Pittsburgh, PA – Greene County Sheriff Brian Tennant passed away on Wednesday, after a lengthy battle with a rare form of brain cancer.
Sheriff Tennant, 35, was a 26-year-old Waynesburg police officer when he went to the doctor to get help for the severe migraine headaches he had been experiencing, according to the Observer-Reporter.
He was subsequently diagnosed with Infiltrating Pontine Astrocytoma – a cancer generally found in young children – after doctors found an inoperable tumor growing on his brain stem.
“They basically told me, ‘You are going to die,’” Sheriff Tennant told the Observer-Reporter in 2012. “I wasn’t willing to accept it so I started looking for other options.”
After being turned away by a multitude of hospitals, he and his wife, Jessica, found a clinic in Houston that was willing to treat him.
The treatment managed to shrink the tumor, enabling the young officer to return to work.
“It was a terrible struggle in 2010 and 2011,” retired Waynesburg Police Chief Tim Hawfield told Observer-Reporter. “But he came out of that and there were other things to accomplish.”
He ran for Greene County Sheriff in 2013, and was re-elected in 2017. Sheriff Tennant continued to work up through the final months of his life – often from his hospital bed.
“That’s the kind of guy he was. He was involved,” Chief Hawfield said. “This community will never fully appreciate what a good servant they had in him.”
“Others would’ve quit long before he did,” the retired police chief added. “And I don’t mean just in law enforcement.”
Sheriff Tennant was also a 17-year veteran of the Waynesburg-Franklin Volunteer Fire Company, and served as an Emergency Medical Service Southwest medic.
He had just retired from the fire company in January.
Sheriff Tennant was lauded for his bravery back in 2010, when he spotted a home on fire while on patrol one winter morning.
He radioed for help, then ran to the house and convinced two young girls to jump from the inferno into his arms.
Sheriff Tennant then tried to get into the home to save others, but the flames were impenetrable.
Two other children, ages 11 and 13, died in the fire.
“It weighed on him terribly, like it did all of us,” Hawfield said.
Shortly thereafter, he received his cancer diagnosis.
The retired chief praised Sheriff Tennant for forging ahead, despite his hardships.
“He held his head up. I’m proud to know him,” Hawfield said. “I’m proud he was one of my officers.”
“He certainly dedicated his life for serving,” Greene County Chief Deputy Marcus Simms told the Observer-Reporter.
Jessica said that her husband’s devoted service in his final days was a testament to how seriously he took his job as a public servant.
“He had lots of reasons to complain, and he never did,” she told KDKA. “If more people were like that, if more people maintained a positive attitude and never complained… this community, this county, this area, the entire country, the entire world would be in a much better state.”
Sheriff Tennant was also a devoted father to the couple’s four young sons, Ross, Blake, Reed, and Ty.
“Multiple people have said 'well, he was involved in everything and he did everything,' and that was true,” Jessica said. “It’s a wonderful testament to him, and his public service and I’m trying to use those as representations to our children.”
Sheriff Tennant also leaves behind his parents, siblings, grandparents, and many friends and extended family members, according to his obituary.
“Brian achieved more in his short life than many do in an entire lifetime,” his friends, Donald and Nancy McMinn wrote on his memorial page. “He left a legacy that will never be forgotten. He inspired so many. He led by example… Our deepest sympathy to Jessica and her sons.”
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf ordered the Commonwealth flags be lowered to half-staff in honor of the fallen sheriff.
“Brian dedicated himself to his community through his service as a firefighter, police officer and sheriff. He will be missed,” Wolf said in a press release. “I give my condolences to his family and colleagues in law enforcement. I wish them the best in these difficult times.”
Sheriff Tennant will be laid to rest on Saturday.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Greene County Sheriff Brian Tennant, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Rest easy, hero. We’ll hold the line from here.