Law enforcement officials from across the state converged Saturday morning along with hundreds of other mourners in Troy to honor the life of an Illinois State Trooper killed in the line of duty.
The funeral for Trooper Kyle Deatherage, of St. Jacob, began at 10 a.m. at Triad High School.
It took troopers, deputies and other police officers about 30 minutes to proceed into the high school gymnasium.
More than 1,200 people, including family and friends, were there to honor Deatherage, 32, who was hit and killed by a tractor-trailer during a traffic stop Monday morning on Interstate 55 near Litchfield.
In front of two walls of the gym, dozens of floral arrangements and photo boards were displayed. The bleachers on one side of the gym nearly were full of law enforcement officials. The other side contained community members who showed to pay their respects. Family members, close friends and other high ranking law enforcement officials sat in folding chairs on the gym floor.
Rev. Larry Chute, pastor at the First Congregational Church of Highland, said, "I cannot look at the sea of blue and green and brown... who lay their lives on the line for us everyday. Thank you doesn't cut it," he said.
Several people spoke at the funeral that lasted nearly two hours, sharing their thoughts, memories and impression of Deatherage.
A family man and father of two young children, he used the pick-up line, "Hey chickie, chickie," to meet his high school sweetheart, Sarah, who would later become his wife. He loved to fish and hunt. And he was known for his sweet tooth -- he often had chocolate or Sweet Tarts candy.
But some of the most memorable stories about Deatherage were shared by his older brother Kenneth Deatherage, of Highland.
While growing up, the two boys shared a bedroom that was decorated floor to ceiling with lots of blinking construction lights found by their father, Barry Deatherage Sr., who worked on the railroad. Kyle "was infatuated with lights," Kenneth Deatherage explained.
"At night, it looked like a (expletive) construction zone, it would flash all night," he said, as the audience exchanged their tears for laughter.
Growing up, the love for "lights and sirens" continued. When the two young men worked at body shop, if an emergency vehicle was brought in for repairs, Kyle could be found in the parking lot, doing laps in the vehicle, with the lights and sirens blaring.
One Halloween night, when Kyle was a Madison County deputy, he parked at the end of his brother's driveway in his squad car and flashed the lights and sirens at teenagers who were going to teepee his brother's trees.
"It was awesome!" Kenneth Deatherage said. "Sorry, Sheriff!"
And the audience laughed even harder.
"I think it's fitting, that on his final ride, Kyle will have more (expletive) lights and sirens than he could ever imagine."
It took about 30 minutes for all the emergency vehicles to exit the nearly-full parking lot at the high school. The hearse, escorted by dozens of law enforcement vehicles and motorcycles, drove through streets lined with American flags and neighbors who stood on Illinois 40 to watch the procession and pay their respects.
Deatherage had been a member of the Illinois State Police since 2009. Prior to that, he worked for the Staunton Police Department and the Madison County Sheriff's Department. He graduated from Triad High School in 1998 and received his associate's degree in criminal justice at Lewis and Clark Community College.
He is survived by his wife, Sarah, and the couple's two small children, Kaylee, 4, and Camden, 10 months old. In addition, he is survived by his paternal grandmother Brooksie Deatherage of Marine, his father Barry Deatherage Sr. of Staunton, mother April Deatherage of Marine, brother Barry Deatherage Jr. of Highland, brother Kenneth Deatherage of Highland and sister Anna Deatherage of Springfield.
Deatherage's family released a statement Friday that thanked the community for the outpouring of support and encouraged everyone to practice safe driving:
"Our lives will be forever changed as we remember the great husband, father, brother, son, and friend that Kyle was," the family said. "However we would like everyone to recognize the vital and dangerous role that officers play in keeping us safe. We ask that as we use our roadways, please practice safe driving and be aware of our emergency safety workers."
Memorial contributions may be made to the scholarship fund for his children's education or the Kyle W. Deatherage Criminal Justice Scholarship Fund at Triad High School. To donate, contact the Scott Credit Union in Highland at 618-345-1000.
Backstoppers Inc. contributed $50,000 to the children's scholarship fund.