CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WCIA) — MaryAnn Oberheim said Chris was a good kid. “He was pretty much just the average son: He enjoyed sports. His younger days in school weren’t exactly his favorite. He was a good brother.”
Chris is MaryAnn’s first child. “He was one of the older boys in the neighborhood. He was always there to help the younger kids. He played ball in the back yard,” said MaryAnn.
She never thought he would go into a life of law enforcement, so when Chris came home and told his mom he was going to be a cop, she recalled the conversation. “I remember exactly what I told him, I told him I should be a dog catcher, he made me mad, he laughed he thought that was funny,” said MaryAnn.
But MaryAnn was being serious. She told Chris if he wanted to be in a uniform and work for the city, he should choose the least dangerous job possible. “Because in my mind I thought the worst thing that could happen is that he would be bit by a dog,” said MaryAnn.
That was not the route Chris took. “He was very dedicated to his job, he worked hard to pass the requirements for the police department,” said MaryAnn.
MaryAnn said she was happy that his first job as a cop was working in nearby Decatur. “He would stop by often on his dinner breaks and just kind of check in,” said MaryAnn.
And that was the way it was for seven years, until Chris took a job with the Champaign Police Department, a job he held for the next 13 years of his career. “He was safe. He always wore his vest.” said MaryAnn.
She learned to manage the fears any mother of a police officer has, until she got a call that changed her life. Her son Joe called around 4:30 in the morning on May 19th of 2021. “He just told me, ‘Chris has been shot, mom.’ And I heard him, I heard what he said, but I needed him to repeat that, and he did, and I hung up on him,” said MaryAnn.
Her other son Matt called her back and said he was coming to pick her up. “I asked Matt, ‘What’s the situation?’ and Matt said, ‘Mom, you just need to pray,” said MaryAnn.
MaryAnn’s first thought was, “Chris was wearing his vest. He’ll be okay.” But then, she heard he was not going to be okay. “I feel like someone reached so far down inside… I don’t know, I didn’t believe it,” said MaryAnn.
A year later, that ache is still a daily companion. She said seeing Chris’s name engraved on a wall in our nation’s capitol was hard. “When he was growing up, he received many trophies for many athletic things he had done, and that was a good feeling to see those things, that was good, but this not so much,” said MaryAnn.
Maryann says she was overwhelmed with the number of names she saw next to her son’s. “It’s just seeing his name and knowing it should not be there,” said MaryAnn.
And while the experience was hard, she said it brought a different kind of peace knowing that their family is not the only one going through the loss of an officer. “Since we’ve been here, we were met at the airport with honor guard and escorted here that was quite a deal, but now we watch the motorcycle we see the blue and red lights, and we know it’s another family, and we hear that all day long, so there is others out there we’re not the only one,” said MaryAnn.