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Sheriff's deputy guided by desire to help others

There appeared to be no doubt in La Salle County Sheriff Tom Templeton’s mind when Brian Underwood interviewed with the department in 2010: The Sheriff’s Office is where he wanted to be and where he belonged.

“He was sincere,” Templeton recalled. “He didn’t come in and give us any kind of interview that would bring us to any other conclusion than he sincerely wanted the job.”

And that's the same conclusion his wife, Ashley, came to early in their relationship.

"He always had a passion for law enforcement," she said. "He always wanted to help people."

Brian, 40, Marseilles, died while on duty Saturday, leaving an impression on not only the Sheriff’s Office but also many of the law enforcement agencies across Starved Rock Country. The La Salle County Coroner's Office said more information regarding his death would come in due time.

Brian was born in Lake Wales, Fla., but spent the majority of his life in Marseilles, graduating from Marseilles Grade School and Ottawa High School.

Ashley and Brian met through a mutual friend in 2007 when Brian worked as an EMT for Marseilles Ambulance. The couple would meet with others on Sunday night for regular two-on-two basketball games and made lasting memories on snowmobile trips.

She first took note of his smile and outgoing personality.

"He just seemed to always light up the room," she said.

The two married in July 2016 and had two kids, 10-year-old Austin and 4-year-old Avery.

He started as a part-time officer with Leland Police Department, and Ashley said a desire to work in law enforcement was always his main focus outside of the family.

Those who knew Brian in his career described him as “easy-going.” He also was soft-spoken but quick to lend a hand to others when in need.

“He was the kind of individual that, when we would talk to someone or have interactions with people, whether in the jail or out on patrol, he had an impact on those people,” Templeton said.

Brian was with the Sheriff’s Office for eight years and got his start in the Department of Corrections in August 2010.

He was one of Jail Superintendent Jason Edgcomb’s first hires, who also started in August, and they were excited to have him on board due to his prior EMT experience.

Edgcomb was combing through old reports of Brian’s on Monday and found a common theme: empathy and a desire to help.

A lot of Brian’s work dealt with helping inmates how he could with regard to their medical or mental health.

He transferred to a patrol deputy in June 2014, where he continued to impress the department and co-workers as well as serve part-time with the Marseilles and Seneca police departments.

When he wasn't wearing the uniform and badge, he could be found playing soccer, softball or watching a St. Louis Cardinals game. He would also help coach his children's sports teams, such as baseball and flag football.

Ashley said he also worked on the city's recreation board to increase the availability of recreational opportunities in the community for kids.

"Whatever sport our kids were in, he was always going to practices and games to help coaches," Ashley said.

He also wasn't afraid to dip his toes into dance classes with his daughter, and the two regularly danced through the house if the right music moved them.

Ashley said she's been touched by the number of people who have reached out to her to share stories and offer support.

"He's going to be missed terribly. Not just by me but his coworkers, children and just everybody," she said. "The amount of people that have reached out and the lives he's touched is just amazing."

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