One year ago today while responding to a call for assistance from a fellow officer Willoughby and Cleveland Clinic Police Officer Jason Gresko lost his life.
He served not one but two communities. He was a Swat Officer and a member of the Honor Guard where Cleveland Clinic named him Honor Guard Officer Of The Year.
He was twice Named Willoughby's Officer Of The Year. After his death he was named National Police Officer Of The Year. Jason was also a father, a husband, a son and a brother.
Since we started creating The High Roller Police Car rocker for his daughter Olivia we have gotten to know Jason as we do with all our heroes. We learned of the love he had for his family. Every breath he took was for his girls. His fellow officers have told the same story time and time again. His girls were his life.
We have also learned just what kind of an officer he was. We were told a story of a man he had arrested numerous times. He just didn't toss people in jail, he felt it was his duty to help. This man is now drug free and is working. He told Jason's family he owed him his life....That's just Jason being Jason.
Jason was more than just a cop. Jason is a true hero and made wherever he was a better place!
When I think of Jason, I remember one of the funniest, kindest, sweetest, and most loving people I have ever known. This is the man who when I met him for the first time at Sandra's bridal shower, he hugged me. This is the man who never forgot a birthday or holiday and was the first to send a text on those special days. The man who, as I went back through pictures I realized, was holding his little girl every chance he had. That in itself, is why I want to share a very precious memory in which I hold so dear to my heart.
It was Fathers Day 2009 and Mike and I were driving in the car with our nearly one month old daughter when my cell phone rang. Call from Sandra. OK. Well surprise, it wasn't just Sandra, it was both Sandra and Jason on the phone together to wish Mike a Happy 1st Father's Day. Not only that, but Jason was excited to tell us that we should be wishing him the same because it was technically his first Fathers Day too and Sandra had made him a cake to celebrate because they were now expecting! I'll always remember that moment. The excitement in his voice, and our excitement for the two of them. And may I think of that moment, and what an amazing Daddy he became, every Fathers Day for the rest of my life. We love you Jason.
Honor. . .Integrity. . .Service . . .
Those are more than just words to me. It is how my brother Officer Jason Gresko did what he did: with honor and integrity, while serving two communities. Those three words are not just a motto. These three words describe how Officer Jason Gresko conducted himself every day, with honor and integrity.
Law enforcement officers face the unknown each time they respond to a call. They run toward danger, they battle the bad guys, and help the helpless. Jason also did this every day. There is no way to know the number of lives he touched every time he went to work.
It is law enforcement’s job to fix problems and to seek justice. That is what they do. They cannot fix this, and that hurts. Officer Gresko went to work each and every day trying his hardest to help people and to make them better citizens. The reality is that I cannot make sense of this tragic loss of such an outstanding young man, outstanding officer, outstanding husband, outstanding father, and outstanding brother.
I know it is not only our family that is suffering. The attendance at my brother’s wake and funeral was a testament to not only the brotherhood and sisterhood of law enforcement, but to the contributions that Jason made to the lives of his family, friends, colleagues and the cities of Willoughby and Cleveland.
It was in 2002 that Jason graduated from the Cuyahoga Community College Police Academy and worked for the Timberlake Police Department until 2003, when he was sworn in at the Willoughby P.D part time. In 2006 he was sworn in as a full time police officer at the Cleveland Clinic. As he was working full time at the Clinic he still kept working at the Willoughby Police Department, his first love. Six is the magical number for Jason. In just six years at the Willoughby Police Department he was named Officer of the Year and he also received this honor again in 2012 posthumously. In just six years at the Cleveland Clinic Police Department he was named Honor Guard Member of the Year and as I write this letter he has been nominated by five different officers at the Cleveland Clinic for Officer of the Year. Also, in 2012 Jason received his most distinguished honor when he was named the 2012 Officer.com National Police Officer of the Year.
Jason always practiced good officer safety. He made prudent decisions. Tactically, he was a sound officer and fellow officers knew him as an outstanding patrolman who showed superior judgment and skill in his 9 years on the force. With over 20 training citations Jason was a go getter and always the first person either at a problem or the first one to back another officer up.
Friday, September 21, 2012 Officer Gresko was responding to an officer in distress call. One of his fellow officers was having problems with a combative individual. As Officer Gresko was in pursuit to help a fellow brother in blue a drunk driver pulled in front of his police cruiser. As Officer Gresko has always done he thought about the safety of the 4 individuals inside of this truck. He swerved around the truck losing control when his police cruiser hit the curb causing his police cruiser to smash into a tree. Despite the best efforts of his fellow officers, rescue personnel and Lake West Hospital staff, God called Jason home. Today, we honor Jason as a hero. Hero is also more than a word to me. It is a tribute given to those few who despite fear and despite personal danger, act with courage and coolness and generosity at the toughest of times and sometimes at the very cost of their lives.
We said goodbye to Officer Jason Gresko on September 27, 2012, but this is not the last day we will think of his service and sacrifice. Nor will it be the last time we think of his keen sense of humor, his glowing smile and his love of his family, especially his wife Sandra and his Daughter Olivia who he always talked about. To me Jason is not a hero for the way he died, but the way he lived his life each and every day serving and protecting those in need.
Honor. . .Integrity. . .Service... Never before have these words meant as much as they do today as the proud Brother of Officer Jason Gresko. Jason was not only my brother, he was a hero and my best friend.
Officer Jason Gresko’s Brother
Jason was all about family. His laughter will never be forgotten!
The Mabe Family
There are so many wonderful memories of our brother-in- law, Jason, that we have. However there is one memory that sticks out in our minds the most.
Adam and I found out we were expecting in May of 2010. We were quite surprised, and couldn't wait to share the great news with the family.
Coincidently, we had a small get together at Grandma's house later that day. Everyone was gathered in the living room, and Adam made the announcement.
We will never, ever forget Jason’s reaction. He jumped right out of the chair he was sitting in with such a surprised, happy look on his face. His mouth hit the floor, eyes wide, with the biggest smile (for those of you who knew Jason, you know what look I am talking about.) Needless to say, he was excited to be an Uncle again. Jason was the first of Kira’s Uncles to get to hold her too!
Jason will always be remembered in our hearts, and our daughters as well! She is now 2 years old and every time she sees a police cruiser, she mentions Uncle Jason.
We love and miss you Jay!
Adam, Leanna, and Kira
Celebrating the life of Officer Jason Gresko, by his beautiful wife......
Jason and I started dating in November 2000. We met thru our parents because my dad and his mom were dating! Yes, I almost married my step brother - lol. Needless to say, our parents didn’t work out (thankfully for us), but we were inseparable right from the start. Our first "date" was at Chuck E Cheese’s - it was his brother’s 8th birthday party. Although I attended college out of state at West Virginia University, Jason and I tried to see each other every other weekend and we talked every night for hours on the computer. Yahoo instant messaging was very cool then We did that for one year before I transferred home to attend Kent State University. Jason proposed to me down on the beach under the moonlight in July 2001. At that time, we’d only been dating for 8 months. I later found out that he’d actually bought the ring in February - just 3 months into our relationship. Looks like we were meant to be right from the start!
Jason and I were married on August 7, 2004. It was a beautiful day! We were surrounded by 225 of our closest friends and family.
I may be biased, but it was the BEST wedding ever! Whether it was the food, drinks, music or company, people still talk about it today. Jason dancing to the COPS theme song "Bad Boys" was hilarious, but my favorite memory is the wedding cake. I sure won that battle! He had cake all up in his face (and ears and nose). I had made him promise before the big day that he wouldn’t smear frosting on my face, but when that cake was in front of me and everyone started chanting "Do it! Do it! Do it!", I couldn’t resist - especially after noticing that my piece had all the frosting on it. It was one of the best decisions I\’ve ever made. I guess you can say it was love at first bite!
On June 19, 2009, I found out that Jason and I were expecting! I decided to wait two days before telling him because it would be Father\’s Day. To share the news, I woke him up with breakfast in bed. I’d made him a cake that said "Happy Father’s Day Daddy-To-Be!" He was so happy and made it clear from the start that he wanted daddy’s little girl. He was super involved in the pregnancy, attended classes with me, never missed a doctor’s appointment, and would send blast texts to his friends and family that everything was going well. When my doctor told us I could go into delivery at any time, I could tell that Jason was nervous as he started asking more questions than usual. A funny thing happened about a week before Olivia was born. I was doing laundry so my shirt was a bit wet from leaning over the washing machine. After putting some clothes in the dryer, I went downstairs to join Jason on the couch to watch a movie. As he put his arm around me, he felt the wet shirt, jumped up, and started yelling. I was taken by surprise, but quickly understood his behavior. He thought my water had broke! LOL Olivia was born on February 17, 2010. Jason was the first to hold, kiss, feed, and change her. We took turns getting up with her at night, and I’d often find him asleep in the rocking chair with Olivia on his chest. He was the best dad ever!
"Sandra" is not a word that came out of Jason\’s mouth often and if I did, it was kind of like hearing your mom call out your name because you were in trouble. "Punkie" was more his style . Many people have asked me about the nicknames "Mookie" and "Punkie". Well, they\’ve been around for as long as I can remember. You see, it didn’t take me long to realize that Jason liked his salty snacks. It seemed like each night, I found him snacking on chips, pretzels or popcorn - he called them his munchies. One evening after work, I walked in his house, saw him eating pretzels and said "Mookie Monkey likes his munchies". In reply, he said "Mookie? Look who’s talking Punkie - Punkie Brewster!" From then on, Jason has always been my Mookie and I his Punkie. How perfect was it that we had an OMG (Olivia Mae Gresko)! LOL
The Gerber Daisy was our wedding flower. See the olives on the branch? For Olivia.
Not only was Jason a phenomenal husband, but he was the best dad ever!
Olivia and I miss him so much and often talk about the things she remembers like him marching in parades, reading books before bed, going on bike rides, swimming, playing tag at the playground, going to high school football games, getting pumped up for Halloween, and visiting the zoo and duck pond. She even remembers how to slurp up spaghetti - just like daddy taught her.
Jason taught me to be a better person. I don’t know where I’d be today without having ever met him. Everything he did was for his two girls. We miss him so much, but remind ourselves daily of the things he’d wanted for his family. Giving up is not an option.
I would like to thank everyone for sharing their stories. Some I knew, some I did not and some I almost forgot. I am afraid that might happen more often as time goes by, but I keep faith that everything happens for a reason and God never gives us more than we can handle.
God Bless and thank you.