Pitman: Near-fatal stroke prompts Fairfield police officer to retire

All John Cresap had ever been, and wanted to be, was a police officer.

But being one comes with sacrifices ― missing out on family get-togethers, holidays and various family milestones, to name a few.

He would have been a police officer for another decade if the 56-year-old didn’t suffer a near-fatal stroke while on vacation some 14 months earlier. Unfortunately, he’s been a police officer in name only since then, as he has fought to recover.

“It’s not the way I wanted to go out,” John said.

John isn’t the only one forced to retire earlier than expected. His K9 partner, Canaan, will also retire officially in April, though they’ve been off duty since Dec. 13, 2021, when John collapsed in a bedroom while on vacation in Gatlinburg with his wife, Lori, who is also a Fairfield police officer.

He tried to get up, but couldn’t. He was paralyzed on his left side.

Not much scares the 6-foot-4 man, but the stroke did, which offered no warning signs. He even played golf earlier in the day.

“My doctors told me later I should have died,” he said.

It was “the scariest thing” his wife ever went through, who has been a Fairfield officer since 1998.

A blood vessel burst in his head, and “all of sudden, it was like someone turned the lights off, and I just collapsed,” John said. Lori said doctors believe John’s hemorrhagic stroke was caused by high blood pressure.

After a week in a Knoxville, Tenn. hospital, five days of which were in the ICU, he was taken by ambulance on Christmas Day 2021 to Atrium Medical Center in Middletown where he did physical and occupational therapy. He stayed in Middletown for three more weeks and remained in outpatient therapy through the end of 2022.

He had to learn to walk again in Middletown, and his left arm and hand still do not function.

John said he is thankful he saved all his vacation and personal time as he’s been off for work.

For 18 of Cresap’s 22 years with the Fairfield Police Department, he’s been one of the K9 handlers, first partnering with K9 officer Ketcher for nearly 10 years and then with Canaan for the past eight. He knew he wanted to work with dogs since his days as an Air Force cop, seeing those dogs work.

“I love working with dogs,” he said. “They’re so amazing in what they do and the impact they have on fighting crime. There’s a lot of work, and dedication to put into it.”

Lori said it’s “bittersweet” and agrees with John when he said, “it’s God’s way of saying, ‘It’s time for you to take a break.’”

After five years serving in the Air Force, Cresap was a cop in Oklahoma for several years, first as a deputy sheriff for the Tillman County Sheriff’s Office and then a police officer for the city of Altus. John, a New Richmond native, met and married Lori, a northern Ohio native, in Oklahoma and they moved back to the Buckeye State in the late 1990s.

Lori got on with Fairfield, and John soon after got on with the Warren County Sheriff’s Office before being hired on by Fairfield.

Now in retirement ― though Lori isn’t quite ready to retire yet, but she is now on the day shift ― they will have more time to make up for lost time serving and protecting. But it was never work, John said, as he believed in the idiom: If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.

Michael Pitman is a staff writer and columnist for the Journal-News and may be emailed at michael.pitman@coxinc.com.

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