Mike Kellems: It is time

LaPorte County Sheriff Jan Rose presents Mike (with a full head of hair!) with a certificate following completion of a police cadet training academy, circa 1981.

Mike in his days as a volunteer firefighter.

Promoted to patrolman, circa 1989.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Mike Kellems has been a generous and talented photo and story contributor to WNLP pretty much since our inception in 2009. Through many of his shared thoughts and experiences, we’ve gotten a glimpse of just what it takes to be a cop day in and day out — the tragedies and the triumphs. While he announces in this heartfelt column that he is ending his career with the LaPorte County Sheriff’s Office after more than 30 years, he has told us that he will continue to occasionally write and take photos for us. If he does not, we will have him arrested. Congratulations, Mike.   

(Click photos to enlarge)

By Mike Kellems

It is time. On January 2, 2018, I will work my last day as a police officer for the LaPorte County Sheriff’s Office. When I became a policeman more than 31 years ago, I knew there would come a day that I’d have to decide: stay at the department until the end of time, or retire, or start a second career and a second pension? Fortunately, my decision was helped along in September 2017 by a job offer. On January 3, 2018, I will begin a new career overseeing Safety and Security for the Duneland School Corporation in Chesterton.

With one of the Oakland A’s World Series trophies at A’s owner Charlie Finley’s LaPorte home.

This came about quickly and it is a very good opportunity. For much of my career as a police officer I have had one foot in education: D.A.R.E. officer, LaPorte School Board member, swim coach, and school resource officer. With my new career, I’ll be rooted in education with one foot in law enforcement.

Since this opportunity has presented itself, I’ve thought a lot about my time serving as a police officer in LaPorte County. I have seen my share of tragedy along with triumph. A seasoned police veteran once explained that every tragedy we see becomes a domino in our heads and one day, those dominoes will surely fall. Well, as you can imagine, I’ve got a lot of dominoes; so many deaths over the years. Fires, crashes, suicides, homicides, drownings, plane crashes. I’ve responded to dozens and dozens of these calls in the past three decades. Thankfully, as a self-defense mechanism, I’ve filed many of these “dominoes” away so deeply that I cannot easily recall details, yet there are many etched into my memory. I will never forget.

Cops see so much sadness and grief that we quickly learn to put those memories in a place that we hope never gets opened. I will always have a special place in my heart for those who have died tragically and the families that were devastated by the loss.

I am going to work hard at focusing on the triumphs I’ve been witness to in my career. A few that will be in my “highlight reel” include the recent efforts save 3-year-old “Bubby” following a farming accident; nearly two decades of honoring our county’s fallen police officers; working with the state Legislature to have Ind. 39 named in honor of fallen LaPorte County Patrolman Neil Thompson; participating in many great LaPorte 4th of July Parades; and the many police escorts for area sports teams as they advanced in tournament play.

The 1997 Slicers basketball team at semistate outside Mackey Arena.

A particular favorite: the 1997 LaPorte Slicer basketball team. I was privileged to lead the team as they progressed from sectionals to regionals, to semistate and finally the state championships in Indy. It’s very easy to get caught up in all the excitement surrounding high school sports, and I’m thankful to have had a small part in the memories created.

Like many police officers, I’ve worn many hats in addition to everyday duties. I was a fire investigator for a dozen years and worked very closely with many of our great volunteer fire departments. Ten years on the SCUBA Team kept me busy on the many lakes in the county. For 20 years I was a hostage/crisis negotiator and responded to many incidents, helping to resolve a distressed person in crisis. I’m thankful to have had the chance to start the department’s annual Peace Officer Memorial, a service that honors the county’s and the country’s fallen police officers. Thirteen Peace Officers have given their lives serving the citizens of LaPorte County; more than 21,000 have paid the ultimate price across the Unites States. The very least we can do is gather each year to pay tribute and we should never, ever forget their sacrifice.

Mike’s first DARE class graduation at LeMans Military Academy in 1998.

One of the things I’m most proud of is having the chance to mentor students as they pursued careers in law enforcement. Several have gone on to careers in police work and by all accounts, they’ve become successful on the job. Having had a small part in lending a hand as their careers unfolded has been incredibly rewarding.

As my career in public service knocks on the door of 32 years, plus six years as a county police cadet, I will be leaving at the top of my game with my head held high. I’d like to think that when duty called, I answered and gave 100 percent.

On May 12, 1986, LaPorte County Sheriff Jan Rose took a chance on a 20-year-old kid. I’ve been grateful for the opportunity to serve the citizens of LaPorte County ever since. 

Mike (right) with close friend Mark Wilhelm in the early 1990s. They both served as police cadets and with the sheriff’s department. Mark is now a policeman in Colorado.

With “Splish & Splash” before a parade. The one on the left is now Sheriff’s Sgt. Adam Hannon.

Howe Military Academy students and Mike at a DARE project that involved rocker Ted Nugent (second from left) at a shooting range.

At a gathering to talk with Marquette High School students about the dangers of drinking and driving in March of 2017.

31 Responses to “Mike Kellems: It is time”

  1. Jim Burke

    Dec 04. 2017

    Mike, as a fellow retired public servant I salute you for your 30+ years of dedicated service to our community. As you move into the education field I know you will excel.I hope to continue seeing you at our monthly American Legion breakfast!

    Reply to this comment
  2. David Maule

    Dec 04. 2017

    You’re a good man and citizen, Mike. We worked together on a fire investigation several years ago.
    Whenever I would run into you you always had a smile and greeting. LaPorte County will truly
    miss you. Good luck in your future endeavors .

    Reply to this comment
  3. billiewomack

    Dec 04. 2017

    Mike Congrads on your soon to be retirement. I’ll always remember you coming into Wendy’s for your salad bar and big Ice tea. Good luck in the next phase of your life, hugs to u for your service to the dept.

    Reply to this comment
  4. Walter Brath

    Dec 04. 2017

    Congratulations Mike,
    I will miss our lunches at the Deli each week driving Nancy nuts with our complaining about the damn bright light above our table. I guess I have the privilege of having the first seat now….
    I remember you as a cadet on the Sheriffs Dept. sitting in on one of my classes I taught,” Directing Traffic”. I don’t remember if you passed that class or not.
    Seriously, I am proud to have worked with you thru the years, you are a dear friend. I hope your years at Duneland will be as productive as your tenure at the Sheriffs Dept. Please keep in touch..

    Walter Brath

    Reply to this comment
  5. Nancy

    Dec 04. 2017

    We are all very saddened to see this come about. A great friend and customer you certainly have been. Who will do our testing and push us to think better? We still have to negotiate I prime item I need! So sorry to see you leave, I know we will remain close.

    Reply to this comment
  6. AJ. Serafin

    Dec 04. 2017

    Congratulations on your great career of service to all of LaPorte County. Best wishes for you future endeavors.

    Reply to this comment
  7. SuzQuz

    Dec 04. 2017

    Mike, you have been a faithful figure all around La Porte County, and we have always been aware of, and grateful for, your presence. You will leave a noticeable void. Our family has been the recipient of your excellent, quick-thinking police work, as well as your warmth and kindness. I can’t imagine how many other people have had similar experiences. Thank you for your service to our community. May your next endeavor be a blessing to you and those you lead. But please let us see your smiling face around La Porte from time to time!

    Reply to this comment
  8. Jerry

    Dec 04. 2017

    Great job Mike. Thank you for your service. The best of luck on your next career !!

    Reply to this comment
  9. Judy Keene

    Dec 04. 2017

    A job well done Michael, you should leave the department knowing that you have served this community with integrity and honor. Your involvement in so many aspects of the community outside your regular position has been a blessing to everyone. I also enjoyed working elbow to elbow with you in our older communications room before 9-1-1 took effect. Although it was short lived we new that as a dispatcher you wouldn’t be with us long before you were placed on the road to further your career. I also thank you for the many, many times you had Jon’s back on many calls, we both trusted you and your expertise on each and every call. You do and will always mean so very much to us as a friend and co worker to us both. As sad as it may be to see you leave, we are very proud of you and wish you the very best in your new position, they are very lucky to have you and we know that you will do a great job.
    Good Luck !! Jon and Judy Keene

    Reply to this comment
  10. Jan Thode

    Dec 04. 2017

    Congratulations, Mike!! Wishing you all the best in your new position. Thank you for your dedicated service our community and LaPorte County over the past 31 years. You will be missed!! Jan & John Thode

    Reply to this comment
  11. Deb

    Dec 04. 2017

    Congratulations on a new chapter in your life. Thank you for the many years of dedicated service. We will miss you but hope to see you from time to time out and about the county.

    Reply to this comment
  12. Steve Leliter

    Dec 04. 2017

    Mike,, you have made La Porte a better place. Starting at Crichfield School, we have had many nice talks. I have enjoyed them all. I have enjoyed your wonderful smile too. Best wishes, Mike.

    Reply to this comment
  13. Tom Thode

    Dec 04. 2017

    On behalf of the Kankakee Twp. Fire Department I want to thank you for all of your years of support you have given to us and our community. You not only have been our friend but have always looked out for us on the many incidents that we covered together. You will be missed but we also want to wish you the best on your new career.

    Reply to this comment
  14. Mike Sitar

    Dec 04. 2017

    I said it before and I’ll say it on this occasion: Any cop who likes ice cream is ok by me. Happy retirement.

    Reply to this comment
  15. FRED RANKIN

    Dec 04. 2017

    I want to thank you for being my friend and also the best friend of our community. It put a smile on my face when I would see you at a high school game or function for the community. I wish you the best in you future endeavors.
    Thanks😊🏀

    Reply to this comment
  16. Jean Kaufman Maxson

    Dec 04. 2017

    Mike, Thank you for your service!! You have always been such a great guy and mentor. Congratulations on your new career, Duneland Schools will love having you.

    Reply to this comment
  17. Beans

    Dec 04. 2017

    Congrats Coach! Good luck and have fun

    Reply to this comment
  18. Nancy Trafelet

    Dec 04. 2017

    To Mike:

    On behalf of my husband Charles R. Trafelet, I want to wish you the best in your new position. As always you will do your utmost.

    You played a huge part in getting Chucks grandfather Ephraim V. Reid listed on The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, DC. This endeavor will always be remembered.

    Thank you for the gracious words you spoke at his funeral. It is always nice to hear about a teacher influencing his former students.

    Congratulations on a job well done. Wishing you the heartiest good luck on your new job

    Nancy Trafelet

    Reply to this comment
  19. Dr. Alva R. Miler

    Dec 04. 2017

    Mike, Congratulations on your thirty-one years of service to LaPorte. I have enjoyed all your pictures I have seen online at WNLP. Good luck in your new position.

    Reply to this comment
  20. Pat Stayback

    Dec 04. 2017

    Congratulations Mike on your retirement from LCPD, it was a pleasure to work with you many years ago. Thank you for all your service and dedication in all the areas you served.
    God Bless in your new adventures, we all know you will be an asset to their Agency.

    Reply to this comment
  21. Dennis Bernth

    Dec 04. 2017

    I remember when you were one of the officers bugging us ‘old guys’ to retire and get out of your way, now it’s your turn! I hope the younger guys have been bugging you for the last ten years the same way you did us. Enjoy your new job, you’ll do great at it, you sure have the experience and resume for that job. And thanks for all you did when we had a particularly bad time back in 1999, it will never be forgotten.

    Reply to this comment
  22. Kelly

    Dec 04. 2017

    Mike, wishing you continued success in Chesterton! You truly have been an outstanding citizen & a role model of an officer to the LCPD.

    Reply to this comment
  23. Hugh Tonagel

    Dec 04. 2017

    Mike,
    Congratulations on your retirement and thanks for your years of service to this community and county. We are a better place for having you be a part of it! Your expertise in working with people and youth and the professional demeanor in which you carry out those responsibilities, are the reasons for your success. Thanks again for all that you do and enjoy the next season of your life!

    Reply to this comment
  24. Dave Birkholz

    Dec 05. 2017

    A job well done!! The man cave is always open to you.

    Reply to this comment
  25. Terry Scherer

    Dec 05. 2017

    Mike, I can’t think of enough words to thank you for all the help you’ve been to me in the past and the present. A lot of memories, my friend!
    You’ve not only been a strong asset to the Sheriff’s Department but just as much to law enforcement in general. I know that retirement is bitter sweet in our profession. Some will miss you but there are others happy to see us go (so the promotions can start). Thank you for all you did not only professionally but how you were there to help us when my youngest daughter was hospitalized. May the Lord bless you as continue down a different path in life’s journey.

    Reply to this comment
  26. Cathy Reese

    Dec 05. 2017

    Michael,
    Congratulations! The people of La Porte County are going to miss you! The people of Chesterton just gained a new friend! Be safe!

    Reply to this comment
  27. Sara Adamson Johnson

    Dec 05. 2017

    A Huge Thank You you had done a great job in our community. Good luck to you on your new adventure in life .

    Reply to this comment
  28. Jim Parks

    Dec 05. 2017

    Mike; you have unselfishly given so much of your time and talent to so many over the years. I feel we have all been blessed by your dedication and perseverance. Wishing you the best in your next adventure!

    Reply to this comment
  29. Michael Liindsay

    Dec 06. 2017

    Michael,

    You have had such a great career at LPCSD. You made the right decision by taking a position there.

    Having known you for your entire career, I can relate to all of those reading this, that you have that rare gift in law enforcement in which you always view the big picture but still strive to make the everyday duties important as well, combining passion and compassion. I wish all of the officers who graduate ILEA could see both of these perspectives. That is truly a unique attribute.

    I think your new career will continue to enable you to use both of these perspectives. It sounds like the perfect fit.

    Upon hearing of your retirement, I dug back into my ILEA class photos (I keep them all), and then I dug back some more. Finally, on the third dig (you really are old), I found your class, 89-96. I tried to insert it here but this blog box apparently does not accept photos. Let me just relate: quite a head of hair and a wild mustache.

    Denise and I say best wishes for another grand career!

    Mike Lindsay

    Reply to this comment
  30. Bill

    Dec 06. 2017

    Mike congratulations on your retirement , I still remember you as a child running around in your boat being a good civil servant but to be honest with you I always hoped to address you as LaPorte’s County Sheriff

    Reply to this comment
  31. Jim Holifield

    Dec 08. 2017

    Mike,

    It’s been a pleasure working with you on school-related issues over the years. The county is losing an outstanding employee and our schools are losing an even better friend. Thanks for all you have done for us and best of luck on your new adventures!

    Reply to this comment

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