By Tammy Real-Mckeighan Fremont Tribune
CEDAR BLUFFS – Most people knew Jeff Hermanson as a deputy, or a firefighter or a K9 handler.
But besides being a great friend, he was also a duck blind custodian and garage sale buddy to Cody Kavan.
“We lost one of the best,” Kavan said quietly on a recent morning. “He was an outstanding person. His character of him was unmatched. His dedication of him to the community, on-shift, off-shift, was remarkable. ”
For more than 20 years, Hermanson was a deputy for the Saunders County Sheriff’s Department. I have served the Cedar Bluffs Volunteer Fire Department for going on three decades.
Hermanson, 45, died early in the morning on June 22. He and other officers had just finished arresting a stolen car suspect, when Hermanson said he wasn’t feeling well and drove to the Saunders County Medical Center in Wahoo.
He walked into the emergency room, let personnel know his symptoms and collapsed shortly thereafter from what officials believe was a heart-related issue.
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Hermanson is survived by his wife, Cindi, and their teenage sons, Brayden and Carter.
On June 28, law enforcement personnel and firefighters honored Hermanson with a processional prior to his funeral, leading the hear from Moser Memorial Chapel in Fremont to the Cedar Bluffs Auditorium, where the funeral took place. The public lined the route to pay their respects as well.
Those who knew Hermanson remember him as a dedicated deputy and firefighter, but also as a well-liked man who greatly loved life.
“He was the life of every party,” Kavan said of his longtime friend.
Sgt. Chris Lichtenberg of the Saunders County Sheriff’s Department expressed similar thoughts, adding how well Hermanson was regarded.
“There wasn’t anybody that didn’t like him,” Lichtenberg said. “He was liked by everybody he came across.”
Most recently, Hermanson was a good leader to deputies hired by the department last fall.
“He has been a great asset to our department and our new people, mentoring them and answering any questions, and leading them to be great deputies for our department as well,” Lichtenberg said.
Lichtenberg recalled Hermanson’s reliability.
“He was always super dependable,” Lichtenberg said.
Saunders County Sheriff Kevin Stukenholtz also described Hermanson as reliable and said he was recognized last year for having nearly perfect attendance at work.
Lichtenberg said Hermanson did a great job when he served as the department’s K9 officer. Hermanson worked with two Belgian Malinois, Rudy and Mac.
“He took that very seriously and that was a thing he was very, very proud of as far being able to do that for the sheriff’s office,” Lichtenberg said.
Hermanson conducted programs with the K9s in schools and for community events.
Rudy, who was certified for drug and patrol work and tracking, was involved in various drug cases, sniffing out a kilo of cocaine (about 2.2 pounds) in one case.
The dog helped in the apprehension of suspects, some of whom might not otherwise have surrendered.
Yet the dog’s formidable personality changed when he went home with Hermanson.
“He was as good of a family dog as he was a patrol dog,” Hermanson said in a 2015 Fremont Tribune article.
Due to old age issues, 12-year-old Rudy died that year and his loss was tough for the Hermansons.
Hermanson also was a handler for Mac, later reassigned to another deputy, who was a new K9 handler. Hermanson and the new handler went through training together.
Lichtenberg recalled the new handler saying Mac was one of the best dogs to work with and probably was one of the top in their class, because of the training Hermanson previously did with the animal.
Besides law enforcement, Hermanson served his community as a firefighter.
Cedar Bluffs Fire Chief Rob Benke said Hermanson was still in high school when he joined the town’s fire department.
Benke recalled Hermanson’s dedication as a firefighter and said he also was also an EMT. Hermanson was highly regarded by other firefighters.
“It didn’t matter in our department what age you were – if you were young or old or in between—everybody in the department enjoyed him and liked him. And, to me, that is a tougher job than the job itself – that everybody likes you,” Benke said.
Firefighters and EMTs cover fatal car accidents and tough situations involving fires. Benke said Hermanson not only looked out for the people involved in the accident or fire, but worked to make sure his fellow firefighters were doing all right emotionally.
Outside of the sheriff’s and fire departments, Hermanson was active with his family. He and his wife of him were high school sweethearts. Lichtenberg said Hermanson helped with youth football coaching and was super involved with his kids’ lives from him.
“He was one of those guys that certainly cared a lot about his family and they spent a lot of time together camping and doing things together,” Lichtenberg said.
Kavan remembers when he, Hermanson and others went hunting.
“He was like our personal custodian of the duck blind,” Kavan said. “Everything was clean. He always cleaned up the blind after us. He always had it ready for us.”
Kavan said he and his wife, Annie, enjoyed going to garage sales with the Hermansons and other camping friends.
Hermanson’s friends recall many times when he was the comedian. Lichtenberg, who’s also the assistant fire chief, recalls several comedic moments.
“A lot of times after fire department banquets, we would do karaoke and he would always be the one to grab the microphone away from somebody and be singing and having a good time,” Lichtenberg said.
Hermanson liked singing Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” and to be funny – because he was a deputy – he’d sing, “I Shot the Sheriff.”
Now, friends are grappling with the realization that they won’t be hanging out with Hermanson anymore.
“It’s not fathomable that we’re not going to see him,” Benke said.
But Benke has been thinking about something Hermanson’s oldest son, Brayden, said:
“He would want everyone to be happy, because he wanted everyone to enjoy life.”