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Pennsylvania man finds balloon honoring Ellis

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By Jennifer Corbett

Kermit Roth was watching the end of a snow squall on Dec. 26 from his apartment in Allentown, Penn., when he noticed a blue balloon land on his lawn.

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Released in honor of slain Bardstown Police Officer Jason Ellis, the blue balloon had traveled almost 700 miles from the parking lot of the Bardstown Police Department.

Bardstown Police Officer John “Buck” Snellen and his two daughters had released the balloon on Christmas Day — seven months to the day after Ellis was shot and killed.

Roth said he was so moved by Ellis that he decided to write back. The Bardstown Police Department received Roth’s letter Thursday morning.

“I’ve had a long life,” said Roth, who is about to turn 81 years old, during a phone interview with the Standard Thursday. “Whenever I see young people’s lives end too early, it does touch me.”

Bardstown Police Capt. Tom Roby said the letter is a “great story.”

“It has made me smile ever since I’ve read it,” Roby said of Roth’s letter.

Bardstown Police Chief Rick McCubbin agreed.

“It’s an amazing full circle story,” McCubbin said.

After buying balloons to place on his brother’s and mother’s grave, Snellen’s daughters suggested they release a balloon in honor of Ellis.

“I was just kind of curious where it would end up,” Snellen said, noting that he has seen stories of students who released balloons with messages to which people responded.

One of his daughters notified him Thursday morning of the response.

“It was pretty awesome,” Snellen said.

In his letter, Roth said he was watching the snow fall from his apartment on Dec. 26, when he noticed the balloon land in his lawn. The balloon had “Merry Christmas in heaven Ellis. We miss you and so do all of your brothers in blue. Never forget,” was written on one side. The other side stated simply “Never Forget.”

Roth said he didn’t know who Ellis was at first and decided to research him.

“I googled the name Jason Ellis and read the sad story about Jason’s untimely death,” Roth wrote in his letter. “The news about that event didn’t make it to eastern Pennsylvania, however, the balloon did.”

In his letter, Roth expressed interest in contributing to Ellis’ family.

Snellen said Roth’s letter means a lot to not only him, but also the entire Bardstown Police Department.

“It means a lot to all of us,” Snellen said. “The brothers in blue, the thin blue line, that’s what it is all about. We’re like a family, just like your family at home.”

The fact that Roth took the time to research Ellis and write back speaks volumes of his personality, according to Roby.

“Jason was truly a great guy,” Roby said. “I’d like to think that Mr. Kermit Roth in Allentown, Penn., is truly a great guy also.”

McCubbin said he is interested in framing Roth’s letter and hanging it somewhere in the police department, possibly the front lobby for the public to see.

“We’ll find a place for it, for sure,” McCubbin said.