A somber mood hangs over Indiana Borough’s administrative offices today as borough officials and employees, police officers and friends mourn the death of Cpl. Wesley Hite, a 19-year veteran of the Indiana Borough Police Department.
Hite suffered a heart attack Saturday while off duty at his home and died Tuesday at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh.
He was 59.
Robinson-Lytle Funeral Home, Indiana, will host visitation Friday afternoon and evening. A funeral service is scheduled Saturday morning at Indiana Christian & Missionary Alliance Church. Complete details will be published Friday in The Indiana Gazette.
Hite was one of three corporals on the Indiana police department. The corporals serve as line supervisors and Hite was the senior corporal on the force.
“Wes was a true police officer. He had honor and integrity,” said Sgt. Frank Kovalcik, who knew and worked with Hite from the time he joined the Indiana department. “He always had time to listen and always helped out. He was a compassionate person. He had a strong Christian faith and practiced that faith every day.”
“He was a calm individual,” Police Chief William Sutton said of Hite. “His calm demeanor was probably his greatest asset” as a police officer. “When I came to Indiana, Wes was a detective. He did a good job there” before being promoted to corporal and becoming a patrol supervisor.
Hite was the police department’s first aid and CPR instructor, and his personnel file contains commendations for life-saving efforts, Sutton said.
“He was a fine patrolman,” said Indiana Mayor George Hood, who as mayor oversees the police department. “He was well-respected.”
Hite worked for many years as a coal miner before becoming a police officer in Ford City and then joining the Indiana force. Hood said that in a recent conservation, Hite told him he planned to retire in about five years.
Other colleagues remembered Hite as being dedicated but not flashy about his work.
From start to finish, Hite gave 110 percent, full diligence to his job, said Sgt. William Vojtek.
“It didn’t matter if it was a barking dog call or some of the more serious cases he worked in the detectives’ office,” Vojtek said. “Like anything else with Wes, he was very low key. He was about doing the job, not about drawing attention to the job or to himself.
“The minute Wes came in the back door every morning, he would eat, sleep and drink this job,” Vojtek said.
Hite’s even-keel attitude was said to be infectious.
“No matter how upset or angry I was about something, whether personal or professional, or about how a case went, what someone did — Wes always had that calming effect, without even trying,” said Vojtek, a police officer in Indiana for 23 years.
Active in the Fraternal Order of Police, Hite also could be counted on for sunrise-to-sundown help at the organization’s annual country music show at Mack Park, Vojtek said.
The brotherhood was a mutual thing. Firefighters and paramedics rallied to help after learning Hite had a heart attack Saturday. Many joined in to help complete the yard work left unfinished at Hite’s home when he was stricken.
“They went in and cut the trees, took out the stumps, cleaned up the brush. No one asked them,” said Hite’s friend Carson Greene Jr. “That just shows the compassion that these tough firemen, policemen and EMTs have. They look tough on the outside but they’re big-hearted on the inside.”
Greene said he and his wife, Peggy, were among about six couples, members of the Christian & Missionary Alliance Church, who had been gathering monthly for the past few years for Bible study at the Hites’ home in Indiana.
Greene said they grew especially close with Hite and his wife, Colleen.
Their friendship extended beyond church and faith, Greene said. Hite even had been taking Greene for firearms instruction at the FOP shooting range near Penn Run.
And when the Greenes learned from Hite’s daughter that he had been hospitalized over the weekend, Greene said, he and his wife didn’t hesitate to drive to Pittsburgh to visit with him, and to pray for Hite with his family and the police officers who also had gathered there.
“He was a very special guy,” Greene said. “He was so concerned about people, even people he arrested. He was a compassionate, kind man.”
“He was the kind of person that once you got to know him, he made you want to be a better person,” Vojtek said.
Several friends and fellow officers mentioned that in personal conversations Hite usually talked with pride and affection about his wife, children and grandchildren.
He and his wife especially enjoyed long trips and vacations on their motorcycle, they said.
The Robinson-Lytle Funeral Home, Indiana, is handling the funeral arrangements.
This story edited Thursday, July 4, to include funeral information.