SAN ANTONIO – For more than two decades Keith Kurtz fought crime as a San Antonio Police officer, but at the end he was also fighting his own illness.
The veteran SAPD sergeant and member of the East Side SAFFE Unit died Sunday morning at 51 years old following a 3-and-a-half year battle with cancer. His wife, Stephanie Kurtz, says Kurtz was first diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2014.
They thought they had it beat, she said, but then came the pancreatic cancer in 2015, which spread to his liver in 2016.
"It was a marathon and not a sprint," Stephanie Kurtz said, sitting at her kitchen table Sunday afternoon.
In his 41-month battle with cancer, Stephanie estimates her husband only took five or six weeks of sick leave.
He was working through May -- the middle of May last month," she said. "And so through two sets of chemo, two sets of radiation and three cancers, he probably only missed the last three days of work."
The commitment came from his love of the job and the community he served. For 20 of his 24 years with the SAPD, Kurtz was on the East Side. Stephanie Kurtz said her husband wanted to finish out his career with the East Side SAFFE Unit.
SAFFE units, which stands for San Antonio Fear Free Environment, focus on community policing efforts in different areas of the city.
"A lot of what he passed on to us was things of, you know, be passionate about your job. Be compassionate about the citizens that you work for," said officer Alonzio Hardin, who worked under Kurtz in the East Side SAFFE Unit.
Though he is gone now, Stephanie Kurtz believes the lives Kurtz touched will be his legacy.
"We know he touched so many lives through all the children and all the parents and all the national nights out and the homeowners that he touched," she said. "And so hopefully that fire will spread and keep going."
Kurtz says a barbecue that was originally planned to help with her husband's medical expenses will still go forward on July 21 at the East Side SAPD Substation at 3635 E. Houston Street. However, she now plans to donate almost all the proceeds to pancreatic cancer research instead.