Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Justus Lauded as Sheriff Who Was Caring; PUBLIC SAFETY

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Justus Lauded as Sheriff Who Was Caring; PUBLIC SAFETY

Article excerpt

CAHOKIA Hundreds of law enforcement officials and community leaders filled Holy Family Catholic Church Saturday for the funeral of longtime St. Clair County Sheriff Mearl Justus, remembering him as a man who spent a lifetime looking out for others.

Justus died Tuesday at age 81, a week after stepping down as sheriff.

Civic, business, political and religious leaders gathered with Justus widow, Audrey, and other relatives to mourn the man who was the countys sheriff for three decades, and police chief in Cahokia for two decades before that.

In a sanctuary decorated for Christmas with pine wreaths and red- and-white flower arrangements, five priests celebrated the funeral Mass together. The Gospel reading was a popular section of Matthew, in which Jesus remembers the kindnesses of his disciples:

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.

But when his disciples say they dont remember caring for Jesus in the way he described, Jesus replies, Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.

LIVED ABOVE JAIL

Justus was one of the last sheriffs to live in his own jail, in his case in a three-bedroom apartment above the county lockup in Belleville.

In his homily, the Rev. Mark Reyling remembered delivering the Eucharist to the apartment on occasions when Justus and his wife couldnt make it to church. Good thing I was a priest because it took an act of God to get up to that apartment, Reyling said. It was safer than the jail.

Reyling said that when he first met Justus, he thought it was providential that someone named Justus was sheriff. Then, as I came to know him, I realized that it wasnt simply providential, but fitting.

More than 200 law enforcement officers from street cops to chiefs lined the churchs pews and stood wherever they could find room. Justus taught law enforcement at Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville, and many of those who came to pay their final respects did so from all manner of departments.

One of those officers, Sgt. …

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