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Published: Sunday, 10/21/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Eric E. ‘Rick’ Stearns, 1956-2012: Ex-deputy admired for skills, dedication

BY MARK ZABORNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Eric E. “Rick” Stearns, a retired Lucas County sheriff’s sergeant whose training and skills placed him in demand — and on call — at emergencies, died Oct. 14 in Point Place Care and Rehabilitation Center. He was 56.

He had cancer of the lung, esophagus, and liver, his brother, Andy, said.

Mr. Stearns retired in 2007 after 23 years with the sheriff’s office, but as a member of the sheriff’s auxiliary afterward was able to use his training in service to the department as a volunteer. “He was very good,” Sheriff James Telb said. “He had the black and gray of the sheriff’s office in his blood.”

Mr. Stearns enlisted in the Army after his 1974 graduation from Whitmer High School. He served stateside in the military police, his brother said. “All of a sudden, the light kind of went on,” his brother said. “We’ve always been gun enthusiasts, hunters, outdoors people, so it was a natural thing for him to roll into that.”

Mr. Stearns enrolled in law enforcement training after his discharge in 1976 and was a police officer for the Haskins and Waterville Township police departments. In Lucas County, he started with a booking detail in the jail and then was assigned to road patrol for more than a decade, Sheriff Telb said. After he was promoted to sergeant, Mr. Stearns worked in communications and records sections. He worked well with those he supervised and showed a talent for technology.

He also was part of the motorcycle unit and the bicycle unit patroling Lucas Metropolitan Housing Authority property.

He was in the sheriff’s honor guard. He was a firearms instructor. He was a charter member of the sheriff’s critical incident response team, which responds when a person is barricaded or hostages are held or violence or harm seems imminent.

“They’re highly trained and highly equipped,” Sheriff Telb said. Mr. Stearns was trained as a sniper.

He liked the excitement and the adrenaline rush, his brother said.

“We’d be at his house playing cards and [he’d] get a call and put on all of his CIRT gear, and he’d be gone,” his brother said. He valued team camaraderie.

“They were his second family. Understandable, because that person was watching your back,” his brother said. He counseled young deputies in what was acceptable and unacceptable, Sheriff Telb said.

And while other deputies might go around bareheaded, he believed a hat was part of the complete uniform and ought to be worn. “Eric never went anywhere without putting that hat on,” Sheriff Telb said.

He was born May 21, 1956, to Mary and Glen Stearns. “Rick and I were almost brought up as twins, we’re so close,” said his brother, 17 months his junior.

Mr. Stearns was a longtime motorcycle enthusiast and helped found Chapter 238 of Star Touring and Riding Association, which encourages family-oriented motorcycle tours, said his brother, also a member.

The brothers hunted small game together as boys. Mr. Stearns was a member of Adams Conservation Club, and the brothers more recently got together for target shooting.

Surviving are his daughters, Erica and Monica Stearns; stepson, Dustin Sabo; father, Glen Stearns; brothers, William and Andrew Stearns; sister, Debra Stearns, and two granddaughters.

Memorial services were Saturday. Arrangements were by the Jasin-Hoening Funeral Home. The family suggests tributes to Southern Care Hospice in Sylvania Township.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@toledoblade.com or 419-724-6182.



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