Buerger dies at 83
Walter "Buck" Buerger, a former Jefferson County sheriff who served for 28 years, died Sunday (Nov. 15, 2009) of lung problems and heart failure at Baisch Nursing Center in De Soto. He was 83 and lived in Hillsboro.
Mr. Buerger retired from the department in 1992 after becoming sheriff in 1964, at a time when deputies patrolled in their personal cars and ended their shifts at 10 p.m. Mr. Buerger was described as easy-going so easy-going that when he won his first election, he let the incumbent stay on for four years until he could get Social Security benefits.
Before joining the police ranks, Mr. Buerger played Triple A professional baseball for 12 years for affiliates of the New York Yankees and the Milwaukee Braves. He then held odd jobs and worked as a bartender in De Soto before running for sheriff.
Ed Kemp, now a county executive, worked under Mr. Buerger for 22 years. He said Mr. Buerger is credited with starting round-the-clock deputy service, the police academy, the crime laboratory, the K-9 unit, and bringing on the department's own patrol cars.
Kemp recalls one night on patrol he was called to break up a fight involving about 250 people at a river access.
Mr. Buerger arrived a few minutes later, found the burliest guy there, raised his arm and said, "My name is Buck Buerger, I'm the sheriff of this county. I've got trained marksmen out on that bridge, and when I drop my arm, they're going to start shooting. I want you and your people to get out of here, now. My arm's getting tired."
There were no marksmen, of course, but the crowd didn't seem to know that and scattered, Kemp said.
"I have critics," Buerger told the Post-Dispatch in an interview upon his retirement. "Hell, you can't stay anywhere for 28 years without making enemies. But I've tried my darndest to please the majority and I have pleased the majority."
Mr. Buerger's daughter, Angie Holland, said her father spent many evenings in the community doing safety and police programs. But he never missed any of her and her sister's ballgames, and was a kind-hearted, supportive father who loved to joke and have an audience, she said.
Mr. Buerger was a Navy veteran, a member of Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Hillsboro, Amvets, the VFW, the Arnold Elks Lodge and the Missouri Sheriffs' Association.
Visitation will be Nov. 24 from 2 to 8 p.m. at the Hillsboro Civic Club in Hillsboro. The funeral will be Nov. 25 at 10 a.m. at the Civic Club, with burial to follow at Hillsboro Cemetery.
Among the survivors are his wife of 54 years, Sue Carol Buerger of Hillsboro; two daughters, Holland Buerger and Melissa A. Buerger, both of Hillsboro; five grandchildren; two great-grandchildren.
Memorial contributions may be made to BackStoppers Inc., P.O. Box 66927, St. Louis, Mo. 63166.