A former Stafford County deputy who embraced all aspects of public safety, as well as the words of a Shawnee warrior who said to “live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart,” is being honored with an event that pays tribute to another of his passions: pets.
A “Yappy Hour” to benefit the Stafford SPCA is being held Saturday in honor of officer Brian Matthew Kanterman, who died Christmas Day while working at the Rappahannock Regional Jail. He was 25.
Family and friends won’t know the cause of his sudden collapse until they get autopsy results in several months.
His parents, Stan and Tina Kanterman, live in Somerset, N.J., and are “sitting here waiting to find out,” his father said. “It is very difficult to comprehend.”
Brian Kanterman had been through several surgeries as a teenager. He needed a hip replacement in 2012 because of a deformity in that joint, then had an operation on his back the next year after a ceiling fell in on him during a fire.
While still in high school, Kanterman became an emergency medical technician with the volunteer squad in Franklin Township, N.J., then became a certified firefighter. He rose through the ranks to become captain, and later, volunteer chief, his father said.
“I remember many a day until he got his driver’s license when he would wake me up at 2 a.m. because he wanted to respond to a call and I had to drive him,” his father said. “I was very proud of him for the things he did.”
In the weeks since Kanterman’s death, friends and co-workers in the Fredericksburg region have come to realize the impact the officer had on others.
“He was just larger than life,” said Katie Bailey, whose husband, Dan, went through the Rappahannock Regional Criminal Justice Academy with Kanterman in 2016. “It’s amazing to me how I can only know someone for three years but feel like I’ve known him for a lifetime. Brian had a large sense of life and community, and he was gone far too soon.”
Kanterman always wanted to be a police officer, but departments up north wouldn’t allow him to join because of his medical history, his father said. He came south where Virginia agencies said they’d take him, provided he proved he could do the job. He started as a patrol deputy with the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office, broke his foot while pursuing a suspect and later became a correctional officer at the jail.
He kept himself in the best condition he could and “took it to heart” that being in shape physically was part of being a police officer, his father said. Kanterman spent a lot of time in the gym, said Stephanie Creed, an Orange County resident who had been dating Kanterman at the time of his death.
“It’s still kind of hard to believe because he was so young, and there really wasn’t any sign of anything going on,” she said. “He was one of those people, when you think of a best friend, that’s what he was. It was a tough blow to his friends and family, but it’s been good to have this fundraiser, to kind of make a good situation out of something bad.”
Creed organized “Yappy Hour,” scheduled Saturday from 1–4 p.m. at the Rappahannock Regional Criminal Justice Academy, 3630 Lee Hill Drive, in Spotsylvania County because Kanterman “was a big animal lover, specifically dogs,” she said.
“He would cross the street to pet a dog and then take a picture with it, then send it to everybody,” she said.
One of the photos Creed included in a flier about the event shows her Yorkie, Prissy, licking his cheek.
“I feel like all dogs liked Brian,” she said. “He was very energetic, his personality was really playful and I think the dogs were kind of attracted to that.”
She remembers a game night at her home, where she lives with her mother, aunt and grandmother, and the group has five dogs.
“He spent more time on the floor with the dogs than playing cards with us,” Creed recalled.
Saturday’s event includes raffles, food and drinks with all benefits going to the Stafford SPCA, which will have dogs available for adoption. Kanterman’s relatives in New Jersey will attend, and they’ve already had several events to contribute money for Saturday’s event. Kanterman’s older brother, Jason, turned his birthday, earlier this month, into a fundraiser and netted $2,000 in his memory.
Like all police officers, Kanterman had filled out paperwork, making clear what kind of funeral or memorials he wanted, should something happen in the line of duty. He asked others to make a donation on his behalf to a local fire, rescue, police station or animal shelter of their choice.
He also asked that a poem from the Shawnee warrior, Chief Tecumseh, be read at his funeral.
In addition to living life so that the fear of death cannot enter a person’s heart, the chief encouraged others to find their purpose in the service of others.
When your time to death comes, the chief said, don’t weep and be filled with regrets and ask to live your life over in a different way.
“Sing your death song and die like a hero going home,” Tecumseh said.
Brian Matthew Kanterman “lived his life this way,” his father said.