremony. For those that don’t know, this is a live recording of the Officer’s last
radio traffic and signifies the end of Memorial.
”Wildlife 129 Packwood”,
”Wildlife 129”,
“Out Of Service”,
“Wildlife 129, 2035”,
This “last call” recording is extremely moving and is a powerfully symbolic act for all law
enforcement. This may very well have been the toughest part of the Memorial for myself and all
Officers.
Throughout this process I was in charge of all of these happenings, but had neither experience
with nor knowledge of how, when, or where to do them. In my wildest dreams, I never imagined
all of the details that would need to be addressed: sound systems, seating plans, printed
programs, music, people to speak, exits, entrances, music stands, flag poles, military honor
guards, flag purchases, order of Memorial, food for worker bees, food for reception, and on and
on and on. Delegate, delegate, delegate. It was the only way we, as a team, were able to be
successful. Through all of this, again, was Gayle Frink-Schulz gently making suggestions and
quietly helping with everything. I am so proud and honored to have worked with everyone
involved in Jon’s Memorial.
One regret that I do have is having missed the Law Enforcement procession from the staging
area in a nearby stadium to the church. I was so absorbed in details inside that I missed this
important part. Up until the very last minute we had hopes of a Chinook helicopter being part of
the procession but we just could not work it out with the military. Some issue with a couple of
wars going on at the time. We did give it a good try though.
One particularly moving part of the Memorial for me was the urn watch ceremony that Trooper
Dorsey put together. To describe it for those not present, Jon’s urn was displayed on a table
along with photos and memorabilia. Thirty minutes before the ceremony began Fish & Wildlife
Officers Moats and Hughes marched in step from different corners of the church to take
positions beside the urn. They were relieved 10 minutes later by Fish & Wildlife Sergeants
Brown and Nixon who marched into the church in the same manner and relieved Officers Moats
and Hughes with a synchronized ceremonial slow salute. Ten minutes later Fish & Wildlife
Officers Conklin, Martin, Schroeder, and Lantiegne, all from Jon’s Detachment, and I entered in
the same manner and relieved Sergeants Brown and Nixon with the same synchronized
ceremonial slow salute. When we were in place we all performed a synchronized head bow to a
parade rest position. We held this for 10 minutes until relieved by the Honor Guard Commander
and the beginning of the Memorial. I think that it went fine. I only remember panic. I seemed to
forget when to salute and when to about-face until it was time and then it went smoothly. In a
flash, it was all over. I don’t remember much other than it was a wonderful tribute to Jon. I
remember being approached by Honor Guard Officers from Portland, Spokane, and Vancouver. I
shared a dressing room with the Seattle Fire Pipe and Drum group. What a great group of guys. I
recall having some trouble concentrating on reviewing my notes while they were tuning
bagpipes.
The Washington Game Warden Association really stepped up with financial assistance. We
asked that donations be sent to the association in care of the Jeschke Memorial. Donations of
course flooded in and the association covered all costs of the Memorial from these funds. The
balance will go toward a plaque of Jon to be displayed at the Regional Office and Headquarters.
I would again like to acknowledge and thank USFS Officers Tokach, Malamphy, and McIntosh
for their dedication to a friend and colleague and for their gallant efforts to assist Jon. I cannot
begin to imagine how difficult that must have been. Thank you, gentlemen.
In closing, I want to share with you one particular image that I retain of Jon. On one of the first
days that I worked with him, we are investigating some nothing camping violation on the
Cowlitz Wildlife Area. We drive into a camp littered with beer cans, snotty nosed screaming
kids, 3 cars under repair, two barking pit bulls, and several adults waif-thin with open sores on
their arms and faces. An open fire is blazing, fueled by trees recently cut down next to the camp.
Jon gets out of the rig, slowly. He always got out slowly, so as to let the full effect of his 6’7”
frame sink in. He plops a baseball hat on his shiny dome. The hat rides real high and is cocked
back and at an angle. I can see the light reflecting off of his bald head through the mesh of the
hat. This is Jon’s show and he is center stage. Jon is in the zone, he is Kobe Bryant, he is
Michael Jordon, he has played this game a million times over and this is his thing. He swaggers,
and I use the word liberally, into the middle of this mess. Only Officers that have worked with
Jon will understand this swagger. It is just the way that Jon carried himself when in these
situations. He swaggers up to the most likely ringleader and says, “This your camp?”, the
response inevitably “yeah, why?”, and the inevitable answer, “I’m Officer Jeschke, you’re under
arrest”. This is followed by the normal melee of denials, name-calling, confirmed warrants,
stolen cars and so on, which are not important in my lasting image of Jon.
On May 7th, Jon swaggered off to another place. His hat perched just right on his bald head, a
smile on his face; he is off to find the next “bad” camp to wade into.
God Speed Friend
Keep Y’er Powder Dry
Ted

1 comment

  1. Eric Pate

    Dad,
    Its been nearly 3 years now since you left and I still miss you like it was yesterday. I am trying to be the man you were but I am having a hard time. I feel like I’m letting you down like I did when you were raising me. I cannot erase the last words you said to me and its too late to show you how sorry I am.

    I need you Dad. Just help me one more time. Just a nudge to get me facing the right direction because I am lost and I haven’t a clue what to do.

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