Steubenville, OH – Jefferson County Sheriff Fredrick “Fred” Abdalla died on Feb. 21 due to an ongoing medical issue.
The 77-year-old sheriff had been in failing health for a while, but his death came as a surprise to the community he served for nearly 40 years, according to The Intelligencer.
Sheriff Abdalla he passed way at Valley Hospice Care Center North, WTRF reported.
He was surrounded by his family when he died, according to his obituary.
His exact cause of death was not released.
Sheriff Abdalla served at the helm of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) for 37 years and was Ohio’s longest-serving active sheriff at the time of his death, The Intelligencer reported.
His son has been named acting sheriff of the JCSO in the wake of his passing, according to WTRF.
The JCSO said in a Facebook post that Sheriff Abdalla was “an extraordinary man who did extraordinary things.”
“One of the last ‘working Sheriff’s,’ you were always involved and answered calls with your staff,” the post read. “You led by example and never ordered a Deputy to do something you would not do yourself. We have all stood beside you in driving rain, in [stifling] heat, and in blistering cold.”
“A firm, non-nonsense boss whose office door says, ‘The buck stops here’ you truly held us to a higher standard,” the department said. “You’ve cooked us meals, we’ve cried together after calls, you held our babies when they were born, you picked us up when we were down. You were THE Sheriff, you were our Sheriff.”
Sheriff Abdalla will be remembered as a servant who “shouldered burdens for those who could not,” according to the JCSO.
After graduating from Catholic Central High School in 1962, Sheriff Abdalla attended The Ohio State University and the Ohio Highway Patrol Academy.
He went on to serve in the U.S. Army and spent two years in Vietnam, according to WTRF.
Sheriff Abdalla received a multitude of awards for his military service, including the Vietnam Service Medal, the Overseas Medal, and the Bronze Star, according to his profile on the JCSO’s website.
He also spent 13 years working as the mayor of Stratton, and 13 years serving as a Mayors Court Judge.
“His whole life was dedicated to serving others,” Jefferson County Commissioner Tom Graham told The Intelligencer. “He put service above self. He put his whole life on the line for the citizens of Jefferson County, and his country. He did that from the bottom of his heart.”
Graham said has known Sheriff Abdalla and his family his entire life.
“He was a warrior, he was someone you wanted out front fighting the bad people because there was nobody tougher,” he told The Intelligencer. “I’ve never known anybody else that was so compassionate about children and what really broke his heart is when children were abused. He would go after the people that did those kinds of things.”
Jefferson County Commissioner Tony Morelli said Sheriff Abdalla was a “true champion” of seniors and children.
“He was a very loyal man. A great man,” Morelli told The Intelligencer. “He was a legend in my mind.”
Serving as the Jefferson County sheriff wasn’t just his job – it was his life, Morelli said.
The residents loved him as much as he loved to serve, Jefferson County Commissioner Dave Maple told The Intelligencer.
“I always had a great relationship with him and I am glad I had the privilege to serve the citizens alongside of him,” Maple said. “My condolences go out to his family. I know he was a strong family man and loved by them deeply.”
Ohio Governor Mike Dewine said Sheriff Abdalla “wholeheartedly served his community with pride and dedication for decades,” The Intelligencer reported.
Dewine said he especially appreciated the longtime sheriff’s “no-nonsense personality.”
“During my time as Ohio’s attorney general, I was honored to work with him on numerous cases,” the governor told The Intelligencer. “[Sheriff Abdalla] “truly made a tremendous impact on Jefferson County.”
Sheriff Abdalla leaves behind his wife, Edna, as well as his four children and 12 grandchildren, according to his obituary.
He is also survived by his brother, nephews, nieces, cousins, friends, and the “dedicated loyal staff” at the JCSO, the tribute read.
Sheriff Abdalla was laid to rest Saturday.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Jefferson County Sheriff Fredrick “Fred” Abdalla, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Rest easy, hero. We’ll hold the line from here.