An illustration of the balloon that linked a Luther Crest resident with friends of a fallen police officer 700 miles away.

Drifting balloon, completing 700-mile trek, sparks friendship

Allentown, Pa. Wednesday March 26, 2014

It was the day after Christmas and a cold front was moving through Allentown, Pa., bringing snow squalls to the area. Kermit Roth watched from his window as the ground quickly became blanketed in white.

“Within minutes, there was a quarter-inch of snow on the ground, then it quickly stopped,” remembers the resident of Luther Crest, a Diakon Lutheran Senior Living Community in Allentown. “All of a sudden I see this blue balloon sauntering to the ground. My wife was getting ready for lunch, so I went and retrieved it.”

“He thought it was a gift from God—that my finding the balloon helped him get over the death.”
Imprinted on the balloon were the words: “Jason Ellis, #139, Merry Christmas in heaven Ellis.” Also included were the names Kirsten and Raelyn. With his curiosity piqued, Roth quickly opened his computer and searched for the name Jason Ellis.

“I found out that a Kentucky policeman had been killed six months earlier on May 25, 2013, in Bardstown,” he says. “I wrote a letter to the police department saying I found this balloon and asked them for more information.”

The response was more than Roth expected.

Kermit Roth, a resident of Luther Crest, Allentown, Pa., found a balloon that traveled 700 miles, linking him with police officers mourning a loss.

Kermit Roth, a resident of Luther Crest, Allentown, Pa., found a balloon that traveled 700 miles, linking him with police officers mourning a loss.

 

Captain Tom Roby of the Bardstown police department responded to the letter and began to correspond with Roth through email. Two days after Roth found the balloon, a reporter from the Kentucky Standard called to interview him. Roth also heard from a reporter with Allentown's local newspaper, The Morning Call. The police department sent him a memorial calendar, a wrist bracelet, lapel pin, and a medallion, all honoring the fallen police officer.

“This thing kept going on and on,” Roth says, adding that Captain Roby continued to email him. “I noticed he was struggling [with Jason’s death]. My response really picked him up. He thought it was a gift from God, to the extent my finding the balloon helped him get over the death.”

Roth also spoke with the Kirsten named on the balloon. Her father was a Bardstown police officer who helped release the balloon.

“She was a close friend of Jason’s,” Roth says. “What touched me was Jason was just 33 years old and he left behind a wife and two small children, one who has special needs.”

Kirsten and her father had released the balloon Christmas evening, not knowing it would travel some 700 miles to land in Roth’s yard.

“I think about how many places between Bardstown, Kentucky, and here that the balloon could have landed and nobody could have found it,” Roth says. “I thought it was a simple thing, but it turned into a great thing for many people.”

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