When Stephen Walters, a corrections officer at the Kerr County Jail, was hospitalized due to complications of the flu, Kerr County Sheriff Rusty Hierholzer and his department rallied in support.
After a lengthy hospital stay, Walters succumbed to his illness on Dec. 29 at the age of 44.
“It’s just terrible,” Hierholzer said. “He just had the flu and now his wife, Sheri, and their four kids will have to find a way to go on without him.”
According to Hierholzer, both Stephen and Sheri had gotten the flu vaccine, but both ended up with Type A Flu.
“He was sick and she was sick,” Hierholzer said. “And then he had to go in the hospital and she was trying to be with him and take care of herself and the kids, too.”
Stephen was admitted to a San Antonio hospital, so Sheri and their children were traveling from their home in Pipe Creek to see him daily.
“When he first became ill, Capt. Carol Twiss took up a collection that we all gave to, just to be able to help with the traveling back and forth to San Antonio,” Hierholzer said. “Just here internally, we were able to raise a little over $1,000.”
Now that he has passed away, the Kerr County Sheriff’s Office employees still wanted to do more to help, Hierholzer said.
Stephen provided for a limited amount of life insurance for his family, Hierholzer said.
“He tried to take care of things, but no one could prepare for a loss at this age,” Hierholzer said. “Sheri works at Costco and he was the breadwinner in the family. She will need a lot of help in the future for those children.”
In response to future needs, Hierholzer said members of his department help set up a fund in Stephen’s name at Security State Bank for donations to be deposited.
“I got Sheri to fill out the paper work and we set the account up so that she is the only one that can make withdrawals,” Hierholzer said. “The account belongs to her and the children.”
Hierholzer said the account is the “Stephen Walters Benefit Fund.”
“Anyone can make deposits to it at anyone of the Security State Bank locations,” Hierholzer said. “Just a single mother having to support and care of four kids is going to be expensive and they are going to need all the help they can get, even though they are not the type of people that will come out and ask for it. That’s why we set up this fund, because they are going to need it.”
Hierholzer described Stephen as dedicated and thorough as a jail officer.
“He treated the inmates with respect. You never had issues coming out of a shift he was working on,” Hierholzer said. “Just as you can see from this letter written by an inmate.”
Hierholzer shared a letter written by a current inmate facing multiple felony charges.
“The only interaction I’ve been blessed to have with you has been in relation to your official capacity, yet despite the brevity and boundaries of our acquaintance, you have had an impact on my perception which has forever altered my perspective,” the inmate wrote. “You belong to a unique class of people in this community who demonstrate that greatness is more than a single achievement, but instead a series of living each day intentionally with integrity, kindness, courage, honor and selflessness, while doing one’s part to make the world a better place. Thank you for treating me with respect and grace, even though I didn’t deserve it.”
Hierholzer said the inmate’s letter is telling of the type of man that Stephen was at work and at home.
“He was just a loving caring person,” Hierholzer said. “He will be greatly missed.”
Hierholzer has served as Kerr County Sheriff for 20 years and has worked in the department for 40 years.
Stephen’s loss has affected him greatly, he said.
“I’ve lost four employees since I’ve been in office,” Hierholzer said. “It doesn’t matter if they were killed in the line of duty or by an illness, they were still public servants for this community and Stephen was one of the best.”
When he learned of Stephen’s passing, Hierholzer posted a message on the department’s Facebook page stating that while law enforcement officers deal with criminals for a brief period during the arrest, it is the corrections officers that tend to them 24 hours per day while they are incarcerated.
“Having been both a jailer and a peace officer, I can tell you that the job of a corrections officer is much more difficult,” Hierholzer said. “As peace officers, we are driving all over the county and are outside. When we make an arrest, we drop them off at the jail and now its the corrections officer that has to deal with them 24 hours a day, seven days a week and they have to deal with a lot of disrespect and difficult situations.”
Hierholzer said he has 220 inmates in the jail with all types of different moods and attitudes and dealing with that many confined individuals is difficult, but Stephen, he said, did it with professionalism and grace.
Stephen had worked for in the jail since 2007.