‘More Than A Hero’

Hundreds Gather At Jamestown Church For Seeley Funeral

The remains of Michael Seeley, a Chautauqua County sheriff’s deputy and Bemus Point firefighter, are carried into the First Lutheran Church in Jamestown on Friday. Seeley died Feb. 9 after battling leukemia. More than 200 firefighters, police officers, emergency workers, friends and family members gathered at the church for his funeral. P-J photo by Eric Tichy

More than 200 firefighters, police officers, friends and family members gathered Friday for the funeral of Michael Seeley, the Chautauqua County sheriff’s deputy and Bemus Point firefighter who died earlier this month after battling leukemia.

Several of Seeley’s friends and co-workers recalled his penchant for helping others, largely following in his father’s footsteps by going through the Sheriff’s Academy and later landing as a full-time patrol deputy. Those who spoke noted the Jamestown native’s ability to stay calm and to put others first.

“Every memory I have of Mike is of him smiling,” Chautauqua County Sheriff Joe Gerace said of Seeley during Friday’s funeral. “He exemplified the mission statement of the Sheriff’s Office. … He touched so many lives.”

One person in particular spoke of Seeley’s impact on his life. Erie, Pa., resident Robert Dillemuth recalled the day he collapsed while jogging in Hartfield after his heart went into arrhythmia due to a 95 percent blockage of his right coronary artery and 80 percent blockage of his left anterior descending artery.

Dillemuth said Nick Kompare, who was also jogging in the area, performed CPR while Seeley arrived and attached an automated external defibrillator.

Chautauqua County Undersheriff Charles Holder salutes with other officers Friday prior to the funeral in Jamestown. P-J photo by Eric Tichy

Within seconds the AED delivered a shock to Dillemuth’s heart, and after three more rounds of CPR, the Titusville, Pa., native began to breathe on his own.

“I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Mike Seeley and Nick Kompare,” said Dillemuth, who also sang Friday with the choir. “If you would have brought this story to a Hollywood executive they would have gotten half-way through and said, ‘No way. It’s just too much.'”

Seeley was diagnosed last year with Acute Myeloid Leukemia after abnormalities were found in his blood work; he received a bone marrow transplant in November at the Cleveland Clinic.

He was at the clinic when he died Feb. 9 surrounded by friends and family.

Scott Shaw said his lifelong friend “only ever worried about other people,” and pointed out that Seeley met his wife, Nicole, when they were both still in school. Though the pair didn’t marry until they reconnected several years later, Shaw said the bond between them was evident early on.

“It was so obvious to everyone that they were each others’ first love,” Shaw said. “They always knew that they were destined for each other.”

Walid Al-jabiri, another longtime friend and former co-worker, asked, “How do you sum up a man who needs no introduction? That must be the hardest job of all. … A man who gave everything and asked nothing in return?”

Al-jabiri posted often of Seeley’s treatment on social media. It was on the “Fight For Seeley” Facebook page that Seeley’s death was announced late that night, prompting an outpouring of support from friends and even complete strangers who had been following the deputy’s progress.

“He was more than just a hero because heroes aren’t always remembered,” Al-jabiri said Friday. “Legends live on forever.”

Following the service, a funeral procession that included dozens of police and emergency vehicles went from the Jamestown church to the Maple Grove Cemetery in Ashville.

Seeley graduated from Panama Central School in 1991, and attended Jamestown Community College and the Sheriff’s Academy. He worked for the Lakewood-Busti Police Department before becoming a full-time deputy in March 2001. During his tenure, he was a member of the department’s dive team and fire investigator’s team.

He is survived by his wife; parents, Wayne and Marilyn Seeley; two children, Jordan and Allyssa; and two sisters, Jennifer Scolton and Julie.

“Paradise is yours,” Dillemuth said in reflection of Seeley. “Well done.”