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Family, friends, officers remember Jennifer Sebena

Dec. 31, 2012

Brookfield - Jennifer Sebena always went the extra mile to make those around her happy, family and friends said.

They recalled her infectious smile that could put light in the darkest corner of a room. Whether it was through her involvement with high school students via her church, volunteering through charity or becoming a police officer for Wauwatosa, she dedicated herself to others.

Sebena's funeral was held at Elmbrook Church in Brookfield on Saturday and was filled with hundreds of fellow officers, firefighters, family and friends. She is survived by her mother, Violet Gerhat, her father, Jack Wernitznig, and brother, Jacob Wernitznig.

Sebena, 30, joined the Wauwatosa Police Department in January 2011 after graduating from MATC's police academy. Her time with the force ended on Christmas Eve when she was shot to death outside of the Wauwatosa Fire Station. Her husband, Benjamin Sebena, was charged with the crime and would later tell police that he shot her, according to the Milwaukee County criminal complaint.

Becoming an officer was something she pursued with a passion and dedication that matched her care for others, said friend and former co-worker Barbara Lundin.

"When I found out that she was going to the academy and she was so passionate about becoming a police officer, I couldn't reconcile the two," Lundin said. "I couldn't reconcile the image of a gun-carrying police officer with the sweetness that she gave off."

While studying full-time at MATC, Sebena volunteered for the Hunger Task Force and was involved deeply with Elmbrook Church, volunteering to lead small groups of high school girls.

"Jen is the type of leader who couldn't help but connect really closely with students," fellow volunteer Dustin Trampe said. "She went out of her way to figure out what the students were struggling with and be a presence in their lives. She would do a lot. She would give up a lot of her time and her energy for the students."

Going over and above the call of duty was natural for Sebena, said Kayla Farner, who was in one of Sebena's small groups. The two were in constant contact outside of church, with Sebena sending Farner Facebook messages asking how she was doing.

When Farner graduated and moved to California for college, the two stayed in touch. They were going to meet to catch up on life while Farner was on break.

"She was amazing," Farner said. "She had so much joy all the time. She always had a smile on (her face) and was the most encouraging person I've ever met."

Wauwatosa Police Lt. Gerald Witkowski, who was present at Sebena's graduation from the academy and trained her to become part of the squad, described her simply as a "great person" and a "great officer."

Other officers honored her via the Officer Down Memorial page at http://bit.ly/12L6piW.

Wauwatosa Reserve Officer Scott Muro wrote, "The loss is ours, the gain is yours in heaven. ... Thank you, Jennifer, for your commitment, your legacy will live on."

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