OGDEN, Utah, Nov. 30, 2016 (Gephardt Daily) — Trooper Eric Dale Ellsworth was remembered Wednesday as a devoted husband and father, a law enforcement agent who strove to do more and better work, a devout member of his faith, and a bit of a prankster who always knew how to lighten the mood.
Ellsworth, 31, died on Nov. 22, four days after struck by a young driver who didn’t see him in the roadway as he was trying to warn an oncoming truck of a low-hanging power line. Ellsworth’s life was celebrated Tuesday with a full honor guard at his funeral at Ogden’s Dee Events Center, attended by more than a thousand.
Stories of Ellsworth’s playful antics provided brief breaks in a sorrowful service at which several speakers broke down in tears, and even Utah Gov. Gary Herbert had to pause to regain his composure.
The Trooper’s widow, Janica Roane Ellsworth, addressed the large crowd as if she were talking to her husband.
“I asked our boys what they will miss most about you, and we all agreed we will miss everything,” she said, wiping tears from her eyes. “You could make me laugh until I couldn’t breathe.”
“Words cannot express the feelings in my heart,” Janica Ellsworth said. “I love you and I miss you. You’ve only been gone a week, but it feels like months…. Nothing could have prepared me to see you slip away from my earthly body … I thought I knew what heartache was when you went away on your two-year mission when we were teenagers.”
“I know family was everything to you, and so was your testimony of Jesus Christ,” Janica Ellsworth said, adding that she was going to miss high school sweetheart’s “handsome face and cute laugh.” She said she will do her best to raise the couple’s young sons, Bennett, Ian and Oliver.
“Thank you for being such a great man, and for 10 years of marriage and the memories I will cherish,” Ellsworth said to her late husband. “Eric, you are now more than ever the man of my dreams.”
Mike Ellsworth, Eric’s sole brother in a family of nine children, recalled how the two grew up doing “crazy random things,” like pretending they were outlaws and raiding the neighbor’s barn, cap guns blazing, scattering the chickens and taking a few eggs as their token “loot.” The two also wrestled indoors and out, developed code names for their sisters so they could complain freely, and generally harassed each other.
But when Mike Ellsworth returned from his own mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints feeling out of place and unable to talk about it, it was Eric who broke through the shell by daring his brother to make goofy faces as Janica.
UHP Sgt. Shane Nebeker recalled Eric Ellsworth’s warmth, kindness and friendship, and how “it would drive him nuts if he thought someone was doing more than him.”
Ellsworth love to sneak up on fellow officers to scare them, Nebeker said, adding that the fallen trooper never asked for time off for himself or his hobbies, only for his family’s needs. Janica and her sons now have a guardian angel, he said, one who was 6-feet-2-inches tall and had 22-inch-thick arms like the ones Eric built up from weight lifting.
“It’s my belief that Eric will always be there for you and the boys,” Nebeker said. “He’ll be there for baptisms, advancements, weddings. He’ll be there with a hand on your waist. Pay attention. Eric will be with you. He’ll be on a different call, but just like here, he will ask for time off to be with his family.”
Two speakers shared their hopes that the 16-year-old girl who struck Ellsworth would be able to heal, and believe that the trooper’s family wishes her well.
Gov. Herbert also shared his believes as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“As a man of faith …, ” Herbert said, pausing at least four seconds as he tried to regain his composure. “… I don’t believe this is the end,” he said, his voice breaking with emotion. “I believe there is more to come, that Eric is providing service in a different venue.”
Herbert likened death to a boat leaving port. Those who see it sail past the horizon, and will think “there he goes,” he said.
“But there are other shorelines, and others who will say ‘Here he comes.'”