Funeral for Mercy Flight pilot Jim Sauer, ‘clearly a hero’

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CHURCHVILLE, N.Y. (WHEC) — Monday a community of family, friends, soldiers, pilots, police and firefighters said goodbye to a husband, father, grandfather and a man who served our country and community for 40 years.

The funeral for Jim Sauer was at Open Door Baptist Church in Chili.

Sauer and a co-pilot from Texas were killed last Tuesday when their Mercy Flight helicopter crashed near Batavia.

Federal investigators are trying to figure out why it happened. The tail was found roughly two to three hundred yards from the body of the helicopter.

Sauer enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1979 and was deployed to Iraq several times from Operation Desert Storm in 1991 to Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.

He was a police officer in Rochester and Holley, New York for about a decade and then became a pilot for the New York State Police and the Army National Guard. When he retired, Sauer started flying for Mercy Flight.

He was on a training missing when the Mercy Flight helicopter went down.

Monday afternoon the people who knew Jim Sauer best shared the kind of man he was.

“If you have spent any time around Jim and Marie, you know exactly what I mean. Their love, companionship, and deep-rooted respect for one another is so rare in this world,” said his niece, Shelley Daigler.

Bill Acousti, one of Sauer’s friends said "Jimmy was one of the finest pilots I’ve ever flown with. Every flight with him was a lesson in greatness from a very humble person.”

“Jim and I got into many discussions about faith, family, and honor, and I had an opportunity to share my faith with him and watch him over the years grow from a man that was skeptical, questioning God’s will in things, and why bad things happen to good people—to a man that grew to love Jesus. And trust in Jesus. And commit his life to Jesus. It’s evident through his service to people around him, his service to his church and his service to Jesus Christ,” said Steve Doyon, a colleague.

"He’s clearly a hero and I thought for some reason because lots of times I’d talk to him right out in the foyer. I pictured myself the other day walking up to him and telling him, ‘Jimmy, you’re a hero,’ and I already knew what he’d do if I said that to him—he’d die laughing in my face and then he would tell me why he’s not a hero—because that’s who he was,” said Pastor Bill Finnerty.

Sauer was married to his wife Marie for 39 years. He has two children, Joshua and Laura, six grandchildren and four brothers and sisters.

The NTSB says a preliminary report on the crash should be public in the next week or two. The full investigation will take up to 10 months.