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John Schickel: Remembering My Friend John Salyers

The following is written by State Sen. John Schickel (R-Union) and is in reference to Northern Kentucky resident John Salyers, who died last week. Salyers worked for Senator Jim Bunning, and was active with Rotary International, the Erlanger Lions, and was a big fan of NKU basketball.

When I think of John Salyers, I think of three phases of our friendship. John was a lieutenant on the Erlanger Police Department who was honorably discharged following military service to his country in Vietnam. I was a young patrolman at that time.

He had organized a Bible study for police officers and he and I were the only two to show up. It was held in the basement of a church in Erlanger in the mid 1970’s. That was the first time that I met John. We had a good conversation that sparked a lifelong friendship.

Another memory I have of John on the police department is when I was serving undercover in the northern Kentucky drug unit. We had a search warrant to serve regarding a drug raid in Erlanger. John, being the commanding officer on the shift in Erlanger, went with us. In those days, John was a big burly man. At the site of the raid, John volunteered to kick the door down after the residents refused to answer. I will never forget it because when he kicked the door down, it was with such force that the lock literally flew out of the door. As a young officer I was very impressed.

Years later, our friendship developed as he served as field representative for United States Senator Jim Bunning in Northern Kentucky. I always thought that John and Senator Bunning were a good fit because they were both plain spoken and not afraid to tell you what was on their minds. That is something that is hard to find these days. Let me just say, they were not the type of guys you would want to hang around with if you were thinned skin.

John had a long and successful career working with Senator Bunning. He was truly the “go-to guy” in Northern Kentucky. He was instrumental in my appointment as U.S. Marshal by President George W. Bush in 2002. I was nominated by United States Senator Mitch McConnell and United States Senator Jim Bunning. John coordinated the effort on the local level and helped me work my way through the background checks, senate confirmation, and the general bureaucracy required for such a confirmation.

For a while, my appointment was top-secret. I’ll never forget receiving a call from John inquiring if I had told anyone in the U.S. Marshals about the appointment. When I told them I had not, he said in a not so filtered way, “Well gosh darn it, make sure you don’t!” When John left an impression on someone, it lasted. He had a wonderful sense of humor that I will never forget.

John and I worked well together serving the public of Northern Kentucky. The final phase of our friendship was years later when we both joined the Rotary Club of Florence together. He had retired, and like always, threw himself into his next purpose, which was the Florence Rotary and its mission of service above self. In his service to the Rotary, he served as President, State Governor, and on the United States Polio Eradication Task Force. John traveled internationally working for this worthy cause.

John was not perfect by any means. In our younger days, we participated in our fair share of mischief. But when I think of John, I think of a life well lived. Whatever he did, he did it at 100 percent. From his service in the U.S. Military, on the Erlanger Police Department, for the Erlanger Lions Club, to Senator Jim Bunning and the citizens of Northern Kentucky, his service to others commanded his full attention and care. More evident than anything else was John’s love for Jesus Christ, his wife Connie, and his children and grandchildren.

My last conversation with John was back in the winter after a Florence Rotary meeting. He was concerned and teared up about Connie being afflicted with cancer and because her immune system was being compromised, visitation with each other was restricted. He provided me her number and asked me to call her, which I did that day. Little did I know that on that day, she would outlive him and that John would be the first of the two to depart to our heavenly home.

The announcement of John’s passing has hit the Northern Kentucky Community like a ton of bricks. It certainly has for me. I will miss my friend. We extend our deepest sympathies to Connie and their children. He loved them deeply. Rest in peace, John.

-John Schickel

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