OELWEIN, Iowa — Fallen Iowa State Patrol Sgt. Jim Smith was based out of the District #10 office in Oelwein, and that is where his squad car has become a memorial to honor him and show support for his family.
Just steps from a busy highway in Fayette County, the moments of silence speak volumes.
“Understand the sacrifice that they go through day in and day out to keep you safe,” said Robin Eick, a friend of Smith.
Receiving an outpouring of support since Smith’s death in Grundy Center over the weekend, the Iowa State Patrol turned Smith’s patrol vehicle into a memorial outside the building he was stationed at in Oelwein.
“It means a lot, the outpouring and support,” said Eick, whose retired husband used to work with Smith as a state trooper. “He was a great man. He really was. He was a worker. He was kind and caring. He had a great family and he’s truly going to be missed.”
Stephanie Perry owns Flowers on Main in Oelwein and says she didn’t have to know Smith for his death to impact her. “It’s really powerful to me. It’s really emotional, too. It just shows how many lives he really did impact,” said Perry.
Perry helped the community deliver their condolences. Flowers, wreaths and balloons draped Smith’s vehicle. Eick made sure Smith’s favorite football team was present with a stuffed animal. “I know he liked the Vikings, so I thought I’ll just start with that,” said Eick.
Smith’s law enforcement career began in 1993. He was relocated as a state trooper in 1996 to District #10 in Oelwein. His 27 years of service proved to the community his passion to protect and serve. That’s why for so many his death is so difficult. “It’s hard, but somebody told me that God had a greater purpose for Jim and he wanted Jim even though we weren’t ready for him to go,” said Eick.
After leaving the memorial, it was clear for those who stood in silence that Smith was more than a badge number. “I’m very grateful for his service and everything he did for his community around here, and like I said, it’s a little more emotional than I expected it to be, but it does make you stop and think,” said Perry.
A public funeral service for Smith will be held this Friday at 10 a.m. at Independence Community High School in Independence, Iowa. A public visitation is planned for Thursday from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Reiff Family Center-Funeral Home and Crematory in Independence.
A memorial fund approved by Smith’s family has been established at BankIowa in Independence. Contributions to the “Iowa State Patrol Sergeant Jim Smith Memorial Fund” can be mailed or dropped off at the BankIowa location at 305 Enterprise Drive. Smith’s family plans to create a memorial scholarship in remembrance of him, the Iowa Department of Public Safety said.
Gov. Kim Reynolds has ordered all flags in Iowa to be flown at half-staff on the day of Smith’s funeral.