It's easy for any law officer to make enemies. It's unusual for a sheriff to be called a friend by almost everyone in his county. Ralls County had that rarity in Sheriff Ben Berghager.
He died of a heart attack last Friday. He was 67...he'd served the county as Sheriff for a decade. KHQA's Melissa Shriver had worked with Sheriff Berghager on many stories over the years. She went to Ralls County today to see how people there are remembering their Sheriff.
Sheriff Ben Berghager's desk sits empty now. This is where he died last Friday...while doing paperwork for an investigation.
Paul Forney, Chief of Detectives here at the Ralls County Sheriff's Department, said, "This man..he died doing the job he enjoyed doing. That's the way he went out and that's the way I believe he wanted to go."
Forney worked with Berghager ever since he became Sheriff in 1997. Berghager was also his best man in his wedding.
Forney said, "Honesty and integrity were his two standards at this office here. He didn't pay any special favors and treated everyone the same."
Berghager spent much of his time at the Ralls County Courthouse. Folks there say he did a sometimes difficult job with a smile on his face.
David Mobley, Ralls County Associate Judge said, "When he had to arrest them, he was a gentleman about it and just really treated everyone equally."
What has the community lost?
Forney said, "Everybody here has lost a friend. Just go up and down the street and ask them."
I talked with Nick Long who's lived in Ralls County for 23 years and works as a barber here at Cutters Junction. He told me Berghager was not only a good sheriff...he was a good man.
Long said, "He was a fine soul to be with. He was good company, he performed his job, a good family man a good Christian man and we're going to miss him."
One resident told me about a Christmas when one local family was down on their luck. Berghager and his wife Marilyn purchased gifts for the family's five children. That's never been forgotten.
Local resident Stoney Zumwalt said, "He's always been a good guy, a good friend and a good neighbor as long as I've known him and even as sheriff he was a good guy."
Many will remember Sheriff Berghager for his genteel professionalism that's not seen in law enforcement much these days. He was never too busy to help out and never failed to tip his hat with every goodbye. So with that we say goodbye to you, Sheriff.
The funeral for Ralls County Sheriff Ben Berghager is tomorrow morning at ten o'clock at Holy Family Church in Hannibal.
We've learned that the Ralls County Commissions will name an interim sheriff on Monday. The county will hold a special election August 14th to fill the sheriff's position.