Former trustee on police chief: ‘We’re losing one heck of a man’

The disease that forced Ross Twp. Police Chief Darryl Haussler to temporarily step down in December 2016 is now causing him to retire.

Haussler agonized over his decision, but said it isn’t fair to his family or the community to stay on after his life-saving kidney transplant rendered him unable to return to work full-time.

The chief announced his decision Friday, and told the Journal-News he and his wife Debbie ultimately determined it will be best for everyone concerned.

“Debbie and I have been stewing over this the last four or five months and I just don’t foresee me being able to get back full-time, and the community and my officers deserve much better than that,” he said.

RELATED: Ross Twp. police chief who has cheated death twice is getting kidney transplant

The chief suffers from a rare, and very painful, disease known as scleroderma, which caused his kidneys to fail. Maria Wessel, a friend from their church donated one of her kidneys to Haussler last fall. He has been back at work part-time and says he feels alright, but even part-time hours are draining.

“Right now, I’ve been doing basically half days for the last several months and I’m pretty well drained by the time I get home. It doesn’t leave a lot for the family,” he said. “Debbie kind of put her foot down and said, ‘I’m not going to settle for all the leftovers’ after everything we’ve been through the last three years.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, scleroderma is a group of rare diseases that involve the hardening and tightening of the skin and connective tissues — the fibers that provide the framework and support for the body.

Haussler’s retirement is effective Sept. 1.

Trustee Ellen Yordy said Haussler has been a great asset to the township and she and they will miss him as an individual and his leadership.

“Chief Haussler has made the (Ross Twp. Police Department) the professional and quality department it is today,” she said. “He is an amazing man and he is handling his life situation to the best of his ability for the township and his family. I have the utmost respect for him as our police chief.”

Haussler’s kidneys quit working in December 2016 when he came down with pneumonia after the disease attacked his lungs and then affected his heart. He had a procedure to reduce fluid around his heart, but his blood pressure “went through the roof” causing renal crisis.

The disease in Haussler’s case also made eating solid foods nearly impossible. He lost 70 pounds, and some of his doctors’ predictions were dire and his life expectancy iffy. He fought back.

He cheated death again when he and his wife were in a horrific car crash on Interstate 75 one year ago. A driver rammed their vehicle going 55 mph, pushing them under the back of a semi.

Former Trustee Raymond Wurzelbacher said the chief will be sorely missed.

“We’re losing one heck of a man,” Wurzelbacher said. “I really appreciate what he’s done; he turned the police department completely around. I hate to see him go. But with his condition, I think he knows what’s best for him and what’s best for the township.”

Haussler has drafted a letter to the community that has shown him so much loving support.

“I will always be grateful for the way everyone was there for me and my family when I became ill and nearly lost the battle for my life,” he wrote.

“When I was hired, the trustees at the time told me that I’d be treated like family, but I could not have imagined just how much the officers, the township and its citizens would bless me. The Ross community is filled with caring and genuine people.”

Fire Chief Steve Miller said since Haussler joined the force five years ago he has put in place all the policies and procedures necessary for a top notch law enforcement organization and he has made the department a priority despite his illness.

“He’s a great guy, he’s definitely a fighter with everything he’s been through,” Miller said. “He’s always put the police department first and always made sure that things were running smoothly in his absence. He’ll definitely be missed.”

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