Clark County community and visitors from around the region and country gather for the Memorial Service of the detective who was shot and killed in the line of duty July 23
Like all who honored the life and mourned the death of fallen Clark County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Jeremy Brown Tuesday, Julie Savolainen, Brown’s sister, has been flooded in recent days with emotions and memories of the man who was shot and killed in the line of duty on July 23 in Vancouver. But, one memory keeps rising above all others for Savolainen.
“What keeps going through my mind is him saying throughout the years and as far back as I can remember, ‘I’m not going to live long sis,’’’ Savolainen told the approximate 3,000 in attendance Tuesday at Brown’s Memorial Service held at the ilani Casino Resort. “As family, most of us were aware that in his very soul, Jeremy knew his life would be cut short. Yet, he was still intentional about choosing to begin his career with the U.S. Marine Corps and ending it here with the Clark County Sheriff’s Office.’’
Brown was 46 at the time of his death. He would have turned 47 on Aug. 1.
“When you remember Jeremy, I hope you remember him as the one who willingly served and put his life on the line for his country, his community, his family, his friends and those who he didn’t even know,’’ Savolainen said. “I can’t think of anything more honorable and I thank all of you who continue to do it every single day.’’
Savolainen was one of a handful of speakers who highlighted Brown’s Memorial Service, which followed the Memorial Procession that left Clark College at about 11 a.m. Tuesday morning. The procession included more than 300 law enforcement and EMS vehicles. By the time the hearse carrying Detective Brown arrived at the ilani Casino Resort, the final cars in the procession were just leaving Clark College as the procession stretched more than 15 miles.
The auditorium at the ilani Cowlitz Resort was filled to capacity. Vancouver Church opened its doors to the public for a viewing of the service, which was streamed live by area television stations and other social media sites.
Chaplain Peter Schrater began the Memorial Service shortly after 1 p.m. with the Invocation. His theme was tension and dichotomy.
“Today, we can be caught in our own way, in our mind, with whether we are talking about the past or thinking about the future,’’ Schrater said. “Are we celebrating life or are we mourning death? Are we supposed to be crying? Is it ok to do laughing?
“I believe that for you and I today, that by learning how to cry, we actually get better at laughing,’’ Schrater added. “By learning how to laugh, we get better at crying. By celebrating life, we actually learn how to mourn death. By mourning death, we actually put more value on life. And by reflecting on the past, it helps us look into the future. And by seeing the future, it helps to not forget our past. So that’s my prayer for us today, that we can live in that tension and that dichotomy.’’
Brown’s family, which his son Gage would later describe as “our blended family, our lopsided Brady Bunch,’’ then took the stage at the Memorial Service. His wife Jill spoke first.
“I want to thank everyone for being here today to honor my husband, Sergeant Jeremy Robert Brown,’’ Jill Brown said. “I wanted to take a brief moment to welcome each of you personally and express my family’s gratitude for the overwhelming support, encouragement, generosity, and love that has surrounded us over this past week and long into the future I’m sure.’’
Jill said that “Jeremy was my everything. Those of you that knew him are definitely thinking ‘Amen,’ mine too, because that’s just who he was. The most sincere, honest, loyal, loving, and driven man that one could ever know. He was so many things to so many people.
“He was devoted to his profession and those that he served with. He was a true brother. He lived to serve and protect and he has made the ultimate sacrifice in doing so. For those of you who did not know him, I hope the messages that you hear today and the photos that we share with you are enough to convey just a portion of his heart and his strength. For those of you that loved him, my wish is that you will find some comfort in being surrounded by those that recognize your grief and truly understand what has been taken away from us. That you will embrace all the beautiful things that made Jeremy who he was and take them with you when you leave here today and aspire to be and to do more of these things in your own lives.’’
Jill said her husband was “a lion.’’
“Jeremy did not just have the heart of a lion, he was a lion,’’ Jill said. “There are very few lions in this world and walking with one of them is a gift for which we should be eternally grateful. Someone once said, ‘the thing about a lion is it doesn’t have to tell you it’s a lion.’ And that was so true of Jeremy. He walked life with a quiet, humble strength that cannot be explained. It just was.’’
Jill introduced the couple’s children as Gage, Brooke, Ashton, Tyson and Blake (no spellings were provided). She referred to them as “Jeremy’s pride.’’
“He was a lion and he was so proud of his children,’’ she said.
Gage Brown then spoke about his father, sharing that Jeremy grew up in Sweet Home, Oregon and played all sports in high school, but Gage said his dad lived for football, wearing No. 40 and playing fullback. “He was a warrior and they knew it,’’ Gage said of his father’s opponents.
Gage said that when his father was in the eighth grade he saw the senior photo of Jill and told her brother that he was going to marry her. “Many years later, they found each other and they did get married and it was beautiful. We never saw them fight because they didn’t. Their marriage was a mix of a quiet, knowing mutual respect, true friendship and a healthy dose of teenage crush that always found the way to linger in the background. They loved wandering together, always going somewhere or in the middle of planning their next adventure. We tried to represent his love of these times today on this stage because they were healing moments for him. It’s how he recharged being outside in nature, preferably near the water was his therapy.’’
Gage said that he and two of his siblings — Ashton and Brooke — are all getting married soon.
“He was to be my best man; he was to walk his beautiful daughters down the aisle,’’ Gage said of his father. “He was already planning how he would divide up his time in retirement among all of his grandkids that would be scattered across the west.
“Our dad was a man of integrity, honest to a fault, sensitive, resilient, and wicked smart,’’ Gage said. “He had a tough life and faced much adversity from a very young age but it never made him bitter. It inspired him to be better.’’
Gage said Jeremy and Jill had a six-year plan for retirement.
“He longed for the day that he and Jill could travel without an itinerary or a schedule and a return date,’’ Gage said. “He was counting down the days to retirement. They were on a six-year plan and he was all about it.’’
Gage pointed out that his dad entered the Marines as an MP in 1983 before becoming a reservist while going to school at the University of Montana. He then worked at the Larch Corrections Center before joining the Clark County Sheriff’s Office in 2008, where he served as a deputy, school resource officer, marine patrol officer and on the Drug Task Force. Jeremy Brown was a master instructor for the CCSO’s defensive tactics program.
“I knew what he did and where he went each day but somehow I had a hard time acknowledging what that actually meant, what a risk he actually took every single day,’’ Gage said. “My dad was a hero, not just for the fact that he has lost his life in the line of duty but for all of the things he did.
“As his children, we would simply ask that you remember him as the exceptional human that he was and inspired others to be, that you would leave today with his name on your heart,’’ Gage said. “A fallen warrior does not want tears. He only wants to be remembered well.’’
Savolainen said that her brother was the glue that held their family together.
“Lucky for us, his greatest obsession was his family,’’ she said. “It was hands down his top priority.
“Matthew 6:1 says, ‘Where a man stores his treasure, there his heart will be also.’ If you knew my brother, you would know that his treasures were his faith and his family,’’ Savolainen said. “I’ve heard it been said, ‘it’s not the amount of years you live, it’s what you do with the time you are given. I can tell you that Jeremy did not waste it. He was not just alive. He lived and lived every minute.’’
Clark County Sheriff Chuck Atkins shared the night he got the call that Brown had been shot in his vehicle while in surveillance of suspects in a recent theft at a storage facility that included guns.
“From the moment I was called that Friday evening and given the tragic news, I was immediately numb as I scrambled to gather myself and prepare to race to the hospital,’’ Atkins said. “I had a million things going on in my head. I just had no idea what I would see when I arrived.
“What I saw when I arrived was a grief-stricken group of deputies and police officers and the looks on their faces brought back a scenario I had experienced once before in my career,’’ Atkins said. “I knew we would need a lot of help to get through this. What an understatement!’’
Atkins spoke about how the outpouring of support the CCSO has received from the community, fellow law enforcement agencies and others as its staff members have dealt with the recent tragedy.
“Jeremy had a genuine service heart,’’ Atkins said. “If you were blessed with a moment to just sit and talk with him, over anything and everything you could possibly think of, you felt just how much he loved and cared for others. He loved the Sheriff’s Office, but you really felt his love when he talked about his family.
“Jeremy loved his job at the Sheriff’s Office, but he fully understood that his job was down the list of importance and that his faith and his family and his friends came first,’’ Atkins said. “That is something that I truly hope today everybody in this room hears loudly and you can keep that in your mind.’’
John Horch is the chief criminal deputy at the CCSO.
“Jeremy would always thank me for mentoring him when in fact it was him teaching me how to show grace, mercy and kindness,’’ Horch said. “There are only a few people in my life that I would call true friends and he is one of them.’’
Horch described Brown as “humble, pure of heart, dedicated, loyal, inspiring, but most of all authentic. “He was a rare person who left you feeling happier by being in his presence. He never had to try to make people like him. It just came natural.’’