CHARLESTOWN, IN (WAVE) - In the days since Sgt. Benton Bertram’s death, much of the Charlestown community has come together to support the Bertram family and his family in blue to remember who Ben was.
"It's been tough," said Brooke McDonald.
McDonald knows the Bertram family well, she's grown up with them in her life. Ben's mother babysat her as a child, she said, and she went through school with his sister. With Ben five years younger than her, McDonald said, she remembers Ben running around in diapers as a kid.
Inside the hair salon that she's a part owner of Friday afternoon, McDonald remembers Ben as a funny, caring guy who loved animals and his job.
"Funny, always cutting up with people," McDonald said. "I mean, he took his job very serious and his dogs, his dogs were his life. He had animals, horses, he loved to fish. He was just a very fun guy but he took his job very seriously and all the police officers, the younger ones, they all looked up to Ben."
Her husband, police chief Keith McDonald, responded Wednesday night to the police chase that would claim Bertram's life. She said her husband forgot his phone at home when he was called out to respond so when she got a call from a co-worker's phone, she worried.
"I was relieved to hear his voice, however he had horrible, devastating news on the other end of the line. He just said Ben crashed and he didn't make it, he didn't survive," she said.
The days since have been tough.
She went with the police to pick up the body Thursday to bring Ben back home to Charlestown. Seeing people lined up on the streets to pay their respects brought her and her husband to tears.
"They didn't mind, they stood there. You know, it started to drizzle, they stood there out in the cold, out in the rain. We saw people with babies bundled up, it was just amazing," McDonald said.
Ben's two K9s, both current and retired, were there for the procession and after, bonded to Ben as a part of his family.
"Those dogs were his life," she said.
McDonald said the death has been hard on the family and everyone who knew Ben, he was well-loved by those who knew him. Messages and flowers fill the community Friday, revealing the heartbreak at the loss of one of their own while helping to provide hope for those who knew him.
"The outpouring of support we've had, I can't even describe it. And I know it's helping my husband and it's helping the officers to know, they're in their corner," McDonald said.
Many people around town said it still feels so fresh that Ben is gone but stress they want to make sure they’re there to support the family and the police department in the days to come.