Hundreds of police officers from across the state came to Jessamine County on Tuesday to lay to rest one of their brethren, Nicholasville police officer Burke Rhoads.
Rhoads, 35, died last week in a three-vehicle crash in northern Garrard County.
During the funeral at Southland Christian Church, Nicholasville police Chief Barry Waldrop said if he could write a book about Rhoads, it would be titled, "A Police Chief's Dream."
"He held himself to high standards, regardless of where he was or what he was doing," Waldrop said.
Later in his remarks, Waldrop said, "If Burke was here, he would tell me that none of this is necessary. He would hate to think that he caused anybody any extra work, even though he wouldn't hesitate to volunteer to do it for someone else."
Nicholasville Mayor Pete Sutherland said Rhoads was a man "whose moral compass pointed to true north."
The Rev. Johnnie E. Ross, rector of St. Raphael's Episcopal Church in Lexington, where Rhoads attended services, spoke of "passing of the peace," the practice of greeting fellow worshipers with handshakes, hugs and kisses. Ross said he would greet Rhoads with "Peace, officer," and Rhoads would respond with a grin, a nod, a hug and the words "Peace be with you, too, Father Johnnie."
So Ross, who remembered Rhoads as "perhaps the most gentle man I have ever known," closed his remarks this way: "To my friend, I say, 'Peace, officer.' Peace. Amen."
Southland pastor Jon Weece opened the service by telling Melissa Rhoads, widow of Officer Rhoads, that "your husband made a commitment to protect the rest of us. We're here to return the favor to you.
"So as a pastor, as a husband, as a dad, as a fellow citizen of Nicholasville, I just want you to know that in the days, weeks, months and even years to come, we'll do whatever you need us to do to help you and your family get through this," Weece said.
Most of the 1,300 seats on the floor were filled with police officers. Total seating in the Southland auditorium is about 3,000.
Rhoads was on duty and driving his cruiser to a training session in Richmond when the crash occurred in heavy fog on U.S. 27 just south of the Kentucky River.
Rhoads was wearing his seat belt, Kentucky State Police have said.
The Nicholasville police department had not had a line-of-duty death since 1941, when Paul "Ted" Ketron, 32, was shot and killed while investigating a shooting.
Police officers from Paducah and Henderson in Western Kentucky, Covington and Cold Spring in Northern Kentucky, and Hazard and Ashland in Eastern Kentucky attended the funeral.
There was a large contingent of Lexington police officers, too, and from all the Central Kentucky counties surrounding Jessamine.
Following the service, as clouds scuttled across a blue sky, officers in blue, gray and brown uniforms lined up in the Southland parking lot to give a slow salute.
The funeral procession went through downtown Nicholasville, passing by the police department and city hall. Citizens stood in front of Main Street storefronts to pay their respects.
"That's what is so awesome about a small town, is the support," said Kendra Headen Gaffney, owner of Auctions on Main.
Carla Lairson stood with her 3-year-old son, Wesley, near the intersection of Main and Oak streets. Wesley was decked out in a little firefighter's outfit, complete with a red hat.
Lairson said she wanted to teach her son that "this is what people do" to show the officer's family that he was appreciated.
"He's someone who was protecting the community," Lairson said.
The funeral procession of police cruisers and motorcycles, fire trucks and other emergency vehicles took a full 30 minutes to pass beneath a giant flag extended between two ladder trucks in the southbound lanes of U.S. 27 just north of Camp Nelson National Cemetery.
Stanley Sobotka, an employee of the Campbell House hotel in Lexington, stood by the side of the road not far from the flag.
He said he wanted to be there "just for the support of the family and the city of Nicholasville. It's very emotional. It's just very sad."