Racine police officer dies from injuries suffered in Hwy. 20 crash; was returning from ski trip
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Racine police officer dies from injuries suffered in Hwy. 20 crash; was returning from ski trip

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DIENER

Racine Police Officer Jennifer Diener is shown here standing next to her squad car. Her mother, Jean Jacobson, took the photo last fall after having lunch with her in downtown Racine. Jacobson said: “I went back to my car and prayed I would never have to use it for this kind of purpose.”

RACINE — A Racine Police officer is the second victim of two-vehicle crash that occurred earlier this month in Yorkville.

Officer Jennifer Diener, 48, died at about 11:20 p.m. Saturday at Froedtert Hospital in Wauwatosa.

Diener was seriously injured in the Feb. 9 crash on Highway 20 in western Racine County in which attorney Elizabeth Olszewski, 32, was killed. The two-vehicle collision west of 63rd Drive in Yorkville involved 10 people and left several seriously injured.

Diener, her husband, Brian, and 15-year-old daughter Taylor had just returned from a Colorado ski trip, said Jean Jacobson, Diener’s mother and a former Racine County executive.

They had stopped at Jacobson’s house to pick up their dog and were returning to their Yorkville home when the crash happened, Jacobson said.

“They were almost home, 2 minutes from home,” Jacobson said of the crash that left Brian with a broken vertebrae and Taylor with a concussion.

While complete details about the crash have not been released by authorities, the snowy, slick conditions that day are believed to have been a factor.

Dedicated to service

Diener, a Waterford High School graduate, grew up with public service. Jacobson is the Norway town chairwoman and served eight years as Racine County executive, retiring from the latter post in 2003.

Her father, Philip Jacobson, who died in September at age 87, served terms on the Norway Town Board and Norway Plan Commission.

“We are so proud of Jennifer,” Jacobson said. “Jennifer was a dedicated officer to the city of Racine and looking forward to retiring in less than two years.”

“The world lost one of its finest tonight,” Brian Diener said in a written statement. “Jen Diener loved life, loved her daughter Taylor, husband, family, many friends, and co-workers. We will always remember Jen’s laugh, smile and personality. Thank you for your prayers and support. Be sure to let those close to you know that you love them today.”

Time on the force

Diener had been a Racine police officer since 1995. She had a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a master’s degree from UW-Platteville, both in criminal justice.

She was hired the same day as Officer John Hetland, Racine Police Chief Art Howell said.

Hetland, a 24-year veteran of the department, was killed when attempting to intervene in an armed robbery June 17.

“The combined loss of two highly respected, veteran members of the department is significant; however, the loss to the respective families who mourn our fallen members is profoundly greater,” Howell said in a written statement.

Officer Diener’s service included Crisis Intervention Team recruitment, team evidence technician, Accident Review Board member, mountain bike patrol officer, utility vehicle operator and laser operator.

In addition to departmental commendations and other awards, Officer Diener received the department’s Award of Excellence in 2011.

On her trading card that officers hand out to local youths, Diener quoted Eleanor Roosevelt: “It is not fair to ask of others what you are not willing to do yourself.”

Jacobson recalled taking a photo last fall of her daughter standing in front of her squad car.

“She asked me to take the photo after having lunch downtown one day,” Jacobson said. “I went back to my car and prayed I would never have to use it for this kind of purpose.”

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