“It’s heartbreaking anytime you lose a friend, and that’s what he was: a friend to everybody.”
Keith Floyd, executive director of Somernites Cruise said it was a “huge shock” when he learned of the passing of his friend and fellow car enthusiast Jeff Girdler, who died suddenly at the age of 53 on Tuesday.
“I got a call yesterday, and I couldn’t believe it,” said Floyd. “We’re shocked and saddened.”
Girdler was a recognizable figure in the community. In 2012, he retired from the Somerset Police Department, with over two decades of service both as a safety officer and and on the police force. He also taught courses in concealed carry of deadly weapons and owned G3 Training and Solutions. Additionally, he worked with young people in the Police Explorers program, helping mentor teenagers in the community.
Somerset Police Chief William Hunt said the news of Girdler’s passing “absolutely” came as a shock.
“He was still a young man,” said Hunt.
“Jeff was one of the kindest, big-hearted people you’ll ever meet,” continued Hunt. “The world would be a better place if we had more kind-hearted people like Jeff Girdler.”
In particular, Girdler had a gift for reaching out to the community while wearing the uniform.
“He was a believer in community-oriented policing,” said Hunt. “He was very involved with community events.”
Perhaps Girdler’s biggest such involvement was with classic and custom car show Somernites Cruise, where he wore a different uniform: the yellow shirt of a Cruise team member.
Girdler was with the Cruise since its very founding, back in 2001, and dedicated so many of his weekends throughout the year to helping the event run smoothly. He applied his law enforcement expertise to this task, helping plan and coordinate security for the Cruise, and teaching CPR and emergency training to his fellow organizers.
“From a personal standpoint, he was a good friend. It’s a big loss,” said Floyd. “From a Cruise standpoint, he was a previous (Cruise Board) president and board member. He was a great asset and it’s going to be a big loss. We’re shocked and saddened.”
He added that Girdler was a “great worker” and was “dedicated. You could always count on him. He was very thoughtful.”
Girdler had suffered health issues that had kept him from being quite as involved as he wanted with the Cruise for a while, noted Floyd, but recently Girdler had been back and contributing to the show’s efforts.
“He will be sorely missed,” said Floyd.
Hunt said that Girdler was referred to as “a big ol’ Teddy bear” by some.
“Everybody liked Jeff,” said Hunt. “He was very much a people person.”
Lake Cumberland Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.