'There was simply none better than Jake': Fallen McHenry County deputy remembered as a hero

  • A long procession of police vehicles travels east on Route 14 in Crystal Lake and passes under a large flag supported by the Crystal Lake and Cary fire departments as part of Wednesday's funeral procession for fallen McHenry County Deputy Jacob Keltner.

      A long procession of police vehicles travels east on Route 14 in Crystal Lake and passes under a large flag supported by the Crystal Lake and Cary fire departments as part of Wednesday's funeral procession for fallen McHenry County Deputy Jacob Keltner. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • The Rev. Kendall Koenig, a senior pastor with Light of Christ Lutheran Church in Algonquin, delivers a message during Wednesday's funeral for McHenry County Deputy Jacob Keltner at Woodstock North High School. Koenig had officiated at Jacob and Becki Keltner's marriage.

    The Rev. Kendall Koenig, a senior pastor with Light of Christ Lutheran Church in Algonquin, delivers a message during Wednesday's funeral for McHenry County Deputy Jacob Keltner at Woodstock North High School. Koenig had officiated at Jacob and Becki Keltner's marriage. Pool Photo Courtesy Rich Chapman

  • The coffin carrying the body of McHenry County Deputy Jacob Keltner is placed inside a hearse after Wednesday's funeral service at Woodstock North High School. Keltner was killed in the line of duty last week.

    The coffin carrying the body of McHenry County Deputy Jacob Keltner is placed inside a hearse after Wednesday's funeral service at Woodstock North High School. Keltner was killed in the line of duty last week. Pool Photo Courtesy Rich Chapman

  • McHenry County Sheriff Bill Prim remembers Deputy Jacob Keltner during his funeral service Wednesday at Woodstock North High School.

    McHenry County Sheriff Bill Prim remembers Deputy Jacob Keltner during his funeral service Wednesday at Woodstock North High School. Pool Photo Courtesy Rich Chapman

  • A long line of fire responders travels south on Randall Road as part of the Wednesday funeral procession for fallen McHenry County Deputy Jacob Keltner.

      A long line of fire responders travels south on Randall Road as part of the Wednesday funeral procession for fallen McHenry County Deputy Jacob Keltner. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • A New York City officer places a patch on a memorial car before the funeral service for McHenry Count Deputy Jacob Keltner on Wednesday at Woodstock North High School.

    A New York City officer places a patch on a memorial car before the funeral service for McHenry Count Deputy Jacob Keltner on Wednesday at Woodstock North High School. Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

  • A Kane County sheriff badge features the black memorial band containing McHenry County Deputy Jacob Keltner's badge number at Keltner's funeral service Wednesday at Woodstock North High School.

    A Kane County sheriff badge features the black memorial band containing McHenry County Deputy Jacob Keltner's badge number at Keltner's funeral service Wednesday at Woodstock North High School. Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

  • A police officer stands at the entrance before the funeral for McHenry County Deputy Jacob Keltner Wednesday at Woodstock North High School.

    A police officer stands at the entrance before the funeral for McHenry County Deputy Jacob Keltner Wednesday at Woodstock North High School. Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

  • Mourners line the procession route Wednesday to pay their respects for fallen McHenry County Deputy Jacob Keltner. The procession took place after Keltner's funeral at Woodstock North High School.

    Mourners line the procession route Wednesday to pay their respects for fallen McHenry County Deputy Jacob Keltner. The procession took place after Keltner's funeral at Woodstock North High School. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Woodstock firefighters line the road in Woodstock during Wednesday's procession for fallen McHenry County Deputy Jacob Keltner.

    Woodstock firefighters line the road in Woodstock during Wednesday's procession for fallen McHenry County Deputy Jacob Keltner. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 3/13/2019 6:39 PM

To the law enforcement officers who knew him best, there was no better partner, police officer or fugitive investigator than Jacob Keltner.

The fallen McHenry County sheriff's deputy was courageous, hardworking and committed to upholding the Oath of Honor, his colleagues said during a funeral service Wednesday. Known for his quick wit and distinctive laugh, Keltner was respected by officers and offenders alike, they said, and he had a knack for forming strong relationships with everyone who worked with him.

 
The flag-draped coffin of McHenry County Deputy Jacob Keltner is saluted by pallbearers during his funeral service Wednesday at Woodstock North High School. Keltner was killed in the line of duty last week.
The flag-draped coffin of McHenry County Deputy Jacob Keltner is saluted by pallbearers during his funeral service Wednesday at Woodstock North High School. Keltner was killed in the line of duty last week. - Pool Photo Courtesy Rich Chapman

Keltner, 35, was fatally shot last week outside a Rockford hotel while trying to serve an arrest warrant as part of a U.S. Marshals team. Loved ones remembered him Wednesday as a devoted family man and a brother in blue -- and as a hero, both in life and death.

"All our lives, whether we like it or not, have a ripple effect on the lives around us," McHenry County Sheriff Bill Prim said. "I submit to you that Jake Keltner created, over his too-short span of life, not just a ripple but a mighty wave of goodness and light, and there is nothing wasted about that. It is, in fact, all we can hope to achieve in this world."

Pallbearers remove the flag from the coffin carrying the body of McHenry County Deputy Jacob Keltner after his funeral Wednesday at Woodstock North High School. Keltner was killed in the line of duty last week.
Pallbearers remove the flag from the coffin carrying the body of McHenry County Deputy Jacob Keltner after his funeral Wednesday at Woodstock North High School. Keltner was killed in the line of duty last week. - Pool Photo Courtesy Rich Chapman
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Hundreds of family, friends and law enforcement officers from throughout the region and beyond filled Woodstock North High School to pay their respects. The service was followed by a procession of law enforcement and emergency vehicles to DeFiore Funeral Home in Huntley, where Keltner's body will be cremated.

Keltner, of Crystal Lake, always knew he wanted to be a soldier or a police officer, said the Rev. Kendall Koenig, a senior pastor with Light of Christ Lutheran Church in Algonquin. After a short stint in Army Basic Training camp, he attended Western Illinois University, where he received a degree in Spanish and a minor in law enforcement and justice administration. It was in college where he met his wife, Becki.

Hundreds of family, friends and law enforcement officers from throughout the region and beyond filled Woodstock North High School to pay their respects to fallen McHenry County Deputy Jacob Keltner, who was killed in the line of duty last week.
Hundreds of family, friends and law enforcement officers from throughout the region and beyond filled Woodstock North High School to pay their respects to fallen McHenry County Deputy Jacob Keltner, who was killed in the line of duty last week. - Pool Photo Courtesy Rich Chapman

Keltner joined the McHenry County sheriff's office in 2006 after starting in a civilian position with the DuPage County sheriff's office, where his brother works and from where his father retired. He served as a detective and worked in narcotics, and he was assigned to the U.S. Marshals Service's Great Lakes Regional Fugitive Task Force for the last five years.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Keltner understood the dangers of his work, yet his work ethic and passion for arresting violent offenders never faltered, said Anthony Penna and Michael Urgo, who served alongside Keltner in McHenry County and on the task force. He touched the lives of everyone he met, they said as they shared stories of Keltner's tenacity, brilliance and sense of humor.

"We trusted Jake with our lives, and we would've given our lives for him," Penna said as he fought tears. "There was simply none better than Jake."

Still, there was nothing Keltner loved more than his family, Koenig said. He was a dedicated father to two young boys, with whom he enjoyed playing Mario Kart, watching movies and, as of recently, making zip lines in their basement. And his smile was never as big as when he was with his wife.

"To be in this line of work, as so many of you know, you have to develop a tough shell, as you often have to see and deal with people at their worst, at their most broken, when they have given their evil impulses free rein," Koenig said, something Keltner's father-in-law feared would affect his family. "Those concerns quickly melted away because when he walked in the door at home, he did his best to hang his shell on the coat rack. He would then engage with his boys and with (Becki) with his tender, loving heart."

A program is tucked inside the hat of one of the police officers attending Wednesday's funeral service for McHenry County Deputy Jacob Keltner at Woodstock North High School.
A program is tucked inside the hat of one of the police officers attending Wednesday's funeral service for McHenry County Deputy Jacob Keltner at Woodstock North High School. - Pool Photo Courtesy Rich Chapman

Keltner is also survived by two brothers and his parents, Howard and Helen Keltner.

To friends and loved ones, Koenig said, Keltner wore several other hats, as well. He was an older brother, a matchmaker, a baby whisperer, an avid Cubs fan. He enjoyed working out, and he was always challenging others to try new things.

"We are not heroes because of how we die," Koenig said. "We are heroes because of how we live, and Jake lived it."

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