The Town of Chapel Hill recently installed a memorial bench dedicated to the late Jim Huegerich along the Bolin Creek Trail. Huegerich, a former director of the Chapel Hill Police Department Crisis Unit, died in February 2022 after a battle with leukemia.
Huegerich worked with the crisis unit for 37 years. After he left CHPD, he played a key part in establishing the Ombuds Office for the Town, acting as its director until he died.
The CHPD's Crisis Unit is a 24-hour response team that provides on-site emergency response with officers to individuals in different crisis situations.
The Ombuds Office helps people navigate the challenges of living and working in Chapel Hill by providing them with advice, information and training.
Chris Blue, Chapel Hill's town manager and the former chief of the Chapel Hill Police Department, said he enjoyed working closely with Huegerich from his time as a rookie officer well into his tenure as chief.
“I think he also [had] that kind of lightness that he tried to bring to very tough situations, which, when you're the Town Ombuds, you often hear from people who are frustrated or struggling in some way,” he said. "And, as a police crisis counselor, you are undoubtedly seeing people at their worst and people who've experienced trauma."
Steve Wright, the public art coordinator for the Town, said the Huegerich family raised funds with the assistance of Friends of Parks, Recreation & Greenways, the local community and their own family to create an artistic memorial bench.
“The idea for the project actually started with the family,” Wright said.
Jim Gallucci, the artist who designed the bench, said the funding was provided in August 2023 and the bench was finished in the summer.