WATERLOO, Ill. — (AP) — The widow of an Illinois state trooper fatally shot on the job says she wanted to be angry about his death but could only think about the family they made together.
The funeral of state Trooper Nicholas Hopkins was held Sunday at the high school in Waterloo where Whitney Hopkins met her husband.
Hopkins, the father of four-year-old twins and a baby girl, was fatally shot Aug. 23 while serving a search warrant in East St. Louis.
Whitney Hopkins told mourners they should take time for the little things in life. She said she remembers all the times her husband showed up and followed through even when it was hard for him.
Hopkins' high school sweetheart also said, "I told him if anything would happen we would be okay. We would be strong, we would be brave. We have to be brave, we have to be strong and keep making those memories as he would say."
His brother, Zack Hopkins, also spoke. "As many of you know from looking at the pictures around here, Nick had a giant toothy smile, which is a family trait. However, Nicks smile was the biggest. Nick needed a huge heart because he possessed because he had immeasurable love for his family, especially his wife Whitney and his three children," Zack said. "One of the quotes Nick lived by came from our grandpa. 'You cannot do a kindness too soon, because you never know how soon it will be too late.' Nick, thank you for not being too late and showing us your kindness."
In addition to family and friends, the bleachers in the Waterloo High School gym were filled with uniformed troopers and officers from other police agencies.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker called Hopkins a hometown hero, adding the people of Illinois "weep for you today."
Here is a transcript from the remarks delivered by Ilinois State Police Acting Director Brendan Kelly honoring Trooper Hopkins:
“Governor, all the men and women of the Illinois State Police, SWAT, MEPAT, Zone 6 and District 11, Friends and Family of Trooper Hopkins, Jim, Verna, Valerie, Zac, Emily, Gabe, Whitney, Evelyn, Owen, and Emma:
As you all know the motto of the Illinois State Police, the ISP, is integrity, service, and pride. No doubt Nick has said these words many times. Of these three values, Pride is probably the hardest to explain or define sometimes.
But not after Friday, August 23rd.
As the Governor mentioned, Trooper Hopkins loved the American flag. And so as Colonel Peyton, Colonel Wolf, Lt. Colonel Trame and myself placed the Stars and Stripes gently over Nick before moving him from his room at the hospital to the transplant center, there is no doubt he was proud.
And as he made his way through the halls of St. Louis University Hospital completely lined with medical staff and officers and even patients, and as men and women of all sizes and shapes, creeds and colors, young and old, bowed their heads, put their hands over their hearts, or stood at attention and saluted, you could see and feel the Pride.
When we reached the end of that line at the ambulance, it was the honor and duty of Colonel Peyton, Colonel Wolf, and myself to ride sitting beside Nick in the ambulance to his next destination where his SWAT brothers were waiting.
And in that ambulance, there was a feeling that overwhelmed the anger and the sadness: Pride.
A feeling of being so, so proud of him.
Proud that God still makes people like Trooper Hopkins.
Proud that men and women like him still walk among us on this earth.
Proud that of all the things Nick could have done with his life, he chose to be an Illinois State Trooper, he chose to be part of the ISP.
It’s not a pride that’s arrogant or superior. But a pride rooted in love.
I could see that love when I talked to Nick’s father and brother at the hospital when they told me what a great carpenter and builder he was, which made me think of another great but little known builder from the past who has no statue or tomb with his name, but only a small marker among the city he built that simply says “if you seek his monument, look around you.”
We will rightly name a road or bridge after Trooper Hopkins, and we will rightly put his name on the memorial wall, but that will not be his greatest monument.
If you seek his true monument, look around you.
His monument is the light on the path forward that he leaves for his brothers in SWAT and MEPAT and Patrol, and all his brothers and sisters in the Illinois State Police.
If you seek integrity, there it is!
If you seek service, the ultimate service, there it is!
If you seek pride, at this moment, just look around you.
But that is not the limit of his monument.
Because even in death, Nick chose to serve others by donating his organs, his monument may be in the very movement of someone who walks again with nick’s muscle and sinew, in the air of someone who breaths with Nick’s lungs, in the blood of life pumping through someone who lives with his amazing heart, someone or many someones on this earth who we may pass in a crowd smiling because of Nick.
But even that is not his greatest monument. That can be seen in the eyes of his brothers and sisters, in the eyes of his mother and father, in the eyes of his loving wife, and the eyes of his three children, Evelyn, Owen, and Emma - it’s the love they all share with him and each other. That is his greatest monument - a legacy of love that will endure forever.
One of his fellow Troopers told me Nick was always challenging himself and those around him to be better. So, his life is a challenge to all of us.
But in this most difficult of moments, how can we possibly answer that challenge?
Well, Nick was a carpenter; and no doubt, he is in the hands of the greatest carpenter now. And maybe that’s our answer.
People used to have bumper stickers and armbands and now memes that say “what would Jesus do?”
Right now, what would Trooper Hopkins do?
Would he give up helping the least among us?
Would he let the pain overcome the joy?
Would he surrender one inch of light to the darkness?
But when our integrity and courage is challenged what do we do without him?
Well Just ask yourself what would Trooper Nick Hopkins do?
What would an Illinois State Trooper do?
And you’ll have your answer, and you’ll know what to do.
God bless you Whitney and your family.
God bless the soul of Trooper Nick Hopkins.
And God bless the Illinois State Police.”