Red, white and blue of the American flags fluttered above the steps of the Dee Events Center on the morning of Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Eric Ellsworth’s funeral.
Eric Ellsworth, a second-generation Trooper, died on Nov. 22. The 31-year-old Trooper was critically injured after being struck by a moving vehicle while directing traffic.
His funeral was open to the public at 11 a.m. on Nov. 30. There was no need to ask for directions, as guests followed the lines of flags swaying in the winter breeze.
Relatives held to their Latter-day Saint faith in their time of grieving. For 10 minutes, they followed the flag-draped casket through the ground entrance, the LDS children’s hymn “Families Can Be Together Forever” playing over an organ and bells.
The 1,500–2,000 estimated audience members surrounded the family in the main seating, some wiping their eyes and others struggling to keep their composure while singing the hymn’s lyrics. Among them were representatives from local law enforcement and 25 state agencies who stood and saluted the body as it moved closer to the podium.
The music hushed, guests returned to their seats and heads bowed for the invocation.
Governor Gary Herbert appeared in order to offer his condolences to the family. He commended Ellsworth’s display of service both as a State Trooper and a former Latter-day Saint missionary.
“Eric truly does represent the very best that society has to offer,” Herbert said. “He’s a hero — a hometown hero — one that we ought to all try and emulate in our own walk of life, and see if we can, in fact, do the same kinds of things he did in giving service to his fellow man.”
Colleagues described Ellsworth as “dedicated” and “persistent.” He would apologize if he didn’t respond to more calls than his fellow Troopers and felt embarrassed when he was recorded telling a drunk jaywalker to “get off the damn road.”
“If Eric had it in his mind that he wanted to improve something, he would, and he would dedicate the time to do that,” Nebeker said. “Eric didn’t ever want it to appear that he was slacking. It would drive him nuts if he thought that someone was doing more than him.”
Janica Ellsworth, wife and high school sweetheart to Eric Ellsworth, remembers waiting for him to return from his Latter-day Saint mission. She likened it to seeing him again when they enter the afterlife.
“When you finally got home, it was one of the happiest days of my life. I remember thinking you were worth the wait,” she said.
“This will be a short time away from each other, and how great will be my joy when we are reunited — this time, for eternity.”
The closing prayer was spoken, and the family — bearing the casket — exited from where they entered. As the procession of cars continued, masses of people and giant flags surrounded the streets — a farewell to the departed hero.