A bona fide hero

john siefert

john siefert

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Barbara Lawlor
Nederland

On Monday morning around 9:30, a long procession of vehicles traveled down Boulder Canyon. The drivers and the passengers were mountain residents heading to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church on Mapleton Avenue in Boulder. They were honoring their friend, their fellow firefighter, their fellow law enforcement officer, their father, their husband, their brother and their neighbor, John Siefert, who ended his life on Thursday, December 12, with a single gunshot.

The Nederland community and the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office were stunned at the news. Siefert had been in the hearts and minds of many for the past four years and those who thought of him prayed for him and wished him well.

In May of 2009, Siefert was named the Officer of the Month by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. He received a trip to Washington, D.C., and was judged a hero because of his actions on December 30, 2008, when he stopped a gunman who had killed Eldora Mountain Resort General Manager Brian Mahon early that morning.

When Siefert received the call of the shooting, he was a deputy with the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office and was at the Nederland Police Station. He headed up to the resort and on the way he saw a vehicle that matched the suspect’s car and turned around and went after him. The suspect pulled over and opened fire on Siefert, who knew he had to stop the man. When the gunfire stopped, the suspect was dead from a bullet shot from his own gun. It was over. Siefert had stopped him.

For his actions he was deemed a hero. Since then he has suffered the mental and emotional anguish that comes with the territory of being one who serves and protects. It was a pain that he couldn’t overcome and ultimately he opted to end that pain.

On Monday morning hundreds of people came to honor Siefert’s life and to once again proclaim him a hero, not just for that one act five years ago, but for the man he was in all aspects of his life.

It was a Catholic ceremony, with all the grace and eloquence that it entails. After guests had been seated, the satin-covered casket was slowly wheeled down the aisle, a candle burning above it. Pallbearers included family members; Rick Dirr, Nederland Fire Protection District chief; BCSO deputy Gary Robinson; and other deputies.

As the casket neared the front of the church, a glorious tenor voice shattered the solemn silence with the uplifting “Morning Has Broken.” Five of the front rows of the church were filled with about 40 law enforcement officers from various agencies, in uniform, with a black ribbon across their badges, paying Siefert the honor and respect he deserved.

The priest greeted the mourners and said, “It wasn’t long ago that John was heralded as a hero.” He went on to say that it was difficult to live the life of a police officer, with all the joy and with the pain of tragedy. He compared the reality of being an officer to the life of Job, who was beset with an unceasing trail of trials and tribulations. “An officer is trained to protect life, to make decisions; but no training can prepare you for the emotions of those decisions….When one gets up in the morning and puts on a uniform, they never think, this is the day I am going to shoot somebody.”

Father Terry Ryan stated that those who loved him should take comfort in the last few years, knowing that God was never closer to him, that John had lived a life for other people.

For those who ask why anyone would seek suicide as an answer, Father Terry Ryan said, imagine on September 11, 2001, when they watched people jump from 20-story windows to their death. “The terror and pain of experiencing where they were outweighed the fear they had of dying.”

Family friend and Buddhist monk, Gelong Tashi Gonpo was the single speaker at the memorial and he wanted everyone to know that a single act does not define a person. He also addressed the emotions of those who are left behind when someone takes his or her own life.

“In addition to our deep, soul-gripping sadness, we may feel anger. We might find ourselves having feelings of jealousy towards others who have not lost their loved ones. We have feelings of regret, thinking, ‘if only I had said or done something different.’ Some of us are shattered.”

He added that people who focus on regret and guilt lose their own lives, perpetuating the suffering. He asked that people accept what happened and have unwavering love for John.

Then Gelong Gonpo spoke of all the good things we should remember about our friend John Siefert: “He was a direct, no-nonsense, clear man of profound strength. A warrior, a cowboy, a sheepdog, a teacher, an avid reader who would consume a novel in a day or two.

“John Siefert was complex, outwardly tough as nails, but equally sweet and gentle; sometimes childlike in his love to play and laugh. He was the definition of masculinity, yet he would dance around goofily in his pajamas. He assigned silly, playful nicknames to those he loved: Woogums, Schnookie Bear, you know who you are.”

A consummate professional, John also loved his dogs, snowshoeing, hiking, friends, family and community. He was intense, but awestruck in the presence of any puppy. He had a persona of combat and aggression and yet he frequently showed Gonpo the picture he treasured of the Dalai Lama.

“John Siefert was a bona fide hero; his first instinct was to serve others with no regard to himself. He put his own life at risk so that others might live. His pure, unadulterated instinct was to put the care of others in front of the care of himself.

“This wisdom and care for others is said to be the very mechanism of happiness. To care for others is to express love. This was John Siefert.

“One act, one choice is not a legacy. Remember the things that brought you happiness. When you see beauty, think of John. When you think of someone else’s needs ahead of your own, think of John.”

Gelong Tashi Gonpo asked folks to “allow fond memories to illuminate the dark corners within your heart. Remember his love and honor his legacy and then you can understand and say goodbye.”

There will be a memorial held in Nederland in the very near future: a chance to tell stories and reminisce about all that was John. When a date and time is chosen, it will be posted on the Mountain-Ear website and in the paper.

Obituary

John Leo Seifert passed away Thursday, December 10, 2013 at his home in Nederland, Colorado. John was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to James and Nancy Seifert on November 24, 1962. John was a graduate of St. John’s University and received his Master’s Degree in Emergency Services Management.

John worked in his family business and was an entrepreneur owning several retail ventures headquartered in Michigan and Colorado. John was actively involved in his community of Nederland, Colorado.

John served as a Deputy Sheriff until his retirement in 2009. In 2009 John received recognition for meritorious and heroic actions. John was preceded in death by his parents and is survived by his wife Lisa Keeter; his children, Rebecca, Sierra and Nicole and their mother Sarah Poole Seifert; Sister, Kathy (Iowa City, Iowa); Brother, Jim (Cedar Rapids, Iowa); and 14 nieces and nephews. John’s passions were many and focused primarily on giving to others.

Memorials can be directed to the family, the Nederland Fire Department, or the Boulder County Sheriff’s Department for Victim’s Assistance. Services were held at Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church Monday, December 16, at 10:00 a.m.. To offer condolences, please visit gmfuneral.com.

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Barbara is a reporter for The Mountain-Ear.

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