Local leg of Torch Run a salute to fallen trooper
BY STEVE METSCH firstname.lastname@example.org June 11, 2014 4:32PM
Updated: July 13, 2014 5:04PM
Family, friends, coworkers and even some people who didn’t personally know James Sauter came out early Wednesday to pay tribute to the late Illinois State Police trooper.
They gathered at 6:45 a.m. in front of the village hall in Chicago Ridge for the annual Illinois Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Illinois.
This is the 14th year in which Chicago Ridge police have participated, and the second straight year they have run and walked the Chicago Ridge portion that is named in Sauter’s memory.
Sauter, who grew up in the village, died in March 2013 after his police cruiser was struck by a truck on the left shoulder of Interstate 294 in Northfield Township.
It’s still too difficult for his mother, Eileen Sauter, to talk about it. His father, Don Sauter, wearing a dark blue T-shirt touting the Torch Run, spoke briefly before he and his wife walked the local leg.
“It’s nice that they’re remembering my son this way,” Don Sauter said.
Asked about the large turnout, he said, “Jim had that kind of impression on people, I guess. I’m impressed more with the state troopers that came out.”
Several village officials joined them in the walk, going south on Ridgeland and west on 111th Street and south on Harlem Avenue to Illinois 83, where the torch was handed off to Palos Heights police. The torch eventually will make its way to Normal for the Special Olympics Summer Games scheduled for Friday through Sunday at Illinois State University and other sites.
Oak Lawn resident Jack Baker, whose daughter, Mother McAuley sophomore Shannon Baker, sang the national anthem before the run began, was impressed to see so many police officers and state troopers out early in the morning. Some wore light blue tank tops bearing Sauter’s name, which were provided by Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar.
“I think it’s great how the cops come out and support all these different events, not only Special Olympics. The hearts of public service people are amazing,” said Baker, a vice president with Marquette Bank.
Scouts from Troop 3665 presented the colors and gave an American flag that had flown at the village hall to Sauter’s parents.
Dan Hartell, a Cicero policeman, said he felt a kinship with Sauter.
“It means a lot because I was just hit by a car,” said Hartell, 46, a cop in Cicero for 15 years.
On June 17 one year ago, Hartell was hit by a car at 18th Street and Cicero Avenue while conducting truck safety enforcement. He was sent flying into a semitrailer. He broke his sternum, got a concussion and tore his right rotator cuff. He’s been recuperating for a year and is hoping to soon return to work.
“We caught the driver in Chicago. He hit me and took off. He did his three days in jail and he was done,” Hartell said. “I thought I was dead. It was 50 mph. I took it to the chest but was wearing a vest.”
His thoughts Wednesday were with the Sauter family,
Before the run began, village Trustee Dan Badon said the day “means a lot (to Chicago Ridge),” adding, “He’s one of ours.
“I’ve known the family personally for a long time. A very nice family. This is a tribute to them. This is a close-knit community,” Badon said.
“It’s tremendous to see such a large group of people, many more than last year,” Tokar said. “What a tremendous tribute, not only to Trooper Sauter but also what a great organization Special Olympics is. It’s a testament to what they bring to communities everywhere by putting on something like this.”