Retired Lee Police Chief Jeffrey Roosa dies after three-year battle with ALS

Retired Lee Police Chief Jeff Roosa, pictured here in 2018, died over the weekend at the age of 47.

Jeff Roosa’s life was truly one of service, of being there for your community in every way that you can. That didn’t stop when the former Lee Police chief was diagnosed with ALS in 2017, nor did it stop even as he neared the end of his life. And while Mr. Roosa, 47, died over the weekend, that legacy will live on through the many lives he has touched over the years.

One of those lives is 11-year-old David Carlino’s. “We spent time together the last few weeks. I would ride my bike to his house [where] we would talk and hold hands,” Carlino told The Eagle after news of Mr. Roosa’s passing.

The pair first met during then-Chief Roosa’s many visits to Lee Elementary School classrooms to read, play and talk with kids, brightening their day and boosting the police department’s rapport with local youth. Mr. Roosa left such an impression on David that the youngster successfully lobbied town officials to rename the elementary school’s driveway after the former top cop, who retired in January as his terminal illness progressed. At the March dedication for 23 Chief Roosa Way, David said of Mr. Roosa: “You had fun with the kids and showed us the police are our friends. Chief, I love you and you’re my hero.”

David should be proud of his efforts, because they reflected his hero’s career ethic. Throughout his life of public service, Mr. Roosa selflessly sought to be there for the members of his community. He was there for his department when it desperately needed stability following years of suboptimal leadership. He became chief in 2013, restoring confidence in the force throughout his tenure. He was there for his hometown when he was out of uniform, too. He was a dad who cherished time with his family, and brought that same energy to his years spent coaching youth sports and organizing local charity events. Even after being diagnosed with a terminal illness, he found new ways to help others. Two years ago, he teamed with a Pittsfield fire official for ALS Arrest & Extinguish, a charity tug-of-war contest between area police and fire departments at Tanglewood. The event aimed to raise $25,000 for the ALS Therapy Development Institute — and wound up bringing in $67,000.

And, in his final days, he was still there for David — one of the many lives in Berkshire county made brighter by Mr. Roosa’s tragically short time on Earth who will help to carry his legacy of service forward. Whether it was leading his department back on track or holding his young friend’s hand before they had to part ways, Jeff Roosa never missed a chance to do something, big or small, for those around him who really needed it.

Two years ago, after the inaugural ALS Arrest & Extinguish event shattered its fundraising goal, Mr. Roosa remarked to an Eagle reporter that, “I was amazed, but Berkshire County knows how to take care of its own.”

We all know a bit better thanks to him.