Commission honors life of ‘Sheriff Jewell’

Published 2:29 pm Thursday, June 30, 2022

ST. JOSEPH — Forrest “Nick” Jewell was a sheriff’s sheriff and a cop’s cop, Berrien County Trial Judge Dennis Wiley said Thursday. Wiley was one of several current and past county leaders to speak at Thursday’s special Berrien County Board of Commissioners meeting.

“Nick was a sheriff’s sheriff and a cop’s cop,” Judge Wiley said. “… First of all, he stood for the law, the community and the men and women in uniform. His men loved him because he stood for them. He stood for the people of the community, we should be grateful to have had him in our midst.”

The entire focus of Thursday’s meeting which is available on the county’s YouTube page, was the life of Sheriff Jewell. A native of Benton Harbor, he served as Berrien County Sheriff from 1969 to 1991. In all, he served 36 years in law enforcement.

Jewell died in mid-May at the age of 92. The resolution passed by the county board in May noted that “beyond the badge, he was a dedicated family man, dedicated to his Church and dedicated to his community.”

“The man who will forever be known as Sheriff Jewell passed away over the weekend, leaving behind a legacy that will live on in his family and the law enforcement community forever,” the resolution went on to state.

County Board Chairman McKinley Elliott oversaw Thursday’s tribute to Jewell, reading not only the resolution approved last month but a new resolution honoring Jewell. The new resolution names the county’s Emergency Operations Center in the Sheriff’s Department’s Emergency Operation Center Homeland Security Division after Jewell.

County Administrator Brian Dissette noted that the plaque memorializing that will be placed at the current EOC site on Empire Avenue in Benton Harbor and will be placed at any new EOC location. He informed county commissioners that work is wrapping up on moving the EOC to Buchanan in the next few years.

“We’re in the final stages of a buy/sell agreement with AEP (American Electric Power) to move the 911 center there to the AEP building on Circle Drive in Buchanan,” he said. “We hope to have it up and running in the next two years.”

Dissette said the new Buchanan site will have offices including a conference room as well as a new 911 communications tower to improve emergency services radio communications along the state line as well as the rest of Berrien County.

Others shared their memories of Jewell, including representatives of U.S. Rep. Fred Upton and State Sen. Kim LaSata. Retired Van Buren County Sheriff Dale Gribler was also on hand to pay tribute. “It was a pleasure to work with him, he was a great guy and a great person,” he said. “He shared a lot of your assets with Van Buren County.”

Retired Berrien County Department of Human Services Director Jerry Frank said Jewell was always supportive of his efforts to help poor families in the county. “He was always available to people,” he said.

Commissioners Dave Vollrath and James Martin shared their memories. Vollrath said he knew Jewell most of his life as Jewell and his mother grew up together. “He always showed respect to everybody he met and always received respect from everybody,” Martin said. “There are not too many people like him around.”

Elliott shared his memory of an incident at the St. Joseph Courthouse in early 1991 when he and Jewell were meeting with Judge Ron Taylor. As they waited for an elevator, Jewell saw some deputies struggling with an inmate and immediately stepped in to help. “That was par for the course, if he saw something happening, he didn’t blink on getting involved,” he said.

The county board’s next meeting is a night meeting next Thursday at 6 p.m. in Three Oaks at Froehlich’s Event Center, 19 N. Elm St. The board’s regular schedule resumes July 14 with committee of the whole, committee and county board meetings starting at 8:35 a.m. at the Administration Center in St. Joseph.

The July 7 meeting will not be on YouTube.