Police officer strikes unlikely friendship -- then guardianship -- of veteran with dementia

ERLANGER, Ky. -- Sgt. Jon Sterling spends his days helping the Erlanger community stay safe. Outside of work, he goes well beyond the call of duty to protect one special member of the community.

Sterling met Norm, a Korean War veteran, on the job four years ago, Sterling said. Norm called the police because "he thought he saw something suspicious."

"He's got a larger than life personality," Sterling said of Norm. "He's a funny guy. Just a fun person to talk to."

Sterling said Norm lived in the same apartment in Erlanger for 18 years. He was recently diagnosed with dementia.

 

With his recent diagnosis, Norm's become more reliant on help from others. He has no family, but one friend did step up to help.

Sgt. Sterling applied for guardianship of Norm, because the veteran has no family.

"He's come to a time in his life where he needs somebody to take care," Sterling said. "It's an easy thing to care. A lot of people have shown how much they care in less than a day."

What Sterling's talking about is an online fundraiser to help move Norm into a senior care facility.

"The good news is that between his Social Security benefits and new veteran benefits he can receive the care he needs," Sterling wrote on the Go Fund Me page. "The bad news is that it will cost $5,500 to get him in the door."

So far, friends and strangers raised $2,285 for "Help Norm."

"He was enthusiastic about the facility," Sterling said. "He immediately bonded with some of the people when he walked in."

Sterling said he would still visit Norm regularly, even if he's able to move into a senior care facility.

"If you didn't know him before his diagnosis you would say this guy is a little bit out there," Sterling said. "Norm's like me. He was out there before the diagnosis."

One thing the two bond over is books.

"He's got probably a thousand books," Sterling said. "He loves to read. He's a very intelligent person. He teaches me every time I come to his house. He's given me books -- he's given me books to give my (son). He's just one of those guys who loves to learn.

"He was just giving me a lesson in Alexander the Great," Sterling said.

Sterling said he doesn't think he's going above and beyond his duty as a police officer.

"This was just an extension of the job I've been fortunate to do," he said. "If anybody else was given the opportunity, they would have done the same thing. It's easy to care about somebody."

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