Jasper County deputies spread Valentine's Day joy in Airport Drive

Feb. 14—On Tuesday, Jasper County Deputy Sheriff Justin Henry arrived at his office in Airport Drive on his day off.

Instead of changing into his uniform, Henry put on a pair of Cupid wings, grabbed a foam bow and arrow, and prepared to spread Valentine's Day cheer around the village.

Sharon Clark, deputy clerk at Airport Drive, explained the city's plan to share Valentine's Day with people who might be forgotten on the day of romance and love.

"I became widowed a couple of years ago, and I know this day is tough for some people," Clark said. "It's a small community, and we thought it would be neat to put some smiles on all of the widows' faces."

Clark and Airport Drive Clerk Sue Hirshey came up with an idea to deliver flowers and candy to widows in the village. Hirshey has been the city clerk for nine years and was able to draw up a list of 31 widows in Airport Drive. Each widow received red and white carnations, provided by Countryside Florist, and a heart-shaped box of candy, bought by the clerks.

"We wanted to think about people who might not get flowers or candy today," Hirshey said. "We want them to be remembered today too."

The Jasper County Sheriff's Department in Airport Drive happens to be next door to the clerk's department in City Hall. The officers heard the Valentine's Day idea and offered to help with the delivery.

However, the idea to dress the part was all Henry's idea. In addition to the feathery wings, Henry wore a tight white shirt with gold trim, gold cuffs, a black kilt and, to top off the outfit, cowboy boots.

"I don't half send, I full send," Henry said. "It makes me feel like an idiot sometimes, but it makes me feel good too."

First on Cupid's list was Debbie Baird. She's lived in the village for about seven years and greeted Henry's arrival on her porch with an enthusiastic hug and peck on the cheek.

"I appreciate this so much," Baird said. "It's kind of a rainy day, but it's an important day."

Baird was married to her husband, Tom, for 53 years before he died. She said she fondly remembers a wonderful marriage, spending time together on days like Valentine's Day.

"He was just the nicest man in the whole world," Baird said. "As the time goes on, every day is like Valentine's Day. We had two great kids, it was a wonderful life together."

Baird said the village's sheriff deputies are close to her heart. The officers make residents feel safe, and she appreciates that they respond quickly and are available anytime they are needed.

"It's great that he does this," Baird said. "I feel special. This is lovely, and I'm going to cherish it."

For Henry, shivering in the Cupid outfit in the February wind, he appreciated the chance to spread joy on Valentine's Day. He's been serving in Airport Drive for six years, and likes the Mayberry feel of the village.

"It's a close-knit community," Henry said. "They're always happy to see us driving around. We stop and talk and chat with people. I think that helps strengthen relationships between police and the community."

The plan is to do more events like this for Airport Drive. This past Christmas, sheriff's officers dressed up like Santa and an elf and took photos with residents. With the full calendar year stretched in front of them, residents may get a visit from a badge-wearing Easter Bunny this spring.

"Hopefully, we can do more events like this, get the community involved, and brighten some days," Henry said.