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Lakeport honors a boy who captured town's heart

  • Family friend Stephanie Apodaca straightens a police uniform belonging to 11-year-old Ronnie Dekeyser, an honorary Lakeport police officer, during his memorial service at the Lake County Fairgrounds in Lakeport, California on Sunday, January 26, 2014. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

He was 11 years old when he died last week, but in his short time, Ronnie Dekeyser touched those he met with a ready smile and laugh that defied a fight with brain cancer that lasted more than six years.

Teachers, friends, firefighters and police officers joined with his family Sunday to commemorate the boy, who was made an honorary officer in the city Police Department four months ago, fulfilling a wish on his bucket list.

"He was a great addition to our department," said Police Lt. Jason Ferguson, who said officers got the lad a full uniform so he could ride along and also lead the high school homecoming parade.

Ronnie Dekeyser Memorial

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On Sunday, there was a posthumous parade of sorts for Ronnie, now counted among Lakeport's finest. The escort was led by flag-waving motorcycle riders and more than a dozen flashing fire and police vehicles that made their way through the heart of the lakeside town of 5,125 people to the fairgrounds.

"The community really came together for this kid," said Justin Braider, a cook at Old World Tavern who came out to watch the procession pass by on Main Street.

Over the past year, the community held several fundraisers to benefit the Dekeyser family, enabling the parents to take time from their jobs to care for the youth as his disease tightened its grip.

Until four or five months ago, "he lived a pretty normal life," said his father, Ron Dekeyser, a custom painter who lives in nearby Kelseyville. "His last month, he was pretty well paralyzed. He could move his head, but he lost his functions, eating and swallowing."

His mother, Jennifer Hittson, said he went through two years of chemotherapy and radiation, "nonstop."

Ronnie had inoperable brain stem cancer that was diagnosed before his fifth birthday. Initially his family was told he probably had four to six months to live as a result of the disease, known as diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma.

On Sunday, those who loved and knew him came together to celebrate his seemingly indomitable spirit and courage in the face of his diagnosis, describing him as someone who lived not only for today, but tomorrow.


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