Lt. Jerome Hookfin spent half his life in law enforcement without receiving a single complaint on the job. He was known across St. Helena Parish for his infectious smile and reserved nature during his 25-year career as a Sheriff’s Office deputy.
Only a few things were more important to him than his career: His passion for fishing, his fear of snakes and his love for his mom and daughter. He even stepped down from a position as an investigative detective so that his mother would always have someone to take care of her.
In rural parishes like St. Helena, where only 10,000 people reside among the gravel backroads and lofty pine trees, even distant acquaintances have typically known each other their whole lives. So when it was announced that Hookfin suddenly passed away last week, the community took to social media to send prayers and condolences by the hundreds.
“I never once had a complaint on him in 25 years,” Sheriff Nathaniel “Nat” Williams said. “I have had people call and say Hookfin did a wonderful job but never that he was rude to someone. A lot of deputies, even if you do the right thing, you get those complaints — not him. You don’t get that every day.”
Hookfin died of a heart attack July 6 at the Lakeview Regional Medical Center in Covington at age 50. He had heart problems he wasn’t previously aware of, having suffered a more minor heart attack in the days before. He laughed with family the day before his death, saying he felt fine and was looking forward to going home soon.
Hookfin began working in law enforcement in 1997 when he became a correctional officer for the parish. He graduated from the police academy in Baton Rouge in 2000 and returned to St. Helena to begin work as a deputy.
He rose through the ranks, and was promoted to lieutenant only two months ago so he could train deputies and have more time to take care of his mother. He was the second-longest serving member of the Sheriff’s Office, behind only the sheriff.
Williams called Hookfin one of his “go-to guys” when it came to community engagement because so many people in the parish knew and loved him. He said Hookfin was always respectful and calm, even when dealing with conflict.
Keondra Hookfin Jackson, the deputy’s sister, said she didn’t realize the legacy he left on St. Helena until the droves of phone calls, text messages and social media comments came in sending kind words to her and the family.
“Even when he went to investigate a situation, he’d be so nice to you that when you were under arrest all you could do was just put your hands behind your back,” said Hookfin Jackson.
Eddieb Barry, a Greensburg native, met Hookfin about 30 years ago and said his stature didn’t come from a uniform or badge — it’s just how he was. Hookfin was always available to listen and offer heartfelt advice, even to those he wasn’t close with.
Barry wanted to see Hookfin become the next sheriff for the parish — he would tell Hookfin that he’d be sheriff once Williams retired, to which Hookfin would respond by whipping his head around and disbelievingly replying, “No way!”
Hookfin’s funeral will take place Friday morning at 11 a.m. at the Apostolic Assembly of Christ Temple in Denham Springs.
“I guarantee if there was a fishing hole along the way, he stopped to check it out,” said Williams. “He loved fishing. He loved the Lord, his family, and fishing.”