Retired Bernards Township Police Officer James Keirstead, who passed away on March 29 at age of 70 at his home in Tennessee, will be honored on Saturday with a memorial service at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Basking Ridge, the township informed his fellow officers on Monday.
Kierstead had been a police officer in Bernards Township from 1968 through 1993. He continued to serve as a special duty officer from 1994 through 2001, according to the township and a detailed obituary at knoxnews.com in Tennessee.
"Jim was known as the 'gentle giant' who always kept his cool," said Bernards Township Police Chief Brian Bobowicz. "He was always 'there when you needed him for back-up,' which is a core trait in policing among the officers."
The chief recalls that Keirstead was a "professional that never complained and set the example of doing a honest days work of serving the residents of Bernards Township. Jim was friendly to the public and exemplified 'community policing' before it the term was coined."
The former officer is survived by his wife of 36 years, Karen Keirstead; sons, Richard (Carol) Keirstead of Warren Township; Brett (Amy) of Savage, MN, Harlan (Susan) Keirstead of Cranford; and grandchildren, James V. Keirstead, III, Jake, Hanna, Morgan, Eli, and Mikayla Keirstead, according to information passed along by the township's human resources department.
A service was to be held in his hometown of Loudon, Tenn., on Monday, the obituary said.
A memorial service in Keirstead's honor is scheduled for 11 a.m. this Saturday at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 140 South Finley Avenue in Basking Ridge, according to the township's memo.
Treasurer at St. Mark's for 20 years
His obituary said he had been a longtime volunteer at St. Mark's Church, where he served as treasurer for 20 years and was a member of the Vestry.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Kids First, Child Advocacy Center, P.O. Box 928, Lenoir City, Tenn., 37771.
According to his obituary, Keirstead had been a resident student at Bonnie Brae School in Basking Ridge.
He went on to graduate from Bernards High School in Bernardsville in 1961, and then from Montclair University in Montclair, where he earned an associates degree in law enforcement and a bachelors of science in business, the obituary said.
Keirstead had served as a volunteer in many capacities, with including Fort Loudoun Hospital, Good Samaritan Center, and Kids First Child Advocacy Center in Lenoir City, Tenn., as well as his service at St. Mark's, the obituary said.
Bernards Police Chief Brian Bobowicz remembers his early days on force with older officer
Responding to a request for his memories about the longtime officer, Bobowicz said that as a young patrol officer in Bernards Township, he was partnered for many years with Keirstead, starting with his first assigned squad of officers, which also included officers Helfin and Kozak.
"I found it a pleasure to work with Jim. On one occasion, Jim single-handedly saved me from serious injury at the hands of an emotionally disturbed suspect who was about to blind-side assault me with a homemade weapon. I have never forgotten this incident from my appreciation of Jim as well as from the aspect of tactical officer safety and awareness."
Bobowicz said that when he started with the department, Keirstead administered the department's participation in the Somerset County Police Pistol League, and guided him to improve his own skills and accuracy. "He was a solid marksman and committed to the program."
Bobowicz also said he remembers Keirstead as one of the busiest and most industrious people he has ever known. While working full-time as a police officer, he also kept extremely busy with side-jobs to supplement his income and provide for a family he loved and always spoke highly about, the chief recalled.
Keirstead's part-time jobs ranged from driving a township school bus, to lawn maintenance and even included butchering deer for local hunters, the chief said. But he added Keirstead truly disliked destroying injured deer as of his job. "While assigned to his squad, I would do my best to take all of these deer destruction calls for him which he seemed to be greatly relieved and appreciative!" Bobowicz said.
"Jim was a 'good person' that was missed in retirement and will be missed in his passing. I am honored to have worked with Jim," the chief said.