JOLIET – Sandy Gerrettie said before her husband died, he asked three things of her.
Finish remodeling the downstairs. Be strong so she can live her life. And start a foundation in his name so she could “do what they’ve always done best: help others.”
“Making a difference in people’s lives was what Joe was all about,” Gerrettie said. “That’s why he wanted to be a cop.”
In June 2009, Gerrettie was beaten for three minutes after he responded to a report of a man threatening to burn down the house of his ex-girlfriend. The incident left him with brain injuries that led to his early retirement the following year.
Gerrettie said the approval from the state for the Joseph L. Gerrettie Blue Line Heroes Foundation came Jan. 23, exactly three years after the day of his 2013 funeral. Gerrettie took that as a divine sign she was on the right track.
“I’m sure there was another hand in the mix,” she said.
The foundation’s initial fundraiser – The Joseph L Gerrettie Blue Line Heroes Foundation Charity Garage/Estate Sale – will be Aug. 19 to Aug. 21 and Aug. 26 to Aug. 28 in Joliet.
The foundation will train therapy and service dogs to connect “humans and animals for healing, companionship and unconditional love,” according to the foundation’s Facebook page.
“My dogs are my biggest comfort,” Gerrettie said of her Pomeranians, Jack, 9, and Tini, 8. “They know when I’m sad and they know when I’m happy. And I support them in their grief because they grieve just as we do. Dogs are amazing.”
Gerrettie knows how terribly paralyzing anxiety can be. She’s struggled with it since Joe Gerrettie’s death, even more so since her father – and one of her Pomeranians, Bailey, 10 – died.
“I’m told it’s part of the healing process,” Gerrettie said.
It’s not her first healing venture. Around the time Joe was beaten, he and Sandy had opened the Healing and Wellness Center in Joliet, a space that offered a variety of resources and products to promote a sense of well-being.
Sandy Gerrettie said she and Joe never kept the profits; they always donated them to benevolent causes.
“Joe would so anything for anybody,” Gerrettie said. “He was the most loving, compassionate, caring honest and fair person I have ever met. He never put labels on anything, and when you’re a cop, it’s easy to do that. But he just didn’t. He was very accepting and showed that after he was beaten. He showed acceptance and forgiveness.”
So far, the foundation is training two dogs. One is Gypsy, a German shepherd mix. Gerrettie’s son, David Gerrettie of Joliet, is Gypsy’s handler.
The other is Samson, a miniature long-haired dachshund. Samson lives with his handler, Payal Sud, a licensed clinical social worker. Sud said she specializes in counseling for grief, anxiety and depression, and her practice is in the Joliet area. Clients either come to her office or Sud goes to their homes.
Sud said she’s wanted a therapy dog for some time. The experience of touch releases positive chemicals in the body, she said.
Often, Samson accompanies her. It’s part of his training, getting acclimated to different personalities, Sud said. Clients appear to love him.
“I’ve seen grown adults get on the floor and play with him,” Sud said. “People have said, ‘this makes me feel much better, being able to talk to you and pet him at the same time.’”
Sue Lopez of Westmont, a veterinarian technician for 25 years and a pet trainer for 15, is semi-retired, giving her an opportunity to serve the foundation by training its dogs to become certified as therapy dogs.
“A therapy dog gives emotional support,” Lopez said, “They’re a calming mechanism.”
Lopez said she has worked with Gypsy for approximately six months and Samson for about four. She is also looking forward to helping train service dogs for the foundation, too. Lopez said the training for any type of service dog is around $20,000 because of the intensive training the animal undergoes, but the results are worth it.
“We’re setting our sights high so we can help as many people as possible,” Lopez said.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: The Joseph L. Gerrettie Blue Line Heroes Foundation Charity Garage/Estate Sale
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 19 to Aug. 21, and Aug. 26 to Aug. 28
WHERE: 126 N. 129th Infantry Drive in Joliet
ETC: All proceeds benefit the foundation
VISIT: Joseph L Gerrettie Blue Line Heroes Foundation on Facebook