Bradley Village - procession TL

The community came together on Dec. 30, 2021 to support the life of Sgt. Marlene Rittmanic as a 15-minute procession went from Kankakee to Bourbonnais, passing Bradley Village Hall. 

Last week, I was given both the honor and the difficult task of writing a piece about the life and impact of fallen Bradley Police Sgt. Marlene Rittmanic. Similar to any other time I struggle with what direction to take on a task, I reached out to my best friend, Haley, for advice.

“That is hard,” she said of the subject. “There is no amount of words that can sum up the life of a person who has dedicated theirs to others.”

There it was — the purpose of the entire story.

It was clear she gave back to the community in a professional sense, but I also was noticing a recurrence in the posts I’d seen and people I had spoken with: Both on and off the clock, she loved this community.

This, coupled with her service in law enforcement, made Haley’s statement all the more true: Marlene dedicated her life to others.

That became abundantly clear with the more information I learned about her.

Every person who was willing to speak with me about Marlene had no shortage of incredible things to say about her. Her life positively affected each and every one of them.

And it’s been made clear this effect extended across the community. Whether they knew her or not, droves of people have shown their support during the past couple of weeks for their fallen officer and community member.

I never had the chance to meet her, but having the special opportunity to speak with many who knew her, I now feel as though she was a friend.

The way her life ended was, of course, tragic, but it isn’t her whole story. If you had the chance to view her funeral services and the beautiful slideshow tribute that played beforehand, then you saw her story was the way she loved others and how they loved her, too.

In the days after Marlene’s death, it was beautiful to see members of the community come together to support her, her family and her fellow officers near and far.

Hundreds of people — friends and strangers — from the community she loved so much lined the streets during a procession Dec. 30 and again after her funeral Jan. 7.

During her funeral services, Marlene’s mentor and Bradley Police Chief Donald Barber touchingly said, “Marlene defined all that is good in our community, and she will never be forgotten.”

Writing last weekend’s article about Marlene and having the opportunity to speak with just a few of the many whose lives she touched is something I won’t forget.

This was, for obvious reasons, the most difficult piece I’ve done to date. It also was the most meaningful.

And I hope you learn something from the positive example set by Sgt. Marlene Rittmanic.

I certainly did.

Taylor Leddin is the Life editor at the Daily Journal and is the editor of Lifestyles of Kankakee County. Her column, “A Taylor-Made Life,” publishes every Saturday in the Life section. She can be contacted by phone 815-937-3369, email or via Twitter @leddinlife.