CAHOKIA, IL (KPLR)-Well known and respected former St. Clair County Sheriff Mearl Justus was laid to rest Saturday. Justus died Dec. 18, 2012, just one week after stepping down as sheriff. He was 81.
Justus spent 22 years as Cahokia's police chief before being elected sheriff. He spent more than 30 years in that office, serving eight terms. He also served on the Major Case Squad of Greater St. Louis since it founding in 1965, even serving as its chairman of the board.
Hundreds of people gather in a Cahokia church to bid farewell to man who has served the metro east community for six decades. A huge American flag greeted mourners at Holy Family church in Cahokia. Mearl Justus was baptized in the parish as a baby. Now it would be the place of his funeral. Dozens of vases of flowers lined each side of the church. It was packed with people from all walks of life.
In his eulogy, Master Sgt. Thomas Trice said Justus gave himself to his profession body and soul. He said the sheriff was tough but fair and beneath the gruff exterior a compassionate man. Sgt. Thomas revealed what the sheriff told him when his son died a few years ago.
“There is nothing more important than your family. You take all the time you need and we’ll be here when you get back,” remembered Trice.
Hundreds of officer paraded by the casket and in a final salute gathered in front of the church as the flag draped coffin was taken to the cemetery.
St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch was one of the pall bearers. Justus began mentoring Fitch when he was a teenager.
He said, “You couldn’t count the number of lives this man touched.”
Rick Watson was chosen by the St. Clair County Board to fill the remaining two years of Justus' term. Justus stepped down after a prolonged recovery from gall bladder surgery.
More coverage: Longtime St. Clair County Sheriff Dies At 81