Funeral services were held on Saturday for Sergeant Jason Lhotka, who died during a mountain climbing trip in Africa last week.
Hundreds came from all over the Grand Valley to pay their final respects to Sgt. Lhotka. For many, it was an emotional and tearful goodbye.
"I love you Jason, and I'll miss you desperately," said Sandra Menefee Lhotka, Sgt. Lhotka's mother.
Lhotka became a Mesa County Sheriff's Deputy in January of 1997. The sheriff's office says he was one of their finest deputies and that he touched the lives of everyone he came in contact with.
"He was a warrior at catching bad guys," said Sheriff Stan Hilkey, a close friend of Sgt. Lhotka. "But he was also a gentle giant who showed a lot of compassion."
Sheriff Hilkey says it will be extremely difficult to fill the void left in the hearts of those who knew him, as well as the void he leaves at the sheriff's office.
"It's extremely difficult," said Sheriff Hilkey. "He was a big part of our agency and played a pretty important role in a real high profile part of our agency. He was well known and well liked."
During the service, family members spoke about Sgt. Lhotka's passion for his job and the community he served.
"Over the past twelve years in Grand Junction, many of you have been his family," said Allan Lhotka, Sgt. Lhotka's father.
Sheriff Hilkey says Sgt. Lhotka meant just as much to his community.
"I think that our community suffered with his loss," said Sheriff Hilkey. "But we know him well enough to know that he wants us to go on and he wants to make sure we do a good job."
Sheriff Hilkey says Sgt. Lhotka will be dearly missed. He hopes Sgt. Lhotka's spirit will continue to live on in the hearts of sheriff's deputies and the public he served.
A family memorial fund has been set up in honor of Sgt. Lhotka at the Grand Junction Federal Credit Union on Main Street.
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