It was Dick Shea’s nature to help children in need.

Shea, the longtime director of Sarpy County’s juvenile justice center, was always there to help.

“He cared for the kids and it didn’t matter what time of day it was,” said Russ Zeeb, former lieutenant with the Sarpy County Sheriff’s Office. “Dick was always there when we needed him — rain or shine — 24 hours a day.”

Shea, 68, died Sept. 22 as a result of complications from a recent surgery.

“You will never fill the shoes of Dick Shea,” Zeeb said. “The guy had a heart of gold and no one will ever replace him.”

Richard “Dick” Shea started with the sheriff’s office in 1990, after a long career at Gross Catholic High School. At Gross, where he worked from 1972 to 1990, Shea’s positions included assistant principal and president.

Zeeb first met Shea while Shea was at Gross and worked closely with him any time an incident with a juvenile came up at the school or with the sheriff’s office.

“If we had an incident with a kid, we’d call him and he took care of it,” Zeeb said.

Shea not only worked with children, he also worked with their families. Zeeb recalled seeing Shea work with the families of two teens from Gross who were killed in a car accident and with the family of Christopher Walden, a murder victim of John Joubert.

“He spent a lot of time and stayed with them until family got in,” Zeeb said of Shea’s time with the Walden family. “He was there, comforting and guiding them through that tragedy.”

A former elementary school teacher, Shea had a passion for working with youth, Zeeb said.

That passion carried on to his time at the juvenile justice center. He developed and implemented a structured supervision program, C.A.R.E. (Children at Risk Education). The program served thousands of area youth in Sarpy County and the Omaha metro area.

Zeeb said there were hundreds of nights when Shea would accompany him in his cruiser.

“He loved being there, in the action. If something big was going on, he’d come out and offer his help,” Zeeb said. “If it was a child or an adult involved in a tragedy and he could help, he was there.”

But Shea also had a fun attitude. He was on the receiving end of many pranks at the sheriff’s office, but was always a good sport.

“Of all the pranks that were pulled on Dick Shea, we admit that we did do every one of them that we were accused of doing,” Zeeb said.

Born and raised in Wisconsin, Shea attended Mary Hurst Seminary in St. Louis. He went on to attend St. Mary’s University in San Antonio where he received a bachelor’s degree in accounting. Shea later attended the University of Nebraska at Omaha where he earned a master’s degree in education administration.

In 2013, Shea received the Pat Kelly Award from the Bellevue Mayor’s Commission on Drug Education and Prevention Alcohol Awareness.

Shea was still serving as director of the juvenile justice center at the time of his death. Tami Steensma is Shea’s temporary replacement, said Sarpy County Sheriff Jeff Davis.

Shea was preceded in death by his parents, Harold and Genieve Shea; and his brother, Tom Shea. His survivors include wife, Meg; stepchildren Dan Graves and Alicia Musfeldt (Adam); granddaughter, Kylie Musfeldt; nieces and nephews.

Services were held Tuesday at St. John Vianney Catholic Church.

Memorials can be made to the “Dick Shea Juvenile Justice Center Memorial Scholarship Fund,” Sarpy County Sheriff, 8335 Platteview Road, Papillion, NE 68046.

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