Dan Glaze and his wife, Sarah, were planning a night out a few years back, and were trying to pick out a place to have dinner.

“I remember Dan saying, ‘well, we better not go to that restaurant,’” she said during an interview in early January 2019.

Sarah asked her husband why.

“‘I had to arrest the waitress there last week,’ he told me.”

Cameron resident and Birchwood native Dan Glaze, a Rusk County sheriff’s deputy, was killed in late October 2016, while responding to a call south of Ladysmith.

His killer, 45-year-old Doug Nitek, was sentenced to life in prison Dec. 18, 2018, just one month ago, and more than two years after the shooting.

As she and her two children, Levi, and Ellie, go on with life – without a husband and father – Sarah (King) Glaze is still trying to come to grips with the crime and subsequent court case, the emotional effects it continues to have on her life, and how to deal with it going forward.

Part of that process includes sharing her thoughts and feelings with others – particularly those in the law enforcement community.

“I needed to make some good happen out of the last two years,” Glaze said.

As a part-time mental health counselor for Barron-based Vantage Point Clinic and Assessment Center, Glaze has worked with “everyone from kids to adults (who have experienced) trauma and abuse.”

Her clients have gone through life experiences that range from watching their parents make jail appearances and being placed in foster care, to spousal and child abuse – emotional, physical and sexual. They’ve also gone through other life-altering events such as car accidents and fires, even the 2017 tornado that struck Barron County.

Long before her husband’s death, Glaze said she also saw the way stress and trauma affects the law enforcement community. And she began to realize that here were people who needed the same kinds of trauma-based therapy in which she had been trained.

“Dan had a co-worker who took his own life,” Glaze said. “It was a lesson in what trauma can do to law enforcement families. Line-of-duty deaths are now outnumbered by police suicides – for the second year in a row.”

Glaze now speaks at events around the state, talking about her own life-shattering experience. But she also talks about the stress that police work puts on officers and their families.

Last June, Glaze spoke at a Wisconsin Department of Justice conference that included programs about officer wellness and school safety.

Her presentation included information “about our own experiences and needs” connected with the suicide of Dan’s co-worker.

“Dan had no prior schooling or training when his colleague lost his life,” Glaze said. Law enforcement officers and their spouses “go through terrible things. We know we should get help, but it seems no one ever does. People sometimes lose their jobs by reaching out, or they go across state lines” for therapy, to avoid being found out at home, she added.

After hearing Sarah Glaze speak, then-Attorney Gen. Brad Schimel offered her a job to speak at other gatherings within the law enforcement community. She said she hasn’t spoken with Josh Kaul, the newly-elected attorney general, but hopes to continue the work.

High school sweethearts

Sarah King and Dan Glaze graduated one year apart at Birchwood High School – she in 2000, he in 2001. They met when she was 17, and he was 16, and got married in 2006.

“Dan’s family was from Cameron, and when he started sixth grade, they moved to Birchwood,” she said. “My family was from Stone Lake, and we (later) moved to Birchwood.”

After their marriage, Dan “started doing general work around Rice Lake for awhile, and he was head chef at what used to be known as the Big Bear Restaurant,” Glaze said.

Thinking he might be interested in a career in the restaurant industry, Dan investigated culinary schools, only to find “it cost more than his salary,” she said.

Finally deciding that police work was what he really wanted to do, Dan pursued his career until it finally led him to a post with the Rusk County Sheriff’s Department.

Sarah said there was “no question in my mind” that her husband was doing what he wanted to do.

“I never met anyone who loved what they did more than Dan did,” she said.

Still, the job changed him, Glaze added.

“It’s a different life,” she said. Law enforcement officers “must look at the world differently – and it takes its toll. Dan worked up to 60 hours a week, and it wasn’t unusual for him not to be around for holidays and birthdays.”

Bonding and safety nets

Law enforcement careers may come with costs, but they also include many benefits, Sarah Glaze said. She found that out firsthand, after her husband’s death.

“You have no notion of how tight the (law enforcement) community is until something like this happens,” she said.

Of the more than 2,000 people who attended Dan’s funeral in early November 2016, hundreds were law officers from across the region and the country.

Additional hundreds of people, including many officers, showed up at a benefit for the Glaze family that took place two years ago this week – in January 2017 – at the Cameron Fire Hall.

And in the years since, Glaze has maintained connections with that community as part of an informal support group for spouses of area law enforcement officers. She said the group members share their thoughts about what life is like, dealing with the fear something bad may happen, and surviving the consequences when it does.

“We don’t meet formally,” Glaze said. “It’s just a casual thing for (law enforcement spouses) from Barron and Rusk counties. “It might be a dinner or a craft night. We just talk. We know what can happen, but we know if we focused on it, we couldn’t (carry on with life).”

Her neighbors, including Aaron and Johanna Krisik, and Michelle and Tony Nord, are another vital part of Sarah Glaze’s support network.

“Johanna’s dad, Dean Meyer, was sheriff of Rusk County,” she said. “The Krisiks opened their house for guests for the funeral. They helped plan the (January 2017) benefit, and they took Levi to his church youth group meeting.”

Tony Nord, and his wife, Michelle, also helped organize the family benefit. Tony a youth minister at Maranatha Church, Rice Lake, served as family spokesman when TV and print media showed up to cover the vent.

The support network really kicked during the series of court appearances, the trial in Ladysmith, and its aftermath, Glaze added.

“People were there to help – with my venting, picking up the kids, checking in to see how we were doing,” she said.

Facing the trial was “a very strange emotional rollercoaster, and not a victim-friendly system, at all,” Glaze said.

“After the first two days, looking at all the videos and the pictures, I knew I had gotten through the worst of it,” she added. “For two years, I was wondering how it would be. And then, I had seen and heard the worst of it and I didn’t have a nervous breakdown.”

The support of the neighbors and the law enforcement community are among the biggest reasons why Sarah has decided she and her family will remain in Cameron – in spite of the sad memories.

“We’re not going anywhere,” she said. “We live in a crazy 1950s neighborhood where the kids play together outside. I like cooking and I cook a neighborhood dinner once a week.”

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