GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As Veterans Day approaches, a nonprofit has paid off the mortgages of two fallen first responders from West Michigan.
The Tunnel to Towers Foundation, established in the wake of 9/11, announced Thursday that it had paid the mortgage on the Paw Paw home of Lt. Ethan Quillen and the Galesburg home of Van Buren County Deputy James Lear.
Quillen, 28 and a former U.S. Marine Corps corporal, was a firefighter with the Paw Paw Volunteer Fire Department. In February 2023, Quillen was killed on the job during an ice storm. He had a wife and daughter.
“He was a great guy. Father, husband, volunteered his time here for free, gave his life for free,” Fire Chief Jim DeGroff said of Quillen at the time. “Just the best.”
Lear, who had previously served in the Army, was a deputy with the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office. He died in December 2021 of COVID-19 complications, which he contracted while serving, according to the Tunnel to Towers Foundation. Lear had a wife and four children.
In September, the sheriff’s office announced it had named its new K-9 “Jett” in honor of Lear. The late deputy was nicknamed “Jett” because he would always jet out of the office when there was a job to do.
The Tunnel to Towers Foundation Fallen First Responder Program works to pay off mortgages for the families of firefighters and law enforcement officers who are killed in the line of duty and leave behind children.