Sandusky County Sheriff David Gangwer, 66, who began a lengthy law enforcement career in 1972 that included 28 years as the elected sheriff, died unexpectedly Sunday at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center in Toledo after a brief illness.
A graduate of Ross High School, Sheriff Gangwer began his career in law enforcement in 1966 with the Fremont Police Department, where he worked until joining the Sandusky County Sheriff's Office six years later. He rose through the ranks, serving as sergeant, lieutenant, and captain of detectives before being promoted to major.
In 1985, he was elected sheriff. His continuous tenure has made him the longest-serving sheriff in the county's history.
"If there was anything, he was a guy that loved his job. He loved law enforcement," said Fremont City Council President O. Duane Simmons, a longtime friend who was a year behind the sheriff at Ross High School and who worked with him while both were officers in Fremont.
"He was good for the county," Mr. Simmons said. "Most of us were so proud of his accomplishments in law enforcement."
With a lengthy resume of training and commendations - including graduating from the FBI Academy in 1980 - Sheriff Gangwer was known as a tough but fair officer. He received a commendation from the United States House of Representatives and several from the Ohio Senate and the Ohio House of Representatives for his work in law enforcement.
As sheriff, he led 65 deputies and several civilian employees. In a 1996 interview with The Blade, Sheriff Gangwer pointed to the implementation of better technology, good communication with other police and fire departments, and a well-trained staff as his achievements.
"I'm very proud of the way I run this office," he said.
Chief Deputy Bruce Hirt said that members of the sheriff's department were "devastated" by the news of the sheriff's death. He said the sheriff had been sick for a few days, but the community was shocked to learn of his death. The cause of his death has not been released.
"He was a great man to work with. He was a great sheriff," Deputy Hirt said. "He was just very dedicated to his job."
A member of numerous state and national law enforcement organizations, Sheriff Gangwer took on active roles in many of them.
In 1991, the governor appointed him to the Ohio Organized Crimes Investigations Commission. Through reappointments he became the longest-serving member of the commission. It coordinates investigations of organized crime activity and cooperates with the federal government in its efforts.
Sheriff Gangwer's latest term was set to expire tomorrow.
Sheriff Bob Bratton of neighboring Ottawa County recalled his colleague's serious and humorous sides. Although only in his first term, Sheriff Bratton was formerly a chief deputy in Ottawa County and had known and respected Sheriff Gangwer for many years.
"He had a great sense of humor. That comes parallel to the stress of this job," he said, adding that Sheriff Gangwer insisted on calling him "Sheriff Junior," at least "until I had served a full term."
With the ribbing came advice, which Sheriff Bratton said he continues to employ.
"He said, 'You know you have to be committed to your job first because that's what the people put you in there for,'•" Sheriff Bratton said. "He told me, 'You're going to have your political things that come in, but you keep it to a minimum and you control it. You don't let politics control you.'•"
Surviving are Sheriff Gangwer's wife of 46 years, Judy; daughter, Jody Stults; son, Daniel Gangwer; brother, Robert, and six grandchildren.
Visitation will be from 1 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Herman-Kinn-Karlovetz Funeral Home & Cremation Services, 900 North St., Fremont. Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Friday at Grace Lutheran Church, 705 West State St., Fremont, with visitation beginning at 9 a.m.
Burial with full Sheriff's Office Honor Guard and Flag Detail will follow at Oakwood Cemetery in Fremont.
The family suggests memorial contributions to Grace Lutheran Church or to a charity of the donor's choice.